Unique Software Assurance Benefits
Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system helps enable flexible workstyles by providing access to Windows instances in a variety of ways across devices. With access to the unique offerings and use rights listed below, Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system provides the maximum value for your investment.
When purchasing new PCs with a qualifying operating system preinstalled, you can acquire Software Assurance through Volume Licensing within 90 days of the purchase date of the new PCs.
Unique Benefits of Software Assurance for Windows (PDF, 386 KB)
Windows 8.1 Enterprise
Windows 8.1 Enterprise edition is available through Software Assurance for the Windows Desktop Operating System (Software Assurance for Windows) and includes all the capabilities of Windows 8.1 Pro, plus premium features designed to meet the mobility, productivity, security and manageability, and virtualization needs of today’s large organizations.
Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Rights
Windows VDA Rights enable users to access virtual instances of Windows in a variety of user scenarios.
Windows To Go
Windows To Go is a fully manageable corporate desktop running Windows 8.1 Enterprise edition on a bootable USB stick. With Windows To Go use right, employees can use Windows To Go on any device licensed with Software Assurance for Windows.
Roaming Use Rights
Roaming Use Rights allow the primary user of any licensed device to access a virtual instance of Windows running in the datacenter (VDI) or Windows To Go from noncorporate devices, such as personally owned or hotel business center PCs, while away from the office.
Windows RT Companion VDA Rights
Windows RT Companion VDA Rights allow the primary user of a licensed device rights to access a corporate desktop through a VDI from a corporate-owned companion Windows RT 8.1 or Windows RT device with no additional Windows license required.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise Sideloading
Receive the necessary use rights to enable deployment of touch-centric Windows 8.1 apps directly to devices within an organization, instead of having to install them through the public Windows Store.
Windows Thin PC
Windows Thin PC is a smaller footprint version of Windows 7 that enables organizations to repurpose existing PCs as thin clients, thereby reducing the need for new thin client hardware. This benefit applies only to devices licensed with Software Assurance for Windows.
Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP)
MDOP is an optional subscription add-on that enables businesses to virtualize the operating system applications and the user experience, manage Windows features, and restore user productivity after a system issue.
Windows Companion Subscription License (CSL)
The Windows CSL is an optional subscription add-on that grants the primary user of a licensed device the rights to access a corporate desktop through either a VDI or Windows To Go on up to four devices that are capable of leveraging these technologies. Devices eligible for licensed use include any type of personally owned device as well as corporate-owned non-x86 devices.
How to Buy
Windows 8.1 Pro
Volume Licensing is the most cost-effective way for commercial customers to upgrade existing PCs to Windows 8.1. If PCs are not already covered by Software Assurance, you can purchase upgrade licenses through a Volume Licensing program to gain access to Windows 8.1 Pro. Upgrades are available through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs for small to midsize organizations, such as Open License, Open Value, Open Value Subscription, and Select Plus.
Add Microsoft Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system to your Volume Licensing agreement and move up to Windows 8.1 Enterprise. Software Assurance is a cost-effective program that provides new product versions and exclusive technologies, including Windows 8.1 Enterprise edition and the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). Software Assurance also helps you use IT to maximize your productivity with deployment planning, training, and support benefits.
Windows 8.1 Enterprise
Windows 8.1 Enterprise is available exclusively as a benefit of Microsoft Software Assurance through Volume Licensing programs such as Select Plus, Enterprise Agreement, and Enterprise Subscription Agreement.
Note: If your organization acquired Windows 8 Pro through a volume license agreement, your organization is licensed for Windows 8.1 Pro even if your Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system expired prior to the release of Windows 8.1 Pro. This does not apply to Windows 8 Enterprise; you must have active Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system to have rights to Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
Your IT professionals can download Windows 8.1 Enterprise from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) and deploy it on your organization’s computers.
Qualifying Operating Systems
Windows Volume Licensing
Properly licensed Microsoft operating systems (such as Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP) have either a full operating system license or the combination of an upgrade operating system license and a pre-existing, full operating system license. If you do not have a pre-existing full license for a genuine operating system on your PC, see Get Genuine Legalization Solutions.
Only certain editions of the Windows operating system qualify for upgrades under Volume Licensing agreements. The table below lists the qualifying editions of Windows that are eligible for the Volume Licensing upgrade under each Volume Licensing program.
If your operating system license qualifies, you can purchase the Windows 8.1 Pro Upgrade license under your Volume Licensing agreement. Note that Windows licenses that are available through Volume Licensing are upgrade-only licenses and can only be acquired on top of a base operating system license; these licenses are not a replacement for a pre-existing full operating system license.
The following conditions must be met for a licensed PC to be eligible for a Volume Licensing upgrade license:
A licensed, qualifying Windows operating system must already be installed on the device that will be assigned the Volume Licensing upgrade license. The following table lists base operating system licenses—including preinstalled original equipment manufacturer (OEM) versions—that are eligible for upgrade.
You must remove the existing qualifying operating system from the device to deploy the Volume Licensing upgrade license, unless the PC is covered by Microsoft Software Assurance.
If you want to install or run more than one licensed operating system at one time (including the qualifying operating system), you can either:
Windows 8.1 Qualifying Operating Systems
Qualifying Operating Systems
New Enterprise Agreement (EA)/Open Value Company-wide
Select/Select Plus (All Except Academic)
Open (All Except Academic, Charity, and
Academic and Charity
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 (32-bit or 64-bit)
Enterprise (N, K, KN)*
Pro (N, K, KN, diskless)*
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Single Language*
Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit)
Windows 7 Enterprise (N, K, KN)*
Windows 7 Professional (N, K, KN, diskless)*
Windows 7 Ultimate
Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows 7 Home Basic*
Windows 7 Starter Edition
Windows Vista (32-bit or 64-bit)
Windows Vista Enterprise (N, K, KN)
Windows Vista Business (N, K, KN, Blade)
Windows Vista Ultimate
Windows Vista Home Premium
Windows Vista Home Basic
Windows Starter Edition
Windows XP (32-bit or 64-bit)
Windows XP Professional (N, K, KN, Blade)
Windows XP Tablet Edition (N, K, KN, Blade)
Windows XP Pro Blade PC
Windows XP Home/Windows XP Starter
Other Operating Systems
Windows 2000 Professional
Windows NT Workstation 4.0
Windows 98 (including 2nd Edition)
*Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 Single Language, Windows 7 Home Basic, N, K, and KN are specialized editions that are available for certain markets. Diskless availability is limited to Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 7 Professional.
Download the Windows 8.1 Qualifying Operating Systems Chart shown above (PDF, 249 KB)