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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Comments (101)

  1. Anders says:

    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.

  2. Dean says:

    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.

  3. mssmallbiz says:

    @ 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.

  4. mssmallbiz says:

    @ 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

  5. PRPetitt says:

    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.

  6. wayne says:

    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.

  7. mssmallbiz says:

    @ 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?

  8. PRPetitt says:

    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.

  9. Jeff Clark says:

    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.

  10. fishbert says:

    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?!

  11. William says:

    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?

  12. 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.

  13. mssmallbiz says:

    @ 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

  14. oldschoold says:


    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.


  15. Mac says:

    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

  16. davidacoder says:

    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 :)

  17. MiniMe says:

    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.

  18. Licantrop0 says:

    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?

  19. Windows User says:

    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 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.

  20. Jeff Flowers says:

    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.

  21. Adi R says:

    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!!!

  22. T Man says:

    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.

  23. Bat says:

    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.

  24. 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.

  25. Dan Hallock says:

    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.

  26. Dan Hallock says:

    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.

  27. Sean Conrad says:

    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.

  28. JimB says:

    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.

  29. Zak R. says:

    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?

  30. Jamie says:

    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.

  31. Timmy says:


    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.



  32. Mark Schneider says:

    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.

  33. Hvt says:

    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.

  34. mssmallbiz says:

    @ 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

  35. mssmallbiz says:

    @ 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.


  36. Mark Schneider says:


    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.

  37. Alex says:

    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?

  38. Dean says:

    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.

  39. John W says:

    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.

  40. Ray Peterson says:

    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!

  41. Greg says:

    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)

  42. Sonic says:

    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?

  43. mike says:

    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

  44. Claude says:

    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?????

  45. Edvin Aghanian says:


    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.

  46. Mark says:

    There’s be no need for this if upgrade meant just that in the software sense instead of just the licensing sense. The unit is basically doing a clean install from XP anyhow, might as well make it official.

    Should have just been an app to put a hash on a USB key to validate your upgrade from XP for a clean media install to seven (or whatever technical miracle works)

  47. Dan says:

    Jeebus, you may be right on this, but could you sound any more self-righteous? How about some understanding that a big segment of these problem installs seems not to be piracy, but a result of the brain-numbingly arcane morass of W7 versions, rules, user hardware, and bum MS documentation.

    Don’t ask your customers to be conscientious if you can’t be that yourself.

  48. clipper453 says:

    You guys at Microsoft just don’t get it.  These complicated licensing and product activation schemes are doing nothing to help your customers.  You’re basically punishing people that are willing to pay for your product, while the pirates you’re trying to keep out ALWAYS find a work-around for any anti-piracy method you come up with.

    The fact is, the upgrade system should be just as simple as what Licantrop0 stated above:

    1) Ask for the Windows 7 Product Key

    2) If it’s an upgrade Key, ask for an XP / Vista Product Key

    3) If it’s a valid Vista / XP Product Key (not in a blacklist), proceed to setup no matter what’s on the hard-drive.

    Thankfully, when I upgraded to Windows 7, I had a licensed copy of Vista already installed, and I had not problems doing a fresh install using the Custom (advanced) installation routine.  But what happens if later down the line my hard-drive crashes, and I have to reinstall from scratch?  (A recent interview with the Data Doctor on CNN said that 1 in 20 people will experience a catastrophic hard-drive crash this year.)

    So when those 5% of us have a catastrophic hard-drive failure, and we have to reinstall Windows 7, do we have to install Windows Vista or XP first?  What about all of your customers who aren’t computer savvy enough to know that, and they throw out their Windows Vista / XP installation discs because they figure they now have the latest and greatest in Windows 7?

    If these upgrade, licensing, and activation systems weren’t so convoluted, it wouldn’t be so easy for Apple to make fun of them in their commercials.  It’s almost enough to make someone switch.

  49. Rajesh Shenoy says:

    Just a quick question: Isn’t the hack made possible because people are allowed to format their partition by booting from the Upgrade media? Why not just disable this option in the Upgrade media? Of course you will then need to make it very clear on the packaging and product advertising that the Upgrade media needs to have a “running and activated qualifying OS” so that people don’t buy it by mistake. Isn’t that a much simpler solution?

  50. Peter says:

    Then WHY make it so difficult?

