Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager - Eric Ligman

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Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 Upgrade is an Upgrade. What you need to know.

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Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 Upgrade is an Upgrade. What you need to know.

image UPDATE: "Hack" identity and more answers from Windows 7 Upgrade Install posted HERE

First, the feedback, excitement, etc. we’ve been seeing since the launch of Windows 7 last week has been phenomenal! Thank you to all of you for providing your feedback to us to let us know how your Windows 7 experience is going.

Unfortunately, it looks like it is time to have this conversation again though. Over the past several days there have been various posts, etc. across a variety of social media engines stating that some “hack” shows that a Windows 7 Upgrade disc can perform a “clean” installation of Windows 7 on a blank drive from a technical perspective. Of course, from the posts I saw, they often forgot to mention a very basic, yet very important piece of information… “Technically possible” does not always mean legal. Let me explain what I mean:

Here are some very basic facts:

  1. When you purchase software, you are purchasing the rights to run the software according to the terms of the End User License Agreement (EULA) that comes with that software.
  2. When you install that software, you are agreeing to the terms included in the EULA you purchased.
    • a. For instance, in the Windows 7 EULA it states, “By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, return it to the retailer for a refund or credit.”
  3. When you purchase an Upgrade license, the included EULA states that you must already own a qualifying full license to upgrade from in order to use the Upgrade license, hence the term “Upgrade.”
    • a. For instance, in the Windows 7 EULA it states, “To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade.”

To put it simply, here is a graphical representation of what this means:

General Example   Example with Product Names
image   image

In stark contrast to:

General Example   Example with Product Names
 image    image

So when these posts and write-ups state that you can install clean from an Upgrade piece of software and they fail to mention that you need to own a qualifying software license to be legal to use the Upgrade software for the installation, they give the impression that because it is technically possible, it is legal to do. Unfortunately, by doing this, they irresponsibly put end users at risk of loading unlicensed software. Because of this, I am putting this post up to try and clarify the truth behind what an upgrade license is and provides so that hopefully people will not find themselves misled by some of these other posts and articles that may mislead them to believe something that is very wrong due to their lack of inclusion of this important piece of information.  If the posts or write-ups you saw did include this information, then kudos to that writer for providing the accurate information.

Now there are many, many, many, many of you out there that already own Windows licenses that qualify for the Windows 7 Upgrade, so this is a non-issue for you.  (I am talking about people who own a FULL license for a previous version of Windows for their computers already, as shown in the first picture example above.)  For you, since you have the previous version FULL Windows license and qualify for the Windows 7 Upgrade, you have the rights to do a “clean” install. 

For those of you without an existing FULL Windows license to upgrade from, you should be aware that an Upgrade license by itself is not a license to install and run Windows on your computer. (As an FYI, those who don’t own a full previous version Windows license, as in the second row of picture examples above, and just downloaded the Windows 7 Beta, RC, or RTM code during the trial phases, the Windows 7 Beta, RC, and RTM trials are not qualifying licenses for the upgrade since they are just trial software, not fully licensed software.)  In order to be eligible to use the Windows 7 upgrade, you need to have a qualifying license to upgrade from. Again, that’s why it is called an “upgrade.” For you, Windows 7 is available pre-installed on PCs around the world today, or you can purchase a full Windows license from one of the many Microsoft Partners we have, or you can download it today.  You might also want to check out some of the great “7 days of Windows 7 deals” going on right now, such as the “PC home makeover” offer that gets you a laptop, a netbook, and a desktop PC (all three with Windows 7 installed), plus a monitor, and wireless router, all for just $1,199!

I hope this helps clear up any confusion over what an “Upgrade” really is and is not and who qualifies to install and use an upgrade license in their move to Windows 7.

And please remember, No, OEM Microsoft Windows licenses cannot be transferred to another PC, in case you were wondering if an old OEM Windows license you have laying around or on another PC could qualify for the Windows 7 upgrade on a different PC.

Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER clip_image001and RSS clip_image002
Global Partner Experience Lead
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

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  • Excellent blog!

