Windows 7: Buy and manage ESU licenses – Part 1

win7[German]On January 14, 2020 Windows 7 SP1 reaches End of Life. Business customers can order Windows 7 SP1 Extended Security Updates (ESU). In this blog post, I’ll show in detail what customers from small and medium businesses (SMB) need to know to purchase and manage a Windows 7 SP1 Extended Security Updates (ESU) license.


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On January 14, 2020, Windows 7 SP1 will reach the long announced end of support. After next January 2020 patchday, Windows 7 SP1 machines will no longer receive free security updates. Enterprise corporate customers have the option of purchasing an ESU license for Windows 7 SP1 to receive updates in 2020 (and, if mandatory, to renew it until January 2023).

How to buy an ESU license?

Microsoft has announced an Extended Security Updates support as a separate program for corporate customers (see Wow! Windows 7 get extended support until January 2023). But especially the group of small and medium sized businesses (SMB), which should be able to order these ESU licenses (see Microsoft offers Windows 7 Extended Update Support to SMBs) have to overcome some.

I had assumed that Microsoft would make it easy for small and medium business customers, i.e. individual users, freelancers or small companies, to book the so-called ESU program from December 1, 2019 onward and thus receive security updates for Windows 7 SP1 for 2020. My attempts to get the details proved to be extremely difficult, as Microsoft organizes the distribution through partners from the so-called Cloud Solution Provider Program (CSP).

Angebotsseite Software Express für den Extended Security Update-Programm (ESU) Kauf
(A page to buy Windows 7 ESU)

But in November/December 2019 I failed first, to find a CSP partner who is able to sell an ESU license. Only after longer efforts I managed to establish an European source for the purchase of ESU licenses with the provider Software Express. I have blogged about the details in the blog post Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, price and source for SMEs.


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Outside of Europe, customers need to find a CSP partner who is willing to sell ESU packages for 2020.

Management of ESU licenses only via the cloud

Another hurdle: In order to receive Extended Security Updates (ESU), an ESU license key must be activated on the Windows 7 SP1 machine. My naive idea was: ‘Just buy an ESU package for a machine for 2020 and get the required ESU key by mail’ was not correct. The activation and management of the keys must be done via the so-called Microsoft CSP-Tenant (an online account for the cloud, the Microsoft 365 Admin Center) of the respective end customer.

German CSP partner Software-Express has kindly provided such an ESU license for me, so that I can publish the following steps and experiences here.

Not all SMBs will have a user account to access the Microsoft CSP Tenant via the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. So the question is: How do you get access to something like that? After discussions with Software-Express they have not only set up the order page linked above. There is (since shortly before Christmas 2019) also the German language website Windows 7 ESU Schritt für Schritt (Windows 7 ESU step by step) with a recipe for the purchase of ESU keys online. Below I will outline the necessary steps in English. According to that article, customers may use the following Microsoft accounts for managing the ESU-Keys as a Microsoft Tenant.

I have access to a Visual Studio subscription and are able, to set up Azure services (e.g. virtual machines) for test purposes. But it was not possible for vendor Software-Express to assign the ESU license to this account (why is still unclear). I then used the suggestion of Software-Express to set up a 30-day trial subscription for Microsoft Office 365. They wrote about this:

If you are not yet using [any] Microsoft Cloud product today, you will need to create an account first. The easiest way to create this account is with an Office 365 trial subscription. There are no costs involved, even after the trial period has expired. In the meantime, we have added the Windows 7 ESU to the account. So it remains.

The following screenshot shows the Microsoft Office 365 Business subscription ordering page. You will need to seach the ‘Try free for 1 month’ link of the page to order the test subscription.

Office365 Test subscription
(Book a free Office365 Test subscription)

Here I recommend to read the footnote in case Microsoft changes something there. I myself did not need a credit card for the test subscription.

When setting up this test account, a user ID in the form of an e-mail address of the type alias@name.onmicrosoft.com was then assigned, where alias and name are used as placeholders for the information selected by the user. The CSP needs this user ID to assign the ESU key to the CSP tenant. And the customer needs this user ID in order to log in later to his Microsoft 365 Admin Center and retrieve the ESU key.

Abrufen der ESU-Lizenz im Microsoft 365 Admin-Center
(Obtain the ESU license in Microsoft 365 admin center)

I was then able to log in at admin.microsoft.com with this user ID. Then I navigated to the branch Billing and the category Products and Services (see left column in the screenshot above).

Note: The above screenshot is in German, because I was to stupid to switch the page to English. I managed to select English United States as an option. But in the New admin center layout I ended with a mixed GUI – some entries are in English, but the navigation path in the left pane was still in German. So you have to find out by yourself, if my navigation options are available within your Microsoft 365 admin center.

In the next step, select the Rubik Software in the right part and you should see the entry ‘Windows 7 Extended Security Updates 2020’. If you click on the entry, the ESU license keys will be displayed.

What a mess Microsoft is doing there with their customes. A small service provider wrote to me ‘everything is no problem, the CSP-tenant can be created in 5 minutes’. But without the support of the people from Software-Express I would have been lost in searching this options. It’s like Ed Bott stated: ‘They offer ESU, but they won’t your money’.

For all SMB users who do not have an account for Microsoft 365/Azure or who are not familiar with or do not want to struggle with that mess, my recommendation is to let a CSP partner have to handle the administration and activation of ESU keys. German provider Software-Express offers this service on this page for 19.50 Euro (net). Only after the account for the Microsoft CSP tenant has been created, a customer may order Windows 7 ESU (for 61.53 euro (net) at German vendor Software Express). In the next part of this article series I will show how to prepare Windows 7 SP1 for ESU and how to activate the ESU key.

Article series
Windows 7: Buy and manage ESU licenses – Part 1
Windows 7: Preparing for ESU and license activation – Part 2
Windows 7: ESU Activation inEnterprise Environment – Part 3
Windows 7: ESU questions and more answers – Part 4

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Windows 7: Office 365 ProPlus Updates till 2023
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Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, price and source for SMEs


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