    I mean, there could be a technical very very easy way to avoid the hassle, that current customers have to go through:

    Instead of having a fully activated copy of XP or Vista installed, why not have users enter their old XP or Vista Serial during the activation process of Windows 7?

    Instead you require users to first install XP which is a hassle.

    I mean I am typing this from a fresh Win7 upgrade install. Fortunately I had XP installed and activated before. But there is no rescue partition anymore and I also don’t have backup disks. If I ever want to reinstall Win7, I’ll run into trouble.

    A valid XP-key however is still printed on the bottom of the case.

    Why let users run through this stupid process of installing an old version first????

  51. BruceG says:

    Vista-OEM + Win7 Retail Upgrade Disk = what?

    Win7 Retail, OR Win7 OEM?


  52. Kyle says:

    Nice work. Treating your customers like potential thieves is a sure way of winning them over to Win7. Who doesn’t have a full version of Windows? This could only conceivably apply to someone who built there own computer, or is installing Windows on Mac. I would say both of those cases combined represent an infinitesimal portion of the market. Quit picking at nits and give kudos to the bloggers out there who are doing what MS should have done in the first place: make quick and transparent procedures for the clean install of Win7 using upgrade media.

  53. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Jamie – You posted "The disservice here is that Microsoft screws the unfortunate sole whose drive crashes after they’ve installed Windows 7 upgrade."  If you read my post above, I specifically stated that for those of you that own a license for Windows 7 (like you since you have upgraded from a qualifying Windows license), you are absolutely eligible to do a clean install unsing the Upgrade media.  Here is the paragraph above the states it:

    "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."

    I hope this clears up your concern.  What people appear to be missing in my post above is that nowhere did I state that doing the clean install is not allowed.  My entire post is about making sure people are aware that in order to qualify for an upgrade, you must have a full license to upgrade from.  Also, those who post about the upgrade clean install and fail to mention this fact are giving the impression that buying the upgrade alone counts as a full license, so they should be including that in their messaging.

    Thanks for the inquiry – Eric

  54. Clint Billton says:

    I’m not a computer illiterate person, but this upgrade stuff is really confusing.

    In June I ordered W7 home premium upgrade from Amazon,for one of my WinXP PRO upgrades. In the system requirements I did not see any specifics about version of XP.

    I forgot about this order until last week when I was sent a notice that my W7 was mailed.

    Then I decided to read about people’s experiences.

    On one techie web site (which I don’t remeber now) I read a warning to people like me. Since I own winXP, I need to upgrade to W7-pro, I cannot upgrade to W7 home premium!! Is that right? Surprisingly, I could not find a definitive answer on this.

    When I ordered, there was no information (at least to me) that xp-compatibility would not be available for w7 home premium—BUMMER

    Also, I recently learned using NAS for backup is not supported in w7-HP another BUMMER.

    Just because of these 3 concerns, I’m seriously considering to return the W7HP upgrade I’ve received.

    Why do MS marketing guys has no clue about the chaos they create? Why make it so complicated just to milk corporates. Have two versions, personal and business. Do not cripple the personal ones, we also need XP compatibility, but we do not enjoy spending 200$ on an OS while twice that money can buy us a decent computer.

    Really annoying, confusing and hard to figure out why this is happening the way it is.

    Is it really that hard to come up with clear specs and licensing information?


  55. Derek says:

    I think MinMe and Licantrop0 are on to something. Very simple solution; enter both product keys. For the love of God make it easier for people to do clean installs on newly purchased HDDs.  We’re the people reason you make BILLIONS. Show a little appreciation. If you’d just make it easier to do then tricks wouldn’t have to be posted on websites.

  56. JohnBeGood says:

    Hi Eric, you have the patience of a Saint! I bought my Laptop and Desktop new with XP Professional so I can purchase the Upgrade and be fully licensed, correct? Thanks….John

  57. jesman says:

    @ Mark Schneider – If I understand it correctly, you can do a clean install without a hack as long as you have a qualifying, activated product installed already.  Where the hack is needed is in situations like where your hard drive fails and you don’t want to have to restore your entire backup to the replacement drive first, or if you are upgrading your hard drive at the same time and don’t want to have to clone your old drive to the new one first.

  58. IT Schmuck says:

    I am failing to remember the last time a home user went through a license audit. Legalities dont matter much to most home users. Cant remember the last time I paid my microsoft tax. Thanks for the F-up, pirates everywhere love it.

