Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager - Eric Ligman

Eric Ligman, Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager, Blog

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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  • Actually, in Germany I wonder whether anyone will buy an upgrade. OEM licenses can be bought at a fraction of the cost at Amazon (like 75 Euro compared to 120 Euro for an upgrade).

    PS: I also commented about OEM licenses you can buy in Germany at Amazon yesterday on the post about transfer rights of OEM. Could you please aprove of that comment and also answer the question I posed there? Or are you trying to keep discussion of OEM licenses that are sold to end consumers of the blog?!? Let me tell ya, that would be silly and these kinds of things normally backfire :)

  • Solution would be to be asked for two productkeys.

    The Windows 7 upgrade key AND the key of the original qualifying Version !

    I recently bought vista with free upgrade to win7 and now I want to change harddisk.

    So I want a clean install WITHOUT preinstalling vista.

  • I think the upgrade setup phase should be in this way:

    1) Ask the Windows 7 ProductKey

    2) If it's an Upgrade Key, ask for an XP / Vista ProductKey

    3) If it's a valid Vista / XP ProductKey (not in a blacklist), proceed to setup also if there is nothing in the hard drive.

    What do you think?

  • Why does Microsoft treat everyone like criminals and intentionally make everyone jump through hoops to install/upgrade their software? Come on.

    Paul Thurrott is correct in his October 29 post on WinSuperSite.com by calling out Microsoft's lack of attention to a huge problem in upgrade media installation. There's no reason not to include this "hack" in your documentation.

    Microsoft has a hit with Windows 7 no matter how you look at it, but if you want to keep hitting home runs, you need to give your customers the benefit of your doubts.

  • I have to say, requiring the previous version of Windows to be installed on the hard drive before being allowed to install Windows 7 Upgrade was a horrible idea. If I have a need to reinstall Windows 7, perhaps because of a new hard drive or hard drive problem, I don't want to sit through an install of Vista first.

    I pretty much agree with Licantrop0's recommendation.

  • I'd rather see Microsoft posting about when they are going to FIX the activation bug, that will truly allow people to avoid need for any "hacks".

    My scenario is simple, I have fully licensed Vista on my computer which I have been using for several years. I purchased upgrade license, but prefer a clean install. So I also purchased SECOND hard-drive, and clean-installed on it.

    Vista is still there on the other disk, and in fact works just as good as before, via dual boot.

    YET when I went to activate my Win 7, it Failed because I "clean installed and not upgraded".

    WHAT GIVES?! If not for hack, we would be Stuck with nothing, even after spending the big bucks to properly purchase both Vista and Win 7!!!

  • Where the confusion is arising, and where people are getting burned, requiring them to perform this hack is when they have a new hard drive, or a catastrophic failure and require a new hard drive.  In those cases, they can either do the hack, or go through the laborious process of installing XP or Vista first, then upgrade to 7.  This is especially troublesome when they have an OEM install and they are installing on the same computer, just different hard drive.  Most OEM's don't supply restore disks, and certainly most users don't create them.

  • Get over it, there are only 3 people on the whole planet who will want to install 7 on a machine without previously owning a prior version of windows for that machine. And, even if someone were building a new machine, the OEM version is the same price so what's the problem? You should have found something more productive to do with your time because anyone smart enough to install windows would know all of the legalities involved.

  • If Microsoft had provided a clean way to do a "clean" install (like it used to do in the past - requiring an original CD) then this hack wouldn't be needed. Some people actually find doing a clean install preferable to an in place upgrade. This isn't about cheating Microsoft, it's about setting up your system in the most optimum means possible; many ARE NOT convinced that an in-place upgrade will achive this means.

  • Give me a break. Nearly everyone who owns a computer has a valid previous-version Windows license (it's difficult to get a PC without Windows on it). This is about getting a clean new installation, doing a true wipe/reinstall, which many of us prefer to do every time we upgrade to a new operating system. This is about the fact that you intentionally crippled the upgrade media to disallow the way that a huge number of people prefer to install their upgrades. This hack/workaround has nothing to do with pirating Windows. To the contrary, once again, you have made things harder on your real customers than it is for the pirates, who can just torrent full installation media in the first place.

  • Also, you say: “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.” This sounds more like the 95-to-XP days. With Vista and 7, you have intentionally made it difficult to do a clean install. Hence, the hacks.

  • Give me a break, how many people really don't have any qualifying verion of windows to upgrade? Really? Wouldn't you want to give those people a deal anyway since they are the tiny minority moving from Mac or Linux?

    The stupid part is that they have different prices. Just make it the same price - upgrade or not - and avoid the hassle. This kind of bad PR will cost MS far more money than will ever be recovered trying to charge people more $ with some silly scheme.

  • Just to add to Robert Teague's post, I'm still on XP, which is a valid Windows version for an "upgrade", and yet I can't do an in-place upgrade (nor would I). On top of that, I want to be able to boot to the Upgrade disc, select "Custom Install", *format* my drive and install Win7, completely wiping out my current XP install *and* have Win7 activate properly (as it should). This is a true "clean" install, and should not require the use of any "hacks", but unfortunately it sounds like for some this is exactly what they have to do. I'd love to hear a definitive answer to the contrary (that my method above would work, 100%), but I haven't seen it.

  • I recently brought an HP computer that has Vista Home Premium pre-installed, I want to replace the current hard drive with a large drive I purchased and do a clean install of Windows 7 with the windows 7 upgrade CD I recieved from Microsoft. Would this be ok to do? or Do I need to first reinstall Vista on the new drive then upgrade to Windows 7 using the upgrade cd?

  • The disservice here is that Microsoft screws the unfortunate sole whose drive crashes after they've installed Windows 7 upgrade.  So now they must install the prior version they legally owned so they can install the legally purchased upgrade on the new drive.  Let's hope they're technical; otherwise, they'll be paying nearly full retail prices just to have an OS they already own reinstalled.

    I upgraded my kids' PC with Home Premium upgrade.  I started the install in Vista and did a clean install by choosing the option to replace rather than upgrade (produces windows.old).  Let's supposed the drive crashes.  Will I be able to activate a second time, in a situation like this, without having to install the prior version?  MS should already have a record that the product key has been authenticated/activated.  If it passed the first time and is being installed on the same machine (I believe drive isn't the only hardware used to determine same machine), shouldn't it activate without all this work?

    For what it's worth, as a Vista Ultimate user on my primary machine, I still feel pretty burned by the useless Ultimate version.  DreamScene and a poker game don't quite make the premium investment worth it.  Then I get virtually no discount to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate.

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