Get the Best Deal on Microsoft Software -- Ever

Last Updated Jun 23, 2010 11:25 AM EDT

If you're a small-business user in the market for Windows 7, Office 2010, and just about anything else in Microsoft's catalog, you can score them on the cheap by signing up for a Microsoft TechNet subscription.

That entitles you to multiple licenses of the full versions of Windows, Office, and all the rest. Not just one product, but all of them. The subscription encompasses literally hundreds of products.

Until recently, your only option was the $349 TechNet Plus (now known as TechNet Professional). But Microsoft just introduced TechNet Standard, which is virtually identical but excludes some enterprise software (not an issue for most small businesses) and Professional's two "complimentary support calls." The price: $199.

I'll recap: For $199, you can get Windows 7 Ultimate, Office 2010 Ultimate, Small Business Accounting, and just about anything else you want, and install each one on up to 10 PCs.

Right about now you're probably wondering if there's a catch.

Not really. Although your TechNet subscription expires after 12 months (you can always renew it), your product licenses don't. They're yours forever.

The only real consideration is where and how you use the software. TechNet is really intended for IT folks looking to test various Microsoft products before deploying them. And legally speaking, you're not supposed to run them in a production (i.e. business) environment.

You are, however, allowed to install the software on home PCs. And for what it's worth, I have no idea if Microsoft really enforces the rules on where or how you use the software. (In fact, I'm not sure how they could even monitor that.)

There's a great overview of the new TechNet Standard subscription option over at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. Check it out, then let me know if you agree this is the deal of the century. I'm seriously tempted to sign up, if only to get Windows 7 and Office 2010 for all my home-office PCs.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.