  59. Rob says:

    Thanks for the 3rd-grade level post on software licensing. The ‘hack’ as you call should not even be required to do a clean install. If I currently own a PC that has Windows XP on it and I buy the upgrade, then I want to do a clean install of Windows 7. Period. Your software should allow a clean install from the upgrade media, the fact that it doesn’t is ridiculous! Why don’t you ask for a valid Windows XP or Vista CD product key during install and be done with it? Or some other well thought out validation scheme? Instead of harping on those that provide a work-around for you? Microsoft has 85% market share on the desktop, yet you continue to do a huge disservice to your customers in the way you market and manage your products. You have too many Windows 7 SKUs, your upgrade prices are prohibitivly high, your clean upgrade methods for regular users are non-existent, bit locker encryption and whole disk backups not available in all editions. Believe me, I like Windows 7, but sometimes I feel like Microsoft just doesn’t get it, and never will. It leaves me scratching my head wondering which committee at Microsoft comes up with these things.

  60. robbc says:

    I don’t no anyone that don’t own a copy of Windows.I live in a house with 2 people and we own 5 or 6 licenses. The only way we knew how to do a clean install with upgrade media was with the hack.

    You guys make the simplest things difficult and treat everyone like crooks.

    Your more worried about the few that steal then the tens of Millions that buy your crap.

    Who whats to do a in place upgrade? We’ve been asking how to do a clean install with the upgrade media for months. No freaking answers.

  61. james says:

    It would be easier if everyone could buy Family Pack. But there are some countries without that option. Why?? Thanks.

  62. Ron says:

    Hi Eric

    I ‘think’ I am understanding you correctly.

    What you are saying is that as long as you ‘own’ a license for a qualifying, previous version of Windows, that you can install an upgrade version of Windows 7, doing ‘whatever’ it takes to get it installed.

    Is this correct?

    Regards, Ron

  63. Will says:

    Ed Bott and Paul Thurrott are not hacks, and it seems really clear that you are trying to call them ones.

    They answered a popular question, namely “How do I upgrade my PC from Win2k, WinXP, or Windows Vista cleanly.” With the new migration wizard that comes with Win7, there’s no reason to upgrade from within an existing installation. By doing a clean install and migrating settings, you get a better, faster OS.  Microsoft dropped the ball by failing to explaining this, and Bott and Thurrott bailed you out.

    You owe them an apology.

  64. Greg says:

    geesh people, do any of you read before you post?  if you own a valid full copy of windows xp, vista or 2000 you can use your upgrade version and perform a “custom install” without using any hack. The custom option allows you to competely format your HDD if your so inclined, or leave it intact an thereby save your files to windows.old folder so you can copy and paste them over to your new install documents, pictures ect… before deleting the windows.old folder to reclaim HD space. This is the same as a clean install.

  65. I give you an example, My wifes Acer Aspier 1410 came with Vista 32bit , we upgraded to Win7 from the Acer free upgrade. We found the upgrade did not seem to have worked properly. We reinstalled Win 7 by formating the drive. but now the windows key does not work. How do we get this fix. Why is it that the consumer who is a MS Customer suffers.

  66. John says:

    Over the past several days there have been various posts, etc …….

    Why not call it by its name? Paul Thurrot posted an article on how to circumvent upgrade media installation measures and abuse the upgrade media to install a clean copy.

    His excuses? ‘He helps millions of users’. And the fact that there is no upgrade from other releases than Vista.

    Of course, those make it alright to post such information.

    The guy is no longer any different from any other person deliberately hacking a product.

    Pretty bad move Paul.

  67. Simon Zerafa says:


    If you have purchased a Windows 7 Retail upgrade then you have a Retail version of Windows 7 period.

    As far as I know there is no such beast as an OEM Upgrade. The Retail part means to have an entitlement to direct support from Microsoft and can move the licence to another PC if you wish to.

    Frankly this whole Upgrade saga confirms that MS still has no clue when it comes to customer service or how to market OS upgrades to the public.

    The assumption seems to be that customers are going to cheat the system rather than simply not understand the baroque licensing terms than MS imposes for upgrade installs.

    Someone in MS should stand up and say “How about treating customers as if they are not all criminals for a change!”