    Very good ilustration about the licenses. Just a question:

    Windows Vista OEM + Windows 7 Upgrade = ?

    Windows Vista OEM + Windows 7 OEM = ?

    Thanks beforehand.

  • The reason people want to do a clean install of the operating system with an upgrade disk is because the cost of the full product is too expensive, especially in this economy, and this is the way people show it.

  • @ Anders - An OEM license is a full license.  So an OEM + an upgrade gets you the upgraded version.  Since an OEM is a full license, it is the version that it is, so a Windows 7 OEM is Windows 7.

  • @ Dean - Thanks for the feedback.  My post is not in regards to how people try to justify it to themselves when they do this.  It is to explain what is legal and what isn't and how people writing articles and posts about how it works and not letting their readers know that if they don't have an existing license already, then the upgrade license alone does not give them a license to install Windows 7.  This is misleading and potentially puts the readers in a position of not having a full Windows 7 license.

    Thanks - Eric

  • Consider this:  I have an XP full license.  I have a Vista business upgrade License.  I bought an anytime upgrade to Vista Ultimate.  

    Vista business refuses to install unless it finds an operating system to upgrade if I enter my upgrade key.  If I do not enter my upgrade key it will install as a time limited trial. Which then has to be upgraded to Vista business then the anytime upgrade to ultimate can be performed.  Just how much time do you think this process takes?

    Another case:  User bought a pc from hp or gateway. no cd/dvd supplied for the operating system- he read the book and burned himself a recovery disk.  His hard drive dies.  His recovery disk will not work (does anyone test these) - He hires me to install a new hard drive and make his pc functional, and has previously purchased an upograde to Vista or 7. I am not going to make more than one trip over this - will just use the hack as that is why I believe it works in the first place.  But it is a disservice to your customers to make them pay me to do two installs of one operating system.

  • This subject seems to get repeated so often that it is annoying to I.T. professionals, and continues to be ignored by those who feel justified in stealing whatever software they can.  There is one variation that I have never seen adequately addressed.  When taking over new customers, I frequently find that they are using various “home” versions of XP or Vista.  Since Microsoft has discontinued the Home version as a valid license for the volume license upgrade, there is no clean path to cleanup these customers licenses.   Retail licenses are too cumbersome and customers will lose their documentation of ownership.  The software desk of one or my distributors recently recommended purchasing OEM licenses and “Re-purposing” the computers. While this is technically feasible, I have never seen this mentioned in any Microsoft communication, maybe it is buried somewhere in the license agreement, but I haven’t seen it.

  • @ PRPetitt - You actually answered your own question.  In the first example you gave, you stated, "I have an XP full license."  From there, you explained the various upgrade licenses you added.  If you look at the graphics I provided above, you have a full license and an upgrade, so you have a legal license for the upgraded version.  This is what the ability to clean install is designed for, for those who actually do qualify and have a legal license through the upgrade and want to do a clean install.  As long as you have a full qualifying license and the upgrade license, you can install the new version (and don't need to do an re-install of the old version to do so).  If they did not have the full Windows license to qualify for the upgrade license, then you would not be legal to install the upgrade version as a full version.

    In the second scenario again, the client has an HP or Gateway that came with a full Windows license and now you are applying an upgrade license to the full license.  Since you have the full license and the upgrade license, you can install the upgraded version clean if you choose.  If they did not have the full Windows license to qualify for the upgrade license, then you would not be legal to install the upgrade version as a full version.

    Make sense?

  • Eric, I had no question, just a complaint about no way to avoid doing multiple installs, fyi as far as "clean installs" go during the anytime upgrade to ultimate, it offers the option to format the disk which results in a "clean install" (Clean refering to non in-place upgrade).  Prior to Vista one could satisfy the install program by supplying the older product media - it did not need an installed operating system, hence one did not need to do multiple installs.

