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Identity of the Windows 7 Upgrade “Hack” Revealed and more!

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Identity of the Windows 7 Upgrade “Hack” Revealed and more!

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Shortly after I published my Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 Upgrade is an Upgrade. What you need to know blog post, there was one particular statement that several people seemed to focus on. The statement in that blog post I am referring to is, “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.” Shortly thereafter, many came to the conclusion that the “hack” was a person and began speculating (and even some actually going so far as stating as “fact”) who the “hack” is that I was referring to in that post.

As promised in my Answers from Windows 7 Upgrade Install Hack post coming on Monday post from this weekend, here is the post where I will reveal the identity of the “hack” that I was referring to in that post. This is one of the many answers to questions I am putting up on the blog throughout today and the week. As those of you that have followed my Blog for some time know, a lot of the posts here are based on questions I receive and topics of concern I see in the Partner community.

After my Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 Upgrade is an Upgrade. What you need to know blog post, there were a couple things I observed (and these are all important factors in how we got here and in the revealing of the “hacks” identity):

  1. It appears “conspiracy-theorism” (yes, I know theorism is not in the dictionary) is very present
  2. There appears to be a lot of reading through “pre-determined conclusion” lenses

Let’s start with the “conspiracy-theorism.” One theme that came up in several of the comments posted to my blog post, other blog posts, and other articles that came about from my blog post was, “Microsoft tries to make it hard for their customers/Partners,” or “Microsoft does not care about trying to help their customers/Partners be successful.”  Really? I can assure you with 100% certainty that Microsoft is absolutely committed to working to improve the satisfaction and experience of all of our customers and Partners, which is the entire reason that the Customer and Partner Experience (CPE) effort that I left my former position at Microsoft to join in 2008 exists. Now does this mean that Microsoft has mastered all parts of it and that everything is rosy?  Of course not (and no, contrary to several of the comments posted, I am not that blind to think they are).  But know this, improving Microsoft’s customer and Partner satisfaction is a long-term, on-going journey that we are absolutely 100% committed to taking with you.  Here are just two specific examples of this:

  • Just hours before my Windows 7 Upgrade post went up, Todd Weatherby, put his A new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal experience is coming soon. Give us your input post on my blog letting Partners around the world know that just as Allison Watson mentioned during WPC 2009, we are making significant improvements to our Microsoft Partner Network Portal based on input from our Partners to simplify your interaction with Microsoft and we are encouraging your input into this process. In that post, Todd calls out how all Partners around the world can give their input to us for this. If you haven’t taken this opportunity yet to provide your input on how to make your experience better, do so now.
  • With the launch of Windows 7, we have undergone numerous steps to not only improve the product, but also your experience with it and Microsoft.  Let’s start with the sheer size of the beta, RC, and RTM trials we made available around the world so that Windows 7 could be the most tested Operating System possible to improve your experience with it.  Or how about the the number of resources that the Windows 7 Team and others were putting into the market well in advance of the launch to help you get the most out of it?  There’s the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check your PC to see if it can run Windows 7.  The collection of Windows 7 How To Videos to help you get the most from it.  The Windows 7 Team Blog that brought you a wealth of information on Windows 7 up to and after the launch.  Plus much, much more.

Now about those “pre-determined conclusion” lenses… It seems very apparent that many people commenting on my post, either directly on it or on any of the articles about it, figured they knew what it said even before reading it and/or did not completely read it before drawing their final conclusions or making their comments.

