Buying TechNet for Windows 8? Beware of the new changes

The traditional and legal way of getting hold of a new Microsoft Windows version before its public release is by getting a TechNet Subscription and indeed the Windows 8 RTM products are already available to TechNet subscribers as well as MSDN subscribers. Up until recently, any products and keys obtained on TechNet could be used endlessly for evaluation without a time limit. The only restriction was that if the customer let their TechNet subscription lapse, they could not re-download any software or claim any new keys, but existing software and keys continued to work and activate.

Those who were previous TechNet subscribers (e.g. for the Windows 7 launch) or who plan purchasing a TechNet subscription for Windows 8 (and the upcoming Office 2013) may be in for a surprise with the changes Microsoft made to its TechNet subscriptions in July. The most significant change is that software use and subscription benefits are only available during the 12 month subscription period. Sure enough, their new subscription agreement states “If your subscription ends for any reason: you must stop using the software and any benefits associated with the subscription, and you must destroy all copies of the software in your possession.”

For Product keys, the agreement states “Microsoft may deactivate or otherwise limit your keys when your subscription ends. Deactivated keys will not be able to activate software.” So it seems that while software already activated should continue to work after the subscription lapses, if for some reason a reactivation is required (e.g. significant hardware change or user tries activating a new product installation), this may fail. So it looks like Microsoft is trying to discourage people from periodically subscribing to TechNet just to get the latest Windows/Office releases.

Another significant change is that Microsoft removed software not intended for use in a business environment, such as home edition software. With the recent reduction in the number of keys that could be claimed per product (from 10 to 2 for TechNet Standard and 3 for TechNet Professional), one workaround would have been to use a combination of Windows professional and home editions to install Windows on multiple PCs or hard disks, but with home edition versions removed, this workaround is now gone. The same goes with standalone Office products such as Word, Publisher, etc. as Microsoft has removed these also from TechNet, leaving just the full Office suites present.

Finally, Microsoft has set a 24-hour product key claim limit of 10, although for the vast majority of users, this should not be an issue, especially TechNet standard subscribers who can only claim two keys per product for most products.