Buying single home-use Windows license keys

Beware: contains swearing.

Buying Windows is a complete mess. I want to purchase a copy of Windows 7, so that I can take advantage of Microsoft’s cheap upgrade pricing for Windows 8, so I can develop software for it and Windows Phone.

You’d think that in 2012 that’d be easy. You should be able to go to the shop, add it to cart, check out, and get a licence key via email and a download link for the ISO.

It shouldn’t be any more difficult than the steps you need to take to download Ubuntu, just that you have to put in credit card details to buy the licence key as an added step.

In reality it’s a total fucking disaster. Microsoft, clearly reluctantly, only sell the full boxed product at a price some distance above everyone else. You get the key via email and the download link, which is great, but you get your fiscal back doors smashed in with the barest of whispered, pillow-bitten consent.

All other retailers aren’t allowed to sell you an electronically transferred key, unless you’re a volume licensee. I just want one copy. Thus, if you’re a home user like me, looking for a copy for use on a single PC, you’re screwed.

OK, so say you decide to put up with having to be actually shipped your collection of bytes on physical media, along with the key. Which one do you buy? First you decide which of the editions you want; Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate. Except you can’t buy Starter or Enterprise on their own. Who knows what they even are, because even Microsoft’s own “Compare Windows” page omits them.

Then you need to figure out 32-bit or 64-bit. Wait, does the version you’ve found actually come with both? It’s never clear. OK, now, if you’re sure it’s not a volume license or an upgrade one and you’re sure you can use the OEM one rather than full retail to save a bit more money, where do you get it from?

Somewhere reputable like Amazon? But they’re not that cheap, Google Shopping tells me it’s cheaper elsewhere. Shit, now I’m lost in a sea of checking reviews for online retailers to make sure they’re legit.

Oh, look, I just fucking gave up because it’s a total nonsense and now I can’t be bothered developing for your platforms because you’ve just treated me like a total asshole.

Microsoft need to be the canonical place to get a licence key, at competitive pricing with the rest of the world, digitally, right there and then and with no messing around.

There’s no wonder it gets pirated to hell and back. In this case I’m not even going to let them get the win of me writing software for Windows even if I did pirate it due to it being an infinitely easier way to get it, because why should I if they can’t be bothered to sell me their OS in a cheap, efficient manner like everyone else?

It’s 2012. So sell me a competitively priced key in 5 mins and let me get the ISO via BitTorrent. Everything else is just broken.