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How do I buy?

Get the software you need at the best price

When you buy Microsoft software, you actually buy the right to use that software - otherwise known as buying a software licence. When you buy boxed Microsoft software from a shop, you get a copy of the software (on CD or DVD) and the licence giving you the right to use that software. You need a licence for each software package on each PC; for small businesses there are three main ways of getting the licences you need.

With the hardware. You've probably used this method already if you've ever bought a new PC. New computers typically come with common software - like Windows XP - already installed and ready for you to use.

The cost of this software is included in the price of the computer, usually at a substantial discount, so if you're buying new hardware then it often makes sense to choose your software at the same time. However, the licence for software bought in this way is tied the computer it comes with - so if you buy a new PC you have to buy new software as well.

Off the shelf. Getting the software you need can be as simple as walking into a shop and choosing the package you're after. Boxed software comes shrink-wrapped and is not tied to a particular computer, so when you change PCs you can take your software with you. But most boxed software only comes with one licence, so it can only be used on one computer at any one time. You can view a list of software retailers on the Microsoft website.

From a specialist. If you need to buy multiple licences for a single product (for example, you need copies of Office 2003 for ten computers), then things start to get a little more involved. The best way to buy will depend on your exact circumstances.

Our licensing chooser will help you get a feel for the different options, but ultimately it's best to speak to someone who can tailor a package to your particular company's needs, and make sure you're getting good value for money. Our Resource Directory lets you search for someone local who can help.

The specialists listed in the Resource Directory will also be able to help you plan your investment in software properly, so you spend only what and when you need to. They can advise your business on how to make best use of hardware and software, revealing possibilities you may not have considered.

If you want to make a very simple purchase then buying off-the-shelf is probably your best option. However, if you need a number of licences or your needs are more complicated then speak to a specialist. They'll give you good advice - as well as saving you cash.

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