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I just thought I would give a little background on what I understand (correct me when wrong, please
) on different Windows SKU and channels.

A SKU is a type - like XP Pro Full Version or XP Home Upgrade or MediaCenter or TabletPC. A Channel is Retail or OEM.

If you right click "My Computer" and select "Properties" you will notice a code that looks like xxxxx-xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxx in the "Registered to:" section - this tells a lot about what you have installed - if it is Pro, Home, Upgrade, OEM, SLP, VLK, etc. The first block is your SKU, the second is your channel.

For example, a 55274 at the start means you are XP Pro. 55277 is Home. 76487 is MediaCenter 2005. For the second set of numbers, OEM is .. well.. OEM. 335 is Retail. 640 is VLK.
The rest is a hash of the product key that you enter on install. (I think???)

Not all SKUs are in all Channels, and not all Channels have all SKUs.

What I am talking about here may give you understanding of that - as well as what the CD is you have sitting next to your Dell or Bob's Computer Hut built system.

There is Pro, Home, MediaCenter and TabletPC. Pro and Home also have "Upgrade" versions (but not in VLK or SLP/OEM channels I don't think.. Someone tell me better?)
MediaCenter and TabletPC are built on Pro.

Some SKUs have restrictions based on their channel (see below.) Other don't.

You *can* do clean full installs with upgrade versions so long as you have a valid piece of media that is a valid upgrade path (for example, an NT4 CD will not get you being able to upgrade to XP Home...)

The damn difference between Home and Pro...
First, if you are networks with domains, IPSEC, etc.. You are on Pro. Period. End of discussion.

For a home user, though, it can make a difference. Here are things that Pro can do that Home can't:
- Security between multiple users on same machine
- Can you say ACLs?
- Remote Desktop
- Can join a domain
- Adminitrative Tools
- MUI abilities
- Encryption
- 10 concurrent share connections (incoming)
- Can install IIS
- Multi-proc support
- Scheduled task MMC
- Some tool/admin support (taskill, Sec Templates, telnet admin, etc.)

There is probably more, but I can't think of it.

Windows is sold in a variety of ways. Retail, OEM/System Builder, Royalty OEM and VLK. (There are others too like MSDN, Eval, etc - but lets stick to the big four.)

Retail Windows is basically a version that is intended to be sold to end users in a box to be installed by end user on their own computer All types of Retail require activation. All types once activated should pass the new Windows Genuine program without any effort.
This CD can be used on any computer and activated on any computer (WARNING: To be legal, we are talking a single computer - maybe you had computer #1 and it died and you junked it and built computer #2, and used your XP license for this one.. that is legal.. If you install and manage to activate (not hard) using same CD and product key on multiple systems - illegal, but possible. Windows Genuine is also easy to get around in this case, but I expect that to change a lot.. and soon... So stay legal

OEM media (else known as system builder, et al) is used by builders that buy licenses in bulk and build systems for resale (not the largest companies - those we will discuss later.) Their systems also require activation and should have no issues with WGA. The CD that ships with these systems *in my experience* can be used on any other system. This is basically the same as Retail.. Just for bulk purchases. An OEM product key will not work on Retail media (nor will retail product key work on OEM..)

Now, Royalty OEMs (Dell, HP, Gateway, etc) are a special breed. They have a special key for OEM media called SLP (I have no idea what that stands for.) This key does *not* require activation - but *every* system that ships using the SLP method has some restrictions:
- The media is NOT full XP media - it is a RESTORE CD - it is locked to the BIOS of the system it shipped with (basically checking some SMBIOS [whatever] and if not found, fails)
- It can't (that is NOT) be used on systems other than it shipped with (license here, I am not talking technical restrictions outside SMBIOS..)
- Each system must be accompanied with a COA - Certificate of Authenticity (which is basically the same as the prduct key that is used for OEM systems - a COA PID can be used on any OEM media however.. this is where you get strange low prices of XP online.. well, along with VLK.. dancing in illegal land (hey, I cast no stones
For Window Genuine, you will be required to enter your COA at some point to prove a valid SLP system. While easy to get around now, it will get harder later.

Now, VLK is volume licensing that big companies like Citibank and Boeing use. These are the most commonly pirated types. Not going to get into this much other than - when you get pirated copies, I bet 99% chance, this is it (from online, a street vendor in Beijing or whatever...)
I am not sure of VLK activation or Genuine because.. well.. Never used it
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