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Not quite an accurate abbreviation.

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We hear the letters OEM a lot these days, as people often ask me if they can use an OEM version of software on machines other than the one it shipped with. Usually, they are asking about whether they can scavenge Windows and MacOS disks, and the answer is always no.

When Microsoft and Apple include copies of their operating systems with new computers, they are meant to be used only with those computers, and no other. In fact, when you load the software, and click the YES button saying that you agree to their terms of service, you are agreeing not to use the operating system software on any other computer than the one the disk shipped with.

This also applies to any of the extra disks of software that come with the machine: photo applications, versions of Office, games, utilities and anything else that comes in the box. Those versions of the software are called OEM versions, because they ship with the Original Equipment from the Manufacturer.

OEM also is applied to companies that take computers from other manufacturers in large quantities and customize them to resell. You'd think that the company that actually manufactures the computers in the first place would be the OEM, but that's not the case.

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