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Making sure you buy the right version of Windows

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Making sure you buy the right version of Windows

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With the news this week on Information Security guidelines for schools – and the obvious need for encryption on teachers’ laptops from now on, I think it would be timely to remind you how to ensure that you buy the right licences for Windows Vista – so that you get the licences for BitLocker, which is a government certified encryption system built into Windows.

BitLocker is automatically included within either Windows Vista Enterprise, or Windows Vista Ultimate editions. If you are buying Windows Vista Business or Home editions, then you need to take some action. Under all circumstances, you first need to buy a computer with Windows on it.

If you know which scheme you use to buy your Microsoft licences, then this’ll be easier!

  • School Agreement customers
    If you buy your licences under the Microsoft School Agreement (you pay an annual fee for your software, and you simply count how many PCs are in your school) then you need to read no further. You are automatically licensed for either Windows Vista Enterprise or Ultimate upgrades. BitLocker away…
  • Select Licence customers
    You buy a computer with a Windows licence, and then upgrade to Windows Vista Business by buying a Select licence. (Lots of people do this because it is one of the cheapest ways to get Vista Business edition – often cheaper than buying a PC with a Windows Vista Business licence pre-installed).
    You need to take action to ensure that you get BitLocker, by buying the Software Assurance option. This is a 1 or 3 year agreement, a bit like a software maintenance agreement, that gives you a bundle of benefits, including the automatic right to upgrade to Windows Vista Enterprise (and therefore BitLocker).
  • You buy a computer with Windows Vista Business or Vista Home
    You need to contact your Microsoft reseller and buy Software Assurance for Windows Vista. This automatically gives you rights to run the Enterprise edition, and therefore run BitLocker. You only have 90 days to buy this after you’ve bought your computer!

But what happens if I’ve already bought Windows Vista licences, and haven’t bought “Software Assurance”

Okay, unless it hits the 90-day rule above for a new PC, then you can’t go back and retrospectively add Software Assurance. If you’re in this situation, then you are going to need to get new licences, and use your old upgrade* licences on computers which don’t need encryption – like ICT suites and student laptops. Most schools are regularly bringing in new computers, so you shouldn’t be up the creek.

And you may have to bring in new laptops for your teachers anyway, as it is likely that the laptops will need to have additional capabilities to enable encryption (like TPM chips)


You can read more about Software Assurance here – look at the bottom of the page for “How to get Software Assurance”

 * If you buy your Windows Vista Business licence as an upgrade on our academic licensing schemes (Select/School Agreement/Campus Agreement) then you can transfer your upgrade licences between computers. If you buy a licence with your computer (normally known as an OEM licence) then it's fixed to the specific computer. Moral of the story: Not only is it normally cheaper to buy a Volume Licence version of a Windows Upgrade, it is also more flexible.

  • If you can get it then BitLocker is simple to use. Clicking on my URL link will also take you to a blog about the BitLocker Drive Preperation tool, which makes setting up BitLocker a bit easier.

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