When referring to prices, we’ve given the price for a boxed retail copy of Windows Vista. This is because most versions of Vista are available in two types: boxed retail copies and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) copies. When you buy a computer with Windows installed you’ll get the OEM version, but if choosing a copy of Vista yourself, either for a new PC or an upgrade, it’s worth knowing the difference.
Retail boxed copies of Vista are designed to be sold to computer owners. They’re more expensive but they include a manual and, more importantly, support. Microsoft includes 90 days of technical support, via phone or email, from the day you activate a retail copy of Vista, so if you hit problems it should be able to help — unless your problem involves connecting to a network, which is an ‘advanced’ support issue and not covered.
OEM copies of Vista are designed for people who make or sell computers. They’re cheaper, but don’t include a manual or any support from Microsoft. Instead, the company that installs the copy of Vista (in most cases the PC manufacturer) pledges to provide support for it themselves. This means that if you bought a computer with Vista you should contact the people you bought your computer from, not Microsoft, for any help. If you buy an OEM version and install it yourself you won’t get any free support from anyone. At just approximately $60 for a copy of Home Premium OEM, this may be a sacrifice worth making.
Should you require help from Microsoft, either for an OEM copy or after your 90 days of support are up, it can be purchased for approximately $50 per incident. With this in mind, if you think you may need help when installing Vista, it may be worth paying more for a retail boxed copy.