How To buy genuine Microsoft OEM products on EBay

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This Gide will help you get genuine Microsoft software on eBay


eBay can be a great place to find a bargain on the huge number Microsoft products available such as Office and Windows.  But you can also get burned.  Selling or using illegal software is now a serious felony.  Microsoft is kind of a special case, as they are very particular about preventing illegal use of their products.  Most Microsoft software requires activation once it is installed, but if you don't have certain items required by the company, not only will your copy be illegal, it might be disabled after a brief trial period, usually 30 days.  If you are reported to Microsoft, you could be criminally and civilly prosecuted.  If your computer hard drive fails, you will need some way to re-install the software.  Here are some important things to keep in mind when shopping for Microsoft products on eBay:

  • Certificate of Authenticity.  Microsoft requires all of its software to be accompanied by a genuine Certificate of Authenticity, or COA, even on "pre-installed" items.  Without it, you cannot legally own or use the product.  This certificate comes on a small label containing a hologram with the company's logo.  A photocopy won't cut it.  This certificate is your assurance that the product is genuine and not a pirated copy.  If you are purchasing a computer, the certificate for the operating system (Windows XP, for example) must be affixed to the outside somewhere.  For laptops, it is usually found on the bottom.  For desktops, on the back or side panel on the exterior.  If you are just purchasing the installation discs, the certificate must be affixed to the sleeve or box containing the discs or be included on a separate document included alone or with the discs.
  • Product Key.  In order to get past the first few installation screens in any Microsoft product, you will need to fill in a series of numbers separated by dashes known as the product key.  This key is coded to work specifically with an individual software package, so keys from other versions or products won't work.  It is normally imprinted on the Certificate of Authenticity.
  • Installation Media.  Microsoft requires the installation CD or DVD to accompany the product or, in certain very special circumstances, it requires some way be provided for you to create installation media if the software comes pre-installed and no media is included.  In most pre-installed circumstances, Microsoft, with a few exceptions for operating systems like Windows XP, requires the installation media be included.  This is important in case the computer fails and you need to re-install your software or operating system.  In such a disaster, without your discs, you just threw your hard-earned money down the drain.  Microsoft's installation media will contain a hologram covering the entire top surface of the disc, unless the disc was created by the company which manufactured the computer (such as Dell, Gateway, IBM, Toshiba, or HP), and then it must contain the manufacturer's logo.  Discs that are hand-copied are not legal unless they were created using software that came with the computer.
  • OEM Software.  Microsoft sells its software as either as full-retail (meaning something you can buy at a store or from a catalogues) or "OEM" (which stands for "Original Equipment Manufacturer").  Full retail software must always contain a COA, product key, and installation media.  OEM versions, however, depending on the agreement with the manufacturer, might not come with media, but must come with some way for the user to create the media once the hardware (normally a computer) is received, and must also be accompanied by a COA and product key.  OEM software may not be sold by itself.  It must be part of a package that also includes a computer or some major component of the computer, such as a processor or hard drive.

So how do you keep from getting burned when buying Microsoft products on eBay?  Here is a checklist:

  • If the listing indicates that software comes "pre-installed" on a computer you are looking to buy, check to see that a photo of the COA is displayed somewhere or that the seller indicates that a genuine COA is included.  If not, contact the seller using the eBay link in the listing and ask.  If the seller says there is no COA, do not bid on or purchase the item, and inform the seller that it is illegal to sell the item the way it is listed.  Consider reporting this to eBay and Microsoft, as well.
  • If the listing does not mention an installation disc or discs, contact the seller and ask about it.  Unless the software is OEM, a disc is required for the seller to have the right to transfer the software to you.  A lot of sellers will attempt to separate the installation disc from the computer and sell both separately to different buyers, which leaves the buyer of the pre-installed software without any protection in the event of equipment failure.  Even if the software is OEM, if a disc is not included in the sale, make sure that the computer you are purchasing contains a way to create a disc, or you won't be able to re-install the software if the equipment fails.
  • If you receive a computer that has Microsoft software pre-installed and don't receive a COA and installation disc, insist that the seller provide both the disc and the COA or that the seller accept return of the computer with a full refund.  If the seller will not cooperate, report him or her to Microsoft and initiate a dispute with eBay and/or PayPal, as appropriate.  If the Microsoft software was included in the eBay listing, insist on a replacement by the seller with a legitimate copy of the software.  Do not allow the seller to force you to return the entire computer if you'd prefer to keep it.  Submit an item-not-substantially-as-described dispute if you can't secure cooperation.
  • Once you receive your Microsoft software, install and activate it immediately.  If the software can't be activated because Microsoft has stopped it (usually because the key-code has been stolen and used illegally over and over), contact the seller and insist on a valid replacement COA or a refund of your purchase price.  If the seller won't cooperate, submit a dispute with eBay and/or PayPal, as appropriate, and consider reporting the seller to Microsoft.
  • If you purchase a computer that listed specific Microsoft software as pre-installed, immediately start the machine and check to be certain the software is present and it is the version advertised.  If not, contact the seller and insist on a legitimate replacement of the software installation media or an adjustment in the price you paid based on the value of the software.  If the seller will not cooperate, initiate a dispute with ebay and/or PayPal, as appropriate, and consider reporting the seller to Microsoft.
  • If the seller doesn't indicate whether a Microsoft product in the listing is OEM or full-retail, contact the seller and ask.  If you determine it is an OEM version of Microsoft software, make sure the seller is also including a computer or computer part that complies with Microsoft's OEM licensing requirements.  If not, don't bid on or purchase the item.
  • If a listing for pre-installed software doesn't indicate whether installation media is included, contact the seller and ask.  If no media is included, make sure there is a way to legally generate it using the equipment your are purchasing.  If not and no media is included, do not bid on or purchase from that listing.  Inform the seller this is illegal, and consider reporting the seller to eBay and Microsoft.
  • Bear in mind that some older Microsoft software, such as Office 2000, does not require activation, but the licensing requirements are still the same.  Nevertheless, to protect yourself, do not accept any Microsoft products that do not come with a valid COA, key code, and installation media or a method for creating the media.
  • Only Keys that are on the COA/Key sticker are legal for use. If you purchase a Key, make sure the seller sends you the original COA/key sticker, otherwise you will be using illegal software and if caught, subject to prosecution.
    Understanding licencing
    You need to understand that it isn't the software on the CD/DVD that makes the software legal, it's the official COA/Key. As long as you have the official COA/Key you may use copies of  the original disks.

    Remember: If you don't have the Original COA/Key, you don't have official software.
     licence Paperwork
    Some OEM COAs come with Microsoft licence paperwork as well as A COA this is fully legal way to get Microsoft original and authentic products .
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