  68. joejam says:

    Eric, you referenced back to your pretty pictures many times but have failed to address the major problem that “Joe the User” faces with a clean install with a wiped or new drive.

    You say the hack cannot be used, so “Joe the User” has to spend an extra $100 to have someone install an old fully licensed copy first prior to installing windows 7 upgrade version.

    You would have been better off by saying nothing. You are just giving MAC more for a new commercial.

  69. Babylon_n_ting says:

    Microsoft seems to be punishing some legitimate purchasers of its software by forcing them to use these hacks in order to clean install using upgrade media – even when the customers are legally entitled to use the upgrade media (e.g. they already have properly licences XP or Vista).

    Microsoft, all you are doing here is creating bad feeling from your genuine customers. Maybe it’s easier for you to scr*w over your genuine customers than it is for you to go after real softwaree pirates.

  70. Arie says:

    OK, I haven’t read all the comments (I have more to do), but please have a look at this Microsoft page:

    Under “Do I buy an Upgrade or Full license of Windows 7?”

    It says: “All editions of Windows XP and Windows Vista qualify you to upgrade. So, if you’re running either on your PC today, buy a package labeled “Upgrade”.

    Note **ALL**… not ‘only full editions’!

    & like others have said… who doesn’t already have a license?

    Microsoft’s usual knee-jerk reaction: “You are presumed guilty, unless you can prove you are innocent!”

    Arie Slob,

    Microsoft MVP

  71. Los says:

    Haha, how funy 😀

    Quote: “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.”

    That is quite wrong – in Germany you are LEGALLY (Decision of the German Bundesgerichtshof in 2000) allowed to transfer OEM licences to new PCs (


  72. Ed B says:

    Nice job Microsoft. Take one of your biggest cheerleaders (Paul T.) and throw him under the bus for publishing technical information that we are all desperate for (how to perform a clean install from upgrade media) that Microsoft itself WILL NOT PROVIDE.

    What’s next?  Going to hunt down the 1 or 2 Windows Mobile fans out there and send a cease-and-desist letter to them?  

  73. ib says:

    so, does a vista business licence qualify for an upgrade to windows 7 professional?

  74. Derek says:

    Microsoft, without this ‘hack’ how are people with a FULL legal license supposed to do a clean bare-metal installation? Please provide step-by-step instructions, as I have never seen them. If they don’t exist, then what the heck is MS thinking ?!??

  75. duncan says:

    I had no problem doing a clean install with the HP upgrade, I dual boot with XP Pro and installed ‘clean’ to the partition where the W7 RC was. My question is: do I now have to delete my copy of XP?

  76. Rick Joyce says:

    Please indulge me with a specific question. I have a Dell PC with an OEM version of Windows XP Professional. Can I legally upgrade this PC with the Windows 7 Professional Upgrade SKU? Thanks.

  77. uiutvuyugb says:

    Just about every PC ever made came with an OEM Windows install.  Therefore we all qualify for upgrade media.

  78. q80 says:

    I used a new drive to do my install using upgrade media. I was expecting to be prompted for my old XP disks to validate the upgrade media. I wasted quite a bit of time trying to get the upgrade to work until I discovered the workaround.  Let’s not call this a hack. Let’s  call it what it is a huge screw-up by Microsoft. Who the heck releases upgrade software that doesn’t support installation to a new drive?

  79. Ivan Malley says:

    @Eric. You have very clearly explained the criteria to be ALLOWED to do a clean install.

    I understand this, however you are yet to explain – OTHER THAN USING “HACK” – what is the official procedure to get the upgrade media to do a clean install on a bare drive.

    You seem to be conveniently ignoring requests for this information.

    I have a full vista licence so as you have stated am fully legal, yet want to install the upgrade on a new bigger hard drive bought especially for the occasion.

    Paul T is a hero for publishing this information, I didn’t enter the product key at the time of install and would have not have done so until just before the 30 days expiry period.

    By then I would have wiped my old drive with my legal copy of vista on as I would have WRONGLY assumed by then everything had installed correctly.

    What would I have done then? Bought the full version of Windows 7 so I could install all over? Maybe that’s what Microsoft if hoping for!!


    No wonder Apple can have a laugh at us…..

  80. Kev S says:

    Eric the trouble is MS have deliberately made licensing confusing, and they won’t be sorting it anytime soon.

