The Virtual PC / Virtual Server or VM Ware are excellent virtual environments for students to learn the install and configuration of Operating systems. However, there are some considerations to be aware of when reinstalling the Operating systems multiple times:

Let me start with a couple of clarifications and then go into the details on this:

  • An OS license can be re used multiple times (with repeated installations) as long as that license is used only once at any given instance. This is true both for native installs on hardware as well on Virtual machines. i.e. you can re-install the OS on a machine(Real or virtual) multiple times, if you remove the previous installation.
  • There is a separate "Activation" step that communicates the use of a license on a machine - this needs to be done in 30 days from the OS installation. This Activation process registers the license key with that installation on the machine and hence binds the license to that machine.
  • Server products have separate trial versions of the OS. Client OS - XP and Vista do not have trial versions separate from the retail versions.

So let's delve into the 4 OSes on the Virtual environements, as the scenarios are different for client and Server OS:

Client OS - XP and Vista:

    1. Students get the XP/Vista OS & a key from MSDN AA ELMS and use it to install XP on VMware.
    2. Students do not activate Vista/XP and use it for 30 days
    3. Before the 30 days is up, students reinstall the XP and use the same key obtained in step1 - they do not activate the XP/Vista install.
    4. See how Vista can be used for longer than 30 days without activation  - at http://blogs.msdn.com/joestagner/archive/2007/08/14/extending-the-windows-vista-trial-period.aspx  and http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/extend-windows-vista-trial-to-120-days/
    5. If the students need to keep the install for over 30 days - and hence need to activate, they have 2 options

i. Get a second XP/Vista  key from MSDN AA/ELMS - this is not a problem for a second key

OR

ii. Call Microsoft support and get the second (and subsequent) Activation done manually - for the second activation.

Windows Server 2003 and 2008:

    1. There is a separate trial version on Windows Server 2003 that is available at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/bb430831.aspx (I have not checked if the trial is available in MSDN AA).
    2. Students have 14 days to Activate this trial software but "One product key can be used to install the Windows Server 2003 R2 trial software on up to 4 computers." per http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/bb430832.aspx . SO you can do 4 reinstalls.
    3. the length of the trial software is described at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/bb430832.aspx
    4. Windows Server 2008 is expected to have a trial version when it is released