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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  • Hello,

    I ordered my Upgrade-Kit already in August. I had problems with my pre-installed Vista OS and formated my computer.Am I allowed to do a clean install of Windows 7? I don't have a recovery-disk (it was empty...) but I have a Vista license.



  • The currant upgrade media allows for a clean install. No hack is involved use the Custom Install>Advanced>select partition>format C drive> do clean install.

    I assume you can do a backup if your reading this blog.

    Was my copy altered?

    Did I just get lucky?

    Am I the only person who was able to do this.

  • I have a qualifying full license and purchase an upgrade.  I wipe the disk, and install.  The install fails because it never asks for proof of a full license.

    I am not doing anything outside the scope of the license agreement, yet I am locked out.

    This is what people are having trouble with.

    You do not address this scenario.

  • @ Robert Teague - Absolutely agree that doing a clean install vs an in-place upgrade is often preferred. Again, in my Blog post above, I am not saying you can't do a clean install if you purchased the upgrade and have a full version license for your computer for a qualifying previous version of Windows.  What I am saying is that if you DON'T own a full license for a qualifying version of Windows for your computer, then buying the upgrade alone does not give you a license for a full Windows install, regardless if it is physically possible or not.

    Thanks for the feedback - Eric

  • @ Timmy - Your computer came with an OEM license of Windows Vista when you ordered it.  That is a full license for version of Windows that qualifies for the Windows 7 upgrade.  You then added the Windows 7 upgrade license to it.  This is the scenario represented in the first row of graphics I provided above.  Because you have a license for Windows 7 (had a full license for a qualifying version of Windows and then added the Windows 7 upgrade), you can do a clean install on your machine.

    Thanks for the inquiry and I hope this helps clear up any confusion.


  • @Eric

    A question I got was a "what if" and I think its an important one.

    What happens if your computer has a hard drive failure and although legally and ethically you are entitled to use the upgrade version, you will need yo do a clean install on a blank drive with the upgrade media.

    Does Microsoft have a way of knowing your computer has had a legal copy of the previous version of Windows on it to at least allow activation via a phone call or is that person "stuck" buying a full copy of 7?

    This I believe was a large part of the motivation behind the "hack" that was published. I for one pay for my software and don't condone piracy but fair is fair. If you had a legal copy of Windows on that computer you are entitled to the upgrade pricing.

    Thanks for your post,its a hot button topic right now. More input from Microsoft up front would be a service to its loyal customers.

  • Right after I did the clean install over my vista using Windows 7 Premium upgrade, I did full image backup of my harddisk using the backup feature included in Windows 7 and burned it to a single double-layer DVD. So, there is my clean install for future. I can just restore my harddisk to initial state anytime I want with the backup disk now. Well, it won't do any good if you buy a new computer and you want to install your copy of Windows 7 on that but how many computer would you change in that period anyway?

  • I perfectly understand the article, and what is and is not legal.  However, I am quite confused by the actual procedure.  Here is my scenario:  I have OEM Vista Ultimate.  I ordered Home Premium 7 Upgrade and a new hard drive.  I plan to remove my C drive, put in the new one, install Windows 7, and after it's happy, format the old drive (and of course if it is not happy, fall back to it).

    So what process would I use to install Windows 7 without having to perform two O/S installs?  My assumption was that it would at some point prompt for my Vista OEM disk, but based on comments here, it doesn't seem like that is the case.  So now I'm confused.  Do I need to search the web for a "hack"?  I would hope not.

  • I really don't think any of the posts I've seen about the Windows 7 upgrade clean install hack have encouraged people to unlawfully buy the upgrade version rather than the full. They simply have provided necessary instruction on how to save time and effort while installing 7. I simply wish Microsoft had done the right thing here and provided a rational way to clean install 7 using upgrade media. Maybe they will do so in "8" but I doubt it.

  • And this is one of those times.  Clearly Microsoft is legally correct, but loses so much goodwill by pressing the issue.  

    They should take a look at Apple's OS upgrade policies and pricing - built on more trust of the customer.

    Almost every PC sold comes with a Windows license and thus are entitled to upgrades.  Forcing the loyal XP user to go thru hoops to do a clean install is silly.

    With an easier upgrade process, Microsoft would likely see increased revenues from additional sales, even as a few customers may cheat them.  

    The juice isn't worth the squeeze!

  • If theres a problem with upgrade licenses, you shouldn't sell upgrades. Once someone pays thier hard earn cash for a product, they own it and can do whatever they want. I know you're gonna disagree, but thats my opinion.  Windows 7 full version is too dam expensive. And since you're so smart and telling us what the EULA says,  what does the EULA say about MS selling us that POS Vista? Don't you owe us a refund?  Anywho, thank you're lucky stars people are buying the upgrade version at all, after that mess Vista.  I mean come on, it could be worst, people could get the cracked version from one of the file sharing sites for free. (name of site ommitted)

  • It's technically possible to clean install Windows 7 using the upgrade media. It's illegal to install Windows 7 by using Windows 7 upgrade media if you have the license of previous version of Windows such as Windows XP. I got it. What if I do have the license of the previous version of Windows? If my desktop PC was shipped with the preinstalled (OEM) Windows Vista, yet I choose to do the custom (clean) install? Is my action considered illegal? Am I still licensed to nothing? I wonder if the EULA really forbids me to do the custom install even if I do own the license of previous version of Windows?

  • I don't care whether its legal or illegal . If I can install it and it works ? Thats all that matter to me . You can call me a thief or whatever . The way I see it so is MS with their high prices . They steal from us , we steal back ... Plain and simple

  • Let me get this straight: you condemn the people who post these "fixes", yet you create a TOTALLY unrealistic means of doing an "upgrade".  While I've gotten by with Vista, I wanted to be able to go to a 64bit OS, and decided to do so with Windows 7.  Since my Dell came with only a 500GB hard drive, I thought it would also be a good time to upgrade to a 1TB drive.  

    So... how exactly am I to do this... care to offer a reasonable procedure?????

  • Eric,

    I think you are dodging the issue that various posters have brought up in this thread. Microsoft has not provided a simple documented mechanism for installing an "upgrade" *with a valid license* on a clean hard disk. Simply saying that it is alright to use the "clean install" method if you own a valid license does nothing to solve that issue. People are still forced to use a dodgy hack to circumvent the problem that Microsoft has created by not providing a properly documented and approved mechanism. In doing so, your company has put users, and in may cases paying customers, at increased risk, since this has now become a trending topic and is as such a perfect target for malware authors and shady website operators.

    Do your customers, especially the countless technicians that work with your software on a daily basis, a huge favor and provide a proper solution. Coming out and making statements about "licensing rights" simply overlooks the larger problem and makes you seem inconsiderate.

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