Just one example:

  • Several headlines show up stating, “Microsoft warns Windows 7 users that popular 'upgrade hack' is illegal,” then in numerous comments/emails, people state that I am telling them in my post that the processes published by (since they were called out specifically by readers, not me, in the comments) Ed Bott and Paul Thurrott cannot be used, are illegal to use, and/or should not be used or that I don’t get that either of these two are trying to help customers have a better experience. Really? Can someone please point that out to me? In my post I call out:
    • “Technically possible” does not always mean legal.
    • For you (those who have qualifying Windows licenses to upgrade from), since you have the previous version FULL Windows license and qualify for the Windows 7 Upgrade, you have the licensing 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.
    • People writing about these types of install solutions from an Upgrade disc should call out that in order to be legal, people need to have a qualifying license to upgrade from so that their readers do not misinterpret their articles/posts to say that because it is possible to do the install, then it is legal without the qualifying license to upgrade from.
    • If the posts or write-ups you saw did include this information, then kudos to that writer for providing the accurate information.
  • Where in there did I state that the solutions proposed by either of these gentlemen cannot be used, are illegal to use, and/or should not be used? I flat out stated that if you own the right licenses, you can do the clean install, without calling out any procedure that can/cannot be used. Where did I state that either of them is not trying to help customers in their posted solutions?

So let’s get down to identifying the “hack,” I was referring to.

The “hack” is Ed Bott! Really? No, not really, regardless of how many people tried to convince you of that by making that claim since my post. In fact, just the fact that people implied that Ed Bott even could have been the person I was talking about shows that people did not read my post before jumping to their conclusions about what it was saying or they had their “pre-determined conclusion” lenses on when they did read it. As I said above, in my blog post I stated, “If the posts or write-ups you saw did include this information about needing the full license to upgrade from), then kudos to that writer for providing the accurate information.” Did you read Ed Bott’s post? If you had, you would have seen that Ed clearly states in his answer to the question, “So, does this mean I can install an upgrade version on a new PC I’m building?” Answer: “From a technical point of view, yes. But from a licensing point of view, absolutely not. The discounted price for an upgrade applies because you already paid for a license on the system you’re upgrading.”

Not only is Ed Bott not the “hack” mentioned in my post, but he is actually an example of what TO DO when posting information about this type of a workaround for clients. And this isn’t the first time Ed has done this either. How many of you read his, “The Vista license "loophole" that isn't,” post when this same issue arose about the double-install method with the Windows Vista upgrade media? Once again in that post, Ed calls out, “If you qualify for an upgrade license, this technique allows you to do a clean install, legally. If you don’t qualify for an upgrade license, then doing a clean install with this technique is technically possible but violates the terms of the license agreement.” He goes on even further to explain this to his readers. Personally, I would suggest that people posting about technical workarounds in the future, regardless of who they are, take a page from Ed Bott’s book of how to do it.

Ok, so if Ed Bott is not the “hack” I was referring to, then it must by Paul Thurrott! Really? No, not really. What did Paul Thurrott post that was factually inaccurate, intentionally misleading, or anything else that you would expect from a “hack”? Haven’t seen his post yet? Read it here. Paul does a step-by-step explanation in his post about how to execute the clean install and nowhere in the post does he tell people that this alleviates the need to be buy a full license of Windows 7 just because it works (unlike some others in the past, and currently have done). In fact, Paul, like Ed, is one of the people that many people have pointed to over the years as being one of the very helpful people in pointing out solutions to technical issues discovered.

Based on all of the speculation and cases of “opinionasfactitis” (pronounced: Opinion-as-fact-itis. You know, where someone states an opinion as a “fact” and then that “fact” continues to propagate as a “fact” like a contagious disease, in this case articles in tech publications/forums stating my post was calling out Paul directly), floating around, Paul obviously is/was of the opinion that I felt he was condoning piracy in his post or that I was stating he should not have published the information in his post based on his follow-up post.

