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Cornell University

Microsoft Windows Licensing

This article applies to: Software Licensing

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Cornell University has renewed our Campus Agreement with Microsoft to provide the Desktop Bundle for all computers owned by Cornell University.

Full overview of the Microsoft Campus Agreement

The Campus Agreement currently allows Cornell University staff, faculty, and affiliates* to download selected Microsoft Windows desktop operating systems and install them on computers owned by Cornell University and its affiliated institutions at no cost. Computers must have been initially purchased with a licensed version of Microsoft Windows operating system to qualify. Students, retirees, and alumni are not covered by the Campus Agreement, and are not authorized to download software covered by the Agreement. 

*Affiliated institutions covered under the Campus Agreement are: Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, the ROTC Program at Cornell University, and the USDA facility at the Robert W. Holley Center.

Please note that the Weill Cornell Medical College has its own arrangement in place with Microsoft, and is not covered by the Campus Agreement. Weill Cornell staff and faculty should check with their local IT providers for information about Microsoft licensing.

News and Announcements

Windows 7 No Longer Supported (January 14, 2020) Microsoft has ended extended support for Windows 7 and no longer provides any security patches. Consequently, it is now against Cornell's IT Security Policy to put any computer running Windows 7 onto the Cornell network. Please upgrade any computer running Windows 7 to Windows 10 immediately.

Windows 8.1 Extended Support Will End January 10, 2023 General support for Windows 8.1 ended in January 2018, and is it currently on Extended Support, which provides only security updates. We strongly recommend that anyone still running Windows 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10 before Microsoft ends extended support.

Download Windows OS

The following Cornell-affiliated institutions are also covered by Cornell University's Microsoft Campus Agreement:

  • Boyce Thompson Institute
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva
  • ROTC Program at Cornell University
  • USDA facility at the Robert W. Holley Center

Windows 11

For installation onto Cornell-owned computers by authorized IT support personnel.

If you wish to upgrade your Cornell-provided computer to Windows 11, please contact your department's IT support team.

Windows 10

For installation onto Cornell-owned computers only.

Please check with your local IT support team before you make changes to the OS of any Cornell-owned computer.

Other Editions of Windows

The Education Edition of Windows 10 and 11 are covered under our license. Please contact CU Software if you need the installers.

Windows 10 Long-Term Service Contract (LTSC) edition is available to Cornell IT support personnel. Please contact CU Software if you need the installers.

Professional Edition is covered under our site license, but is not currently recommended for use on Cornell-owned computers. Enterprise Edition provides a higher level of integration for managed desktop, BitLocker drive encryption, and other IT administration tools. If you have a special need for a Professional Edition of Windows 11 or Windows 10, please contact CU Software.

Home Editions and Ultimate Editions are not covered by our site license.

Earlier Versions of Windows

Microsoft has ended extended support for Windows 8 (January 2023), Windows 7 (January 2020), Windows Vista (April 2017), and Windows XP (April 2014). These versions are generally no longer available under our campus license. Computers running unsupported versions of Windows may not be put onto the Cornell network at all; doing so is a violation of Cornell’s IT Security policies. The IT Security Office may shut down network access at the port if they detect an unsupported OS on the campus network.

If your department operates research equipment controlled by a computer that requires use of an unsupported OS, please contact us to discuss your need and possible alternative solutions.

Ordering New Windows Computers

To take advantage of our Windows license, new computers must be purchased with a factory-installed (OEM) installation of Windows. For departmental purchases of new computers, we recommend that you buy the least expensive Windows version offered (for example, Windows 10 Home). Upon receipt, you can then upgrade your computer to Windows 10 Enterprise at no cost to your department. 

If you have purchased a computer that did not have an OEM installation of Windows, please contact us to discuss options.

Automatic Activation via Key Management Service (KMS)

Windows 10 and Windows 11 will automatically activate on any Cornell local network that has been configured to use our KMS Activation system. If your local network has been configured for KMS, you will not be prompted to enter a product key. Windows will also activate automatically from off-campus when you connect to the Cornell network via our Virtual Private Network (VPN) service

All local area networks maintained by CIT are configured for KMS activation. If you are an IT provider and would like to configure your locally-administered domain to use KMS activation, please see our How-To guide Activating Microsoft Products with the KMS Server.

If you have special circumstances which make KMS activation unfeasible or impractical, please contact CU Software to request a Multiple Activation Key (MAK). Please tell us why KMS won't work for your situation. We have a limited number of MAK product keys that we can release on a case-by-case basis when their use is warranted.

Virtual Machines

Under Windows On a computer whose primary OS is Windows, the Campus Agreement allows installation of Windows on an unlimited number of virtual machines (VMs), as long as the computer originally came with a licensed version of Windows. 

Under macOS The Campus Agreement allows installation of Windows on a Cornell-owned Mac using Apple Boot Camp or through a desktop virtualization solution such as Parallels Desktop for Mac. Your department would be responsible for purchasing the virtualization solution itself. Boot Camp is only available for Macs running on Intel processors and is not an option for Macs running M-series processors. We do not recommend desktop virtualization of Windows on a Mac, and CIT does NOT support Windows software running in that capacity.

On Servers The Campus Desktop Agreement covers installation of Windows on VMs running on remote servers, provided that the hardware running the VM is owned by Cornell University, or on a Cornell-dedicated third-party hosting service (for example, Amazon Web Services) procured by Cornell University.

Home Use

The Campus Agreement does not allow installation of Windows on a computer not owned by Cornell University or its affiliated institutions. Cornell staff, faculty, and affiliates are prohibited from installing these versions of Windows on any computer that is their own personal property or is owned by an outside private organization.

While Cornell's Campus Agreement does not provide Windows for personal use, instructors and students at Cornell may be able to obtain Windows Education Edition for free or at a very low cost through third-party software retailers. While CIT does not have a formal relationship with them, one such third-party retailer is On The Hub by Kivuto. To purchase software from On The Hub (link goes to a non-Cornell site), you will need to register your Cornell email address with them, and you may be required to provide proof of affiliation. 

Please note that any software you acquire through a third party-retailer is an agreement between you and them, and that Cornell University cannot provide any sales or order support.

Windows Server OS

Under a July 2010 addition to the Campus Agreement, Windows Server OS and many additional Microsoft server products are also available under the Campus Agreement. For details about Windows server products, please see our Microsoft Server Products page.


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