If you’ve ever bought computer hardware or an operating system, you’ve probably come across the mysterious repeating acronym – OEM.
In today’s tech world, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of ??acronyms and convoluted jargon. Just like you won’t stop hearing about 4K, UHD, and 2160p in the TV market, OEM is an inevitable term if you’ve ever seen PC hardware and software.
In this article, let’s talk about what OEM is and what makes the products with the acronym special.
What does OEM mean?
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer – in layman’s terms, whoever makes or sells the product. OEM products are not manufactured for retail, but for sale and distribution to the companies that build the systems.
While we’ll be discussing how it relates to electronics, OEM is an acronym you’ll also find in other industries like automobiles. Machines are systems too.
How do OEM parts differ from retail parts?
OEM parts are often packaged in plain brown boxes or wrappers without branded text on them, while retail items are packaged for demonstration and consumer interest.
Since these products are not meant to be displayed on store shelves, there is little point in the overpricing required to package them more attractively. However, when the online shopping boom began, that changed.
OEM parts can now sometimes be found in online stores where consumer-friendly packaging is not a big advantage. Blend packaging can bring great savings.
What are some examples of OEMs?
When you buy a PC from HP or Dell, it does not mean that all the hardware inside the machine is manufactured by those companies. In fact, this almost never happens.
It is possible to find a desktop computer that, for example, is assembled and released under the Lenovo brand, but its hard drive may have been manufactured by Western Digital, and its RAM may have been manufactured by Kingston. Western Digital and Kingston are OEMs from which Lenovo can choose to purchase.
Foxconn is the largest OEM in the world by scale and revenue, making electronics and parts for companies like Apple, Dell, Google, Nintendo and others.
What are other popular OEM products?
Hardware isn’t the only thing OEMs make, and PC software is another incredibly popular OEM product. The most obvious example is Microsoft and its Windows operating system.
OEM versions of Windows, which are by far the largest PC operating system on the market, are purchased in bulk by desktop and laptop companies.
These copies often come simply in an envelope without any documentation. This is because these versions of Windows are designed with a single purpose: companies such as Dell and HP install them on disks in retail computers.
Another popular OEM software, although not as common as it was ten years ago, includes security kits and system utilities. If you had a desktop computer in the early 2000s, you might feel nostalgic for OEM software like McAfee Antivirus.
Should you purchase OEM products?
While OEM products aren’t necessarily good or bad, there are some things to consider if you’re going to save money on buying them.
First of all, you shouldn’t expect support for your product. If you receive a faulty memory card or Windows product key that doesn’t activate properly, you might end up in a stream without a paddle.
We personally recommend that only experienced users buy OEM products because working with such hardware or software will require a level of understanding that some consumers prefer to get from packaged manuals.
While OEM products have a reputation for bargaining power, it is still important to do some comparison shopping. It is true that they are usually cheaper, but not always.
Thus, OEM products are intended to be sold and used by another company to assemble a larger product, while retail products are designed and packaged for sale directly to consumers.
OEM products aren’t for everyone, but if you find what you need and are comfortable without customer support, you might be able to save some money.