In my opinion, no, Paul’s post is not condoning piracy and as stated above, nowhere have I said that either Ed’s or Paul’s posts shouldn’t be published or are condoning piracy. Yes, I do believe it would be beneficial if Paul had specifically called out in his post that this workaround does not alleviate the licensing requirements of the upgrade so that readers do not mistake his helpful post to be stating something to the contrary. Especially since there have been numerous comments on various blogs/forums and even articles written using Paul’s post as the “source” of this tip to get around the need to buy a full Windows license if you don’t qualify for the upgrade. So my only feedback on Paul’s original post is, would you mind including the quick few statements like Ed in your posts to eliminate all confusion on whether your post eliminates the need to be licensed properly so that these other people do not misinterpret your information that way? Because to answer the question posed in his follow-up post, while you would think that the line in the EULA that states, “To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade” that he quoted in that post would be obvious to understand, based on all of the comments and feedback of people stating the contrary about their impressions as they make their arguments, apparently it is not.

Before moving on, let me set the record straight. Ed and Paul, if either of you felt that my post from last week was implying that either of you are “hacks” or publicly condoning piracy, you have my sincere apologies here on public record, as in no way was that my intention. (In full disclosure, Ed and I did have a chance to connect directly on this over the weekend already; however, Paul and I have not)

So wait a minute… If Ed and Paul are not the “hacks” called out in the post, who is? Is it this guy that was listed by another online tech magazine as the target of my post? No, not him; however, I really do appreciate him going back and adding the following to his write-up just afterwards:

“Update: While it is not necessary to buy a full version of Windows 7 it is still a legal requirement to do so if you do not own a legal copy of either Windows XP or Windows Vista. The article did not make that completely clear.”

So then who is it? The “hack” I am specifically calling out in my post isn’t a “who,” it’s a “what.” A “what” you ask?  Yes, a “what.”  Take a look at the definition of “hack” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  (I know, because I did before my original post to ensure the wording I was using was accurate). 

  • hack - a usually creative solution to a computer hardware or programming problem or limitation

The “hack” is any of the technical workarounds you see floating around (not any one in particular, it can be any of them out there that exist today or that come out in the future) that state that the Windows upgrade can physically be installed as a full product. Because let’s be clear, just as the title of my blog post says, “Regardless of what any hack (technical workaround) says, a Windows 7 Upgrade is an Upgrade.” And just like I have been saying for years, “Technically possible” does not always mean legal, so just because you “can” do it, that does not change any of the licensing terms or requirements. Just make sure you have the proper licenses first, as Ed Bott pointed out in his write-ups. Then as I said in my original post, “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.  That’s also why I called out that there are things you need to know (and those would be the licensing requirements listed in my original post).

So for anyone out there thinking my post was trying to “make an example” of someone as a “hack” or that I was calling someone specifically a “hack,” sorry to disappoint you.  As I mentioned in the very beginning of this post, I have no doubt that “conspiracy-theorism” and “pre-determined conclusion” lenses had a lot to do with people coming to that conclusion. (Not to mention the “Opionionasfactitis” that was spreading rampantly)  In all honesty, looking back, how many of you actually read my original blog post without any pre-determined notions as to what you already thought I was going to say, just because I chose the word “hack” in it vs. “technical workaround?”  And those that had pre-existing notions of what I was going to say, how many of those were positive?  People see the word, “hack,” mentioned by someone at Microsoft and quickly start to assume the negative side of it.  Why? 

As I said above, contrary to any beliefs out there, Microsoft is 100% committed to working with all of our customers and Partners to increase your satisfaction with our products and company.  We know there are issues that need to be worked on and we are committed to working on them with you.  For those of you that I have worked with for years, as I have always committed to doing in the past, I will continue to work to provide information and answers to address questions and concerns I see being raised and will continue to try to point you to where you can find the RIGHT answers to those questions.  But to be clear, the RIGHT answer is not always the POPULAR answer; however, just giving the popular answer, if it is wrong, does no one any good anyway.  Just like people trying to twist the solutions stated by Ed and Paul, that were designed to help address a technical challenge, to convince customers as being legal ways to “cheat the system,” does not change the real answer that an Upgrade is an Upgrade and you need a qualifying license to upgrade from.  Whether I put up my post or not, the upgrade licensing requirements remain the same.  But if putting up my post helped protect some customers from being told the wrong information by someone or helped clear up the questions for some of our Partners out there that service the needs of their customers on how this works, then it has served its purpose.