  81. mssmallbiz says:

    @Ivan and others – I can promise you that I am not "ignoring" your request for this information.  I have submitted these inquiries to the appropriate people and I will be more than happy (BELIEVE ME) to post a link to the correct information for you as soon as I hear back.  Please stay tuned.

  82. Connor says:

    Eric, isn’t it about time Microsoft started tackling illegal use issues from another direction; that being one where you don’t treat your legitimate customers like criminals?

    Why does your company have this constant need to squander goodwill so often?

    I have owned every major operating system since MSDOS v4 with legal upgrades, OEM and full packs purchased along the way. That makes me a hugely loyal customer. Why treat me with descent then by making me jump through hoops to clean install?

    Get down off your high horse and bow down to people like me who have supported you for the last 20 years, instead of treating us as if we were some mugger stealing your wallet at gunpoint.

  83. Ivan Malley says:


    Thank you Eric now we may be getting somewhere.

    I understand that it is not your decision and you are probably sick of getting the flak as well.

    Hopefully the Microsoft machine has planned for this, then again given its track record maybe not…….

  84. Dan says:

    I am amazed at the breathtaking height of your obtuse post. I purchased the windows 7 upgrade and it clearly gives me two options on the install disk. A full install or an upgrade. Therefor if I have something like Win95 or even WinMe and I want to do a fresh install of this, that is EXACTLY what I am going to do as YOUR disk allows me to do this. Instead of whining about how this is supposedly not legal (and I did check with my attorneys about this as well as with a friend of the family who is a retired 6th US District Court Judge (one step below the US Supreme Court) and BOTH stated that this is perfectly legal to do. The disc was purchased legally and as such the end user that purchased the disc has the full and legal right to use it without regard to the EULA due to the fact that the EULA is on the disc and the only way to read it is by placing the disc in the computer and once the disc is opened there are NO software vendors that will take the disc back and give a refund, therefor the claim to take it back is not only moot but misleading and could very well constitute consumer fraud. Now you can complain all you want but when you have a federal Judge saying that you are totally and completely wrong, I would not dare try and prosecute anyone who uses this disc in any way they wish as long as they are not placing it on the net for anyone to get. You at MS screwed up in placing a full install option on the disc instead of just having it an upgrade and now you are crying because someone found a way around you.

    So sad, too bad. You messed up and now cannot legally do a thing about it. The same thing happened to best Buy when they placed a video card on sale for $20. instead of the correct price of $298. and refused to honor it, this went all the way to the 1st US District Court and Best Buy was ORDERED to honor the price. So it seems your only legal option is to recall all the windows 7 Upgrade discs and then replace them with ones that have just the upgrade option only. Otherwise there is not one thing you can do to anyone who does this hack no matter what you say, so man up and stop crying like a baby.

  85. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Will – Thank you for the feedback.  Since Neither Ed nor Paul were the targets of my post, regardless of what the reporters (none of whom confirmed any of their facts with me) stated, I did reach out to both Ed and Paul offline to let them know this.

    – Contrary to Paul’s follow-up 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 follow-up 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 follow-up blog post).  Ed has responded and we have had several communications.  Paul has not responded.

    Thank you for the feedback.

  86. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Dan – Thank you for your feedback and for helping show why the information inside my post about how Upgrades work really is something that people do not understand.  Let me address your points:

    Your statement that because the disc can physically do the install you are going to is precisely the reason for my earlier statement, “Just because something is technically possible, this does not mean it is legal.”  No, just because the disc will install a full product does not mean you have a license for a full product without the qualifying license to upgrade from.  Now while I really do appreciate the effort that you put into your research on this, let me point out some actual facts on this:

    1) The upgrade requirement stating what you need to own to qualify for the Upgrade product is stated on the OUTSIDE of the upgrade package.  You can see this for yourself in Ed Bott’s recent post that not only discusses this exact fact, but includes pictures of the statement on the outside of the package (, so you do not need to open the box to see that qualification.

    2) While the EULA is included on the disc itself, Microsoft makes readily available a copy of the EULA terms for our retail products online, so you don’t need to open the box to read what it says.  You can view them here:

    3) Even if you had missed the two items above, if your retailer will not take back your product once you read the EULA and decide that you do not want to agree to the terms, you can always use the Microsoft Return Policy and remove it from your computer.  You can see this policy here:

    So back to where I started, thank you very much for your feedback and for the effort you put into researching your comment.  Hopefully the information I provided above will help you better understand this in the future.  I also appreciate you helping me show why I did the post on what the Upgrade requirements are and why I use the phrase, “Just because something is technically possible, this does not mean it is legal.”

