Windows 7 Tip of the Week
Save Money on Multiple Windows 7 Installs with a TechNet Plus Subscription

Tip date: April 9, 2010
Tipster: Jeff Sprouse

IMPORTANT UPDATE: In September 2010, Microsoft changed the terms for its TechNet Standard and TechNet Professional subscriptions, as I originally reported in the September 20, 2010 Mailbag. Under the new terms, Microsoft is providing only 5 product keys, not 10, for Office 2007, Office 2010, Windows XP, and Windows 7 in TechNet Professional. --Paul

Update: Since publishing this post, Microsoft has renamed TechNet Plus to TechNet Subscription Professional and introduced an even less expensive alternative called TechNet Subscription Standard. You can read about this new offering in my June 19, 2010 Windows Tip of the Week.

If you're looking to upgrade multiple PCs in your home to Windows 7, there are various ways to save money. If you acted quickly enough last year, you could have purchased the Windows 7 Family Pack, getting three copies of Home Premium edition for just $150, but that deal is now over. If you already have Windows 7, you can save a bit of money by using the integrated Windows Anytime Upgrade feature to electronically upgrade to a higher-end product edition. But that only works if you're already on Windows 7, of course.

So what about those households that need multiple Windows 7 copies? With an average retail price of $150 for the Upgrade version of Windows 7 Home Premium, buying two, three, or more copies can really add up. Is there a cheaper way?

Of course there is. You just need to know where to look. And in this case, that place is somewhere that is hidden to average consumers. It's called TechNet Plus.

 

TechNet Plus

TechNet Plus is a subscription service that Microsoft aims at IT pros. There are various versions of the service at various price levels, but the one you should consider is called TechNet Plus Direct. It costs $349 for a year ($249 for renewals), and includes online access to downloadable ISO files for various Microsoft operating systems and applications, including full versions of Windows 7, Vista and XP, Windows Server 2008/R2 and 2003, Microsoft Office and standalone Office apps, and more. That's a lot of stuff. But it gets better. Consider the following:

It's forever. Even though the subscription lasts only a year, the product keys for the products you have access to won't stop working after a year. So while you will lose download access to those ISOs after a year, as long as you saved copies of them, you can reinstall over and over again. The product keys are forever.

It's for multiple installs. Each product key can be used to install up to 10 versions of the OS or application, for the most part. (I believe the Windows Server installs are limited to one or two installs.) But that's actually 100 (yes, 100) installs for each Windows 7 product edition, because you can activate each key 10 times. So you get 100 installs of Windows 7 Ultimate, 100 installs of Windows 7 Professional, 100 installs of Windows 7 Home Premium, and so on. That's an incredible value, though it should be noted that this program is designed for a single person. You can't share the product keys with others. What you're getting, essentially, as an individual is multiple, unlimited installs of the products that are included with the subscription ... for yourself.

They're full product versions. These are not time-limited products, and they're not upgrade versions. TechNet Plus supplies full product versions.

TechNet Plus

It's for non-commercial use only. While TechNet Plus is aimed at IT pros for testing purposes only, it's only real legal limitation is that these products cannot be used in production environments for commercial purposes. So you can't run your company's web site on a version of Windows Server you got from TechNet Plus. But there's no reason you can't run them on your home computers. In fact, Microsoft specifically says in its TechNet licensing FAQ that "the license grants installation and use rights to one user only, for evaluation purposes, on any of the user?s devices, this may include devices at home."

You get free software updates. If you subscribe to TechNet Plus now and Microsoft releases, say, Office 2010 during the time when your subscription is active, you'll get access to Office 2010 in addition to the previously available version, Office 2007.

It's inexpensive. If you want three or more copies of Windows 7 Home Premium, TechNet Plus is already less expensive than going the retail route, and by a wide margin. In fact, it's no contest.

The trick? You just need to understand that it exists.