Also, after reading through the comments that I have seen on my blog post and in many of the articles and other publications on this topic, there are a few common themes I have been seeing that people seem most concerned with.  Because of this, I will be putting up another post this week entitled, “Eric, I am soooo mad at you because” where I will try to address many of the themes and help answer and address these concerns, and some of them are very valid and very legit.

Note: One comment that continues to come up is that I am “avoiding” answering Microsoft’s procedure for the install.  I guarantee you I am not avoiding it.  I have submitted your various comments on this topic to the appropriate people for that topic and will be happy (believe me) to post the exact link to where you should go for this information as soon as I hear back.

As I noted over the weekend, I am going to be posting the answers to many of the questions I have received and continue to receive here on the Blog, so please keep the feedback and input coming. You can see many of these questions and answers posted here:

More Answers from Windows 7 Upgrade Install Hack post

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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  • "Note: One comment that continues to come up is that I am “avoiding” answering Microsoft’s procedure for the install.  I guarantee you I am not avoiding it.  I have submitted your various comments on this topic to the appropriate people for that topic and will be happy (believe me) to post the exact link to where you should go for this information as soon as I hear back."

    Dress it up any way you like, but this is still a "put-off" or a passing of the buck. Ed and Paul say that they have asked for this sort of information since January, and they were similarly put off - very much like in your quote above.

    This is the sort of information that many people at Microsoft should know. It is the sort of information that should transcend departments and divisions. It is the sort of information that should be in published documents, with clear explanations of steps to take in the event that a legal upgrade technically fails.

    What will it take for someone at Microsoft to take this question by the horns and just plain answer it directly? By the way, this question has gone unanswered for the duration of the Vista Beta, the Vista Release, the 7 Beta, and the 7 Release.

  • Umm... if you didn't mean to imply that the "hack" possibly could have been a person... Then you probably should have left out that being a possibility..

    "some “hack” (be it a person or a procedure)"

    Having a hard time believing you *never* meant it to possibly refer to a person.

  • If Microsoft is really “absolutely committed to working to improve the satisfaction and experience of all of our customers,” then they're doing a crappy job. Having to resort to hacky procedures to install software which you yourself say is perfectly legitimately licensed is what your customers are complaining about, and you've been utterly tone-deaf on this, repeatedly ignoring the underlying complaint. (Okay, you say you weren't ignoring it, you just weren't answering. Fine.) The truth is, quite simply, that paying customers have to go through these hacky and frustrating procedures to install the product they purchased, where the pirates can just torrent a full installation media and install without these difficulties.

    In addition, reading your original article, you are very, very clear about the fact that you are calling people “hacks,” and not just the procedure. In line with the self-righteous tone of the entire post, you seem quite proud of this wordplay, saying “regardless of what a hack says” in your post title, and saying “some ‘hack’ (be it a person or a procedure)” in your second paragraph. You are _clearly_ and deliberately playing up the dual meaning of the word “hack” to imply that the _people_ posting about this workaround are in fact “hacks” in the derogatory journalistic sense of the word.

    Beyond that, you seem really, really, really out of touch with what customers actually desire and are complaining about. Do you think that a technical user, upset about the fact that you have intentionally crippled their upgrade media so that it requires annoying workarounds to achieve a clean installation, is going to be mollified by the fact that “a new portal experience is coming soon”? Seriously? You repeated the annoying mistake you made with Vista, making it more difficult for us to cleanly reinstall Windows, which we fully expect we'll need to do several times over the life of Windows 7 on a given system… and we're supposed to be happy that you're relaunching some Web site?

  • Hey, if you're trying to apologize, you might want to contact Paul Thurrott directly.