  • I am still confused about the Windows 7 licenses (10 Pro and 1 Ultimate) included in the Microsoft Action Pack.  As I understand it, these are Volume Licenses, and as such they can only be used like an upgrade, meaning they still require a qualifying OEM license.  Is this true?  Also, and most importantly, if my previous statement is correct, I realize that home OEM versions are not eligible, such as XP Home or Vista Home Premium.  I have found *nothing* on whether or not XP Media Center Edition is a "qualifying" OEM license that can be upgraded to Windows 7 Pro.  Can you please answer these questions?  I can't find the answers ANYWHERE.  A blog post specifically about the Windows 7 action pack licenses and possible upgrade paths would be ever so helpful.

  • I very much appreciate the "hack" to enable a clean install of the upgrade media.  This is because I don't want to have to keep dragging my obsolete Vista installation media around for the next 5 years!

    Yes, some people will abuse this to get a cheaper Windows 7... but the number of people out there who do not already own a previous copy of windows must be an incredibly small portion of the user base to begin with.  Is this really an issue?!

  • I used the hacky registry, rearm trick for my upgrade install since I replaced the hard drive in my laptop before doing the install. So yes I have a license but nothing installed on the drive. So hacking the install is the only way to use my legal upgrade media and license key. The fact that we have to go through the workaround process just points out how broken the upgrade install process is. What happens when a hard drive, that previously had XP or Vista installed, dies and someone needs to do a fresh install and they put the dvd in and expect it to work?

  • Microsoft will not answer this question even after many attempts.  The first sales doctrine states that I have the right to sell my OEM version of software.  The person that repurchases the OEM software is entitled to full use as the original purchaser.  However, Microsoft denies that persons use of the software by forbidding updates and reducing functionality.  Example; I sell an OEM version of XP pro to Jack and then he purchases a Windows 7 pro upgrade.  Jack installs Windows 7, is this legal or illegal?  I wager you will ignore this post just as Microsoft has in my many attempts.

  • @ Fishbert - Thanks for the feedback.  You might want to take a look again at what I wrote in the Blog post.  In your scenario you are saying that you own a full Windows license and then bought the upgrade for it.  That means you have a licnese to run Windows 7, so if you want to do a "clean" install, go ahead.  There is no reason for you to keep draggin out the original media for the full Windows license that came on that machine.

    The ability to do a clean install was included back in the Vista days to allow consultants and IT pros to do clean installs from that media, for people who were licensed to do so.  In your case, you have the full qualifying license for that PC already, which qualifies you for the Windows 7 upgrade.  So feel free to install using the "clean" method.

    What I was calling out in my post is that people who do NOT already have a FULL Windows license for their PC to qualify them for the Windows 7 Upgrade, then just because the DVD can physically do a clean install, they are not licensed to do that because they don't own a FULL Windows license to even qualify them to purchase or install the Windows 7 Upgrade.

    Does that help clarify?

    Thanks again - Eric

  • Eric,

    Thanks for all the info.  I just want to make sure I'm legally "in the clear" before I jump into Windows 7.

    I had a fully licensed retail version of Windows 98.

    I bought Upgrade media to get XP.

    I bought Upgrade media to get Vista.

    Obviously, I've completely upgraded my PC in this time, but have only ever applied these licenses to one PC at a time, sometimes with a call to Microsoft to 'release' my product key to install it on my upgraded PC.

    With Vista specifically, I had to perform the double-install hack, which I assume is legit in my case.

    I no longer have my old Windows 98 and XP discs, or for that matter, any "proof" of these licenses (stickers, product keys, etc.)

    Am I licensed to install Upgrade media of Windows 7?

    I know you said that as long as I have a FULL Windows license, then I'm safe... but my only FULL license is from Windows 98, and I can no longer provide proof of that license.


  • The reason this 'hack' is popular in the first place, is that it saves people some $80-$100 Depending on the version you buy) from the cost of the full retail version of Windows 7.

    and since we're in a recession, why wouldn't Microsoft make a gesture of good faith, by rewarding savvy computer users who can pull off the hack, with this $80-$100 discount.

    Its sounds like good PR to me, but i am just a savvy computer user, not a PR guy.

    Have a good day

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