Windows 7 Upgrade Gotcha’s!


There’s seems to be a bit of an uproar over what can and can’t be done with a Windows 7 upgrade disk.  In an effort to help explain the Microsoft policy, let’s see if we can answer a few nagging questions.

The upgrade version of Windows 7 (as opposed to the higher-priced full version) lets one move from any properly licensed version of Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7 on that same computer. Only some of these upgrades, however, can be done as a simple update–what Microsoft calls an “in-place upgrade.” Users moving from Windows XP, switching from 32-bit to 64-bit versions, or moving from a higher-end version of Vista to a lower-end version of Windows 7 can use an upgrade disc but will have to do a more cumbersome upgrade, known as a custom, or “clean,” installation. Really NOT an upgrade at all in my book, but that’s what Microsoft insists on calling the process. Go figure.

The difference between an in-place upgrade and a “clean” installation, in this instance, means backing up one’s data, installing Windows 7, restoring the data, and reinstalling all Windows programs. Windows 7 upgrade disks can be used to do this clean installation and will recognize the previously installed version of Windows. So – the bottom line here is that if you don’t have any previously installed version of Windows on the machine, you will need to get yourself a full copy of Windows 7.

While it might be (is) technically possible to use the upgrade disks to do an installation of Windows 7 without a previous version installed, doing so, as Microsoft points out, is not supported and the install will not be properly licensed.

Some of the confusion, thus the recent uproar, has surfaced after a few “enthusiasts” noted a way to get an upgrade disc to install on a fully erased (blank) hard drive.

Again, the main issue here is whether one is properly licensed to do so. If you have a licensed copy of Windows XP or Vista for that computer, you are good to go, and Microsoft technical support should be able to help you activate that machine. If not, you may be able to get it to install, but you could well run into technical or legal hurdles.

The bottom line is this. If you qualify for an upgrade license, then yes, you can use any number of work-arounds to install the operating system legally. If you don’t qualify for an upgrade license, then those same workarounds might technically succeed, but your license is not valid.

Would you get away with it? Probably… But if you’re running a business, do you want to run the risk that someone (perhaps a disgruntled employee) will turn you in to the Business Software Alliance, which could lead to an audit, civil charges, and eventually some stiff penalties.

I should also point out that beta test and pre-release versions of Windows DO NOT count as a previously licensed version of Windows – remember, you didn’t pay Microsoft for the privilege of beta testing Windows 7 so why should they give you a break on a upgrade?.

Also, you aren’t allowed to count the version of Windows that came installed on a previously purchased PC, if that’s not the machine you’re trying to upgrade.  The rules is – retail, boxed copies can be transferred from one machine to another at will but operating systems that came pre-installed on a PC (such as Dell systems) are licensed only for that particular machine. (Unless you purchased the system with an authorized “down grade” that included a Windows 7 upgrade) Confused yet?

 If you need help implementing any of the information or tips provided in my posts, contact us – we’re here to help.

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