    Here's his email address:

  • This "apology" doesn't feel very sincere. You mention conspiracy theories and pre-determined conclusions before you even mention an apology. You wiggle around, and give what appeared from my reading to be more jibes before you said that, before an apology that sounds like "I'm sorry you feel that way."

    Perhaps this wasn't your aim, and I don't think calling anyone a hack was necessarily your aim. Yet, the truth of the matter is that you posted something that angered journalists, which is generally a bad thing.

    Please don't take it personally, the issue is that upgrading is confusing, something that should not be happening. Microsoft should fix the process from a technical side.

    Yet, I think you could avoided this post with a shorter post about the licensing limitations, along the lines of "while these guys have guides on how to do this within licensing, please remember to follow the licensing rules, less you end up with a less-then-legit copy" rather then the inflammatory "Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 Upgrade is an Upgrade" post.

    Thanks for trying however.

  • So, I didn't do anything illegal?  I used the "hack" to perform a clean install of Win7 Pro on my desktop and Win7 Home on my HTPC.  I have full licenses of Win XP Pro and Vista Business.  On my desktop, I put 7 Pro on a clean hard drive and bumped the XP Pro drive as a backup (if I decided to move back to XP).  Eventually I will format the drive if 7 meets my needs.  On the HTPC, though I never used Vista Business on it, I decided to use that DVD as my qualifier.  Vista Business is not used on any other computer in my house.

    Anyway, I really wish Microsoft had used methods back in the old days.  "Please insert XP, Vista, etc" as the qualifier.  I got scared when I put my key in and 7 said "nope".  Luckily Paul had posted that "hack".  No offense...but I do not trust any "upgrade" and always prefer clean installs.

  • @ Timmy - As a former system builder professionally and still system builder personally ( and having done numerous upgrade and clean O/S installs over the years, I hear you and what you are saying.  I have asked for and will continue to help try to find the answer to this question and point you to it once I hear the answer back.

  • @ Jeremy - Let's be clear, I am not saying that there are not "hacks" out there that are people.  You know, people who do shoddy research before publishing and then twist all of the information to tell a completely inaccurate story as fact.  After all, that's why the term exists in that definition too.

    Some people reading my post may even come across these people out there and those authors may try to tell these readers the absolute wrong information about why the solutions Ed and Paul published exist.  They will try to tell them that these two published their solutions to circumvent the licensing and to show that it is legal to do so.   They will fail to state the actual facts that the solutions Ed and Paul posted are designed specifically for those who do qualify for the upgrade licensing because they do, in fact, own a qualifying Windows license to upgrade from, and that Ed and Paul published their posts merely to help these people who meet the upgrade requirements have an easier install process.

    So no, I am not stating a "hack" couldn't possibly be a person.  What I am stating is the fact that for my posts, I used the word "hack" to specifically refer to the computer meaning of the word, which is a technical workaround.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  • I don't know but from an outsider's point of view, it looks like there are still some bad feelings with Paul Thurrott.  He accepted your "apology" on his blog site but still appears bitter about the whole thing.  I'm siding with Paul on this one.  Yes, we all get that an Upgrade license is not to be used on machines that don't already have a previous Windows install, but let's be real, we're talking about a small fraction of PC's in the world.  How many PC's get sold that don't have some version of Windows installed?  Show me the market research.  Microsoft needs to make clear exactly what steps most legitimate upgrade users need to follow if they want to do a clean install of Windows 7 using the upgrade media.  If Microsoft outlines these steps (with the usual legal warnings), then there would be no need for the Ed's and Paul's of the world to do it for them.

  • @ Bill - Thanks for Paul's email; however:

    - Contrary to Paul's blog statement, "It's too bad I never heard from him directly," I actually did DM him on Sunday with an apology.  It was the same DM content that I sent to Ed Bott as well.  Ed responded and we have had numerous conversations since.  Paul never responded.

    - Contrary to Paul's blog statement of, "I'd never have known about if a friend hadn't forwarded the link," just after my post went live on Monday, I sent a DM to Paul with the link to the post, telling him I was posting a public apology so that he was aware of it and knew it was sincere.  It was the same DM message I also sent to Ed Bott just afterwards.  Ed responsed with a, "Thank you," and posted a follow-up to Twitter about it.  Paul never responded.

    - I sent a follow-up email to Paul yesterday asking about both of the items above.  Paul never responded.

    - Now before you ask if I sent the DMs to the right place, the answer is yes, and I know this because Paul did respond to a separate DM about his schedule (with no response to any of the above).

    So I have reached out to Paul and Ed several times starting over the weekend about this (contrary to the statements in Paul's blog post).  Ed has responded and we have had several communications.  Paul has not responded.

    Maybe if you happen to talk with Paul, you could have him take a look at the DMs and email I sent him, since I have had no reply to any of them.

    Thank you for the feedback.

  • @ Yert - Thanks for the feedback.  Please see my comment to Bill on this topic.  I had actually reached out to Paul the day before my blog post with a DM apology and then another DM when the post went live letting him know specifically about the apology, so I was not relying on the post itself to be the apology.

    As my post stated, my post was not naming Ed Bott or Paul Thurrott as "hacks," and both have offered a great deal of assistance to the community.  The only people who have ever said I was talking about Ed or Paul are the numerous reporters out there who made pure speculations on what my post was saying, none of them who actually checked with me to verify any of their facts, and then they wrote these speculations as "facts."  From there, the "Opinionasfactitis" took over, and we all know the rest.

    As for the fix on the technical side, please take a look at my reply to Timmy here in the comments on that topic.

    Thank you for your feedback and suggestions on the post and the wording.  I do appreciate it.

    Thanks again.

  • @ JJK - If your computer has an existing license for Windows XP Pro or Windows Vista Business as either OEM that came with that computer or as a Retail box full license, then yes, you absolutely do qualify for the Windows 7 Upgrade and have the choice to do a clean install if you choose.  One note is that when you upgrade from one version of Windows to another, you are required to remove the former version from your computer, since you technically own 1 full Windows license, not 2.  (One is full, one is an Upgrade)

    Thank you for the feedback on the way we used to do the upgrade methods in the past.  I will pass that along.

    As for preference on clean installs, take a look at my reply to Timmy here in the comments.

    Thanks again for your input and feedback.

  • First, thanks for the clarification Eric.  

    Second, will Microsoft be fixing the bug that sometimes occurs when attempting to activate Windows 7 using a upgrade key after performing a "clean" (aka bare metal) install?

    "The following failure occurred while trying to use the product key:




    The Software Licensing Service determined that this specified product key can only be used for upgrading, not for clean installations.


    A graceful solution might be to prompt the user for their product key from the license that they are upgrading from.

    If that is not possible from a business or technical perspective perhaps then perhaps refer the user to the hack(s).  

    Until the bug is fixed links to the hack(s) or official documentation of the hack(s) should be posted by Microsoft.

    Thanks for reading.

  • “One note is that when you upgrade from one version of Windows to another, you are required to remove the former version from your computer, since you technically own 1 full Windows license, not 2.”

    I'm curious about the details of this interpretation of the EULA. The text of the EULA, at least in XP, is “After upgrading, you may no longer use the product that formed the basis for your upgrade eligibility.” I've always assumed this was intended to make it clear that you can't go take the previous version and install it on another system. If Microsoft is advocating a completely strict interpretation of this text—that the moment the upgrade is isntalled, all rights to the previous version are revoked—then it would make it illegal, for instance, to install Windows 7, discover that something didn't work, and revert to a backup. Is that really your position? And are you really telling us that every person who wants to test a new version in a dual-boot scenario before committing to it completely must buy a full, non-upgrade license?

  • @MV — good point. Eric, I second that question—will Microsoft be treating this customer-hostile behavior as a bug, and fixing it? Or do you consider the need for this hackishness to be a feature that's working as designed?

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