    Thank you again for your feedback

  87. nothappybill says:

    This my worst Microsoft experience ever.

    Had XP.  Installed Windows 7 “examination” copy.

    Now I’m screwed.  

    Windows 7 Professional Retail Upgrade won’t install, my old Windows XP won’t install, my system backup of XP won’t intall.

    And Windows 7 RC is due to expire.

    I’m dead in the water and Microsoft has destroyed the usability of my hardware.  Thanks guys.

    I’ve sent more than 12 hours trying to upgrade, and every Google search or Microsoft “help” search tells me Microsoft has designed it so I can’t do an “RC” to “retail upgrade” upgrade.

    I can’t tell you how angry I am.

  88. Jonathan says:

    On ONE of my 3 computer, I run a cracked copy of XP… I’ve been wanting to go legit, but pretty much everything ms does discourages me to. MS could have hit the ball out of the park by selling its full version of win7 at a decent price for everyone, therebye encouraging pirates to go legit…

    With all the damned hoops I have to go through, why the heck would I bother if I can get a full cracked copy on a torrent site ? This is a perfect example of why MS is losing ground and respect everyday…

  89. mssmallbiz says:

    @ nothappybill – I am sorry to hear about your experience.  I have a follow-up question for you; however, you did not provide any way to contact you directly about this in your comment.  If you’re on Twitter, you can ping me @EricLigman.  Or, please post in your comment.

    Thanks for the feedback

  90. whatever says:

    @mac: “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”

    You sound like a moron, not a ‘savvy’ computer user.  You may as well say that if you know how to use a program like bit torrent to download a cracked version of the Windows 7 install disc, you should be able to use it for free.  Or if you know how to reprogram magnetic stripes on credit cards, you should be able to get away with using someone else’s credit card number.

  91. Myron Johnson says:

    I’m trying to understand the EULA concerning “Update” Windows 7.

    In the Retail Windows 7 Professional EULA, I see this:

    “15. UPGRADES. To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade. Upon upgrade, this agreement takes the place of the agreement for the software you upgraded from. After you upgrade, you may no longer use the software you upgraded from.”

    Let’s say I have a PC with FULL Retail Windows 2000 Professional installed. Then I upgrade it using Retail Box XP Professional UPGRADE software.

    Now I want to upgrade it using Retail Box Windows 7 Professional UPGRADE software. Can I “legally” upgrade my PC to Windows 7 or not?

    According to the EULA, it appears I can. I have a license for XP, right? Or do I not have a license for XP?. [EULA: “To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade.”]

    I have all my Retail Box Windows boxes (2000, XP, and Window 7). I have all my License Keys. I have all of the paper that came with each releaase. All the licenses have been dedicated to this single PC. They are not being used anywhere else.

    If this is contrary to the EULA, I’m not seeing it.

    Thanks in advance,

    Myron Johnson

  92. rob says:

    My friend called Microsoft support and he was told to use the hack.

    Maybe Eric you should send a internal memo.

  93. Rodd Ahrenstorff says:

    If you purchased an ‘upgrade’ license from Windows NT on up, you can legally upgrade. ie:

    WinNT4 > Win2k Pro > WinXP Pro > Win7 Pro

    Also, I would recommend a clean install in each phase of this process, instead of an ‘on-disk’ upgrade (where applicable).

    I must say this: Microsoft and it’s employees are made aware of the licensing confusion with nearly every product release, yet they continue down the same path.  

    At a recent developers conference, it took literally hours to review the licensing.  For more read here:

    And here is a boot camp you can attend to understand the incomprehensible!

    Really, it’s just ridiculous.

  94. Tyler Gill says:

    stay classy! real nice of you to call Ed and Paul hacks, perhaps you should talk to your support team who gives out the same work around.

  95. Greg says:

    You can use a windows 7 upgrade disk to install windows 7 RTM over an windows 7 Beta/RC install. However you must use the “custom install option” and you must own a valid windows license for that computer to comply with MS EULA.

  96. Windows Administrator says:

    “…hack (be it a person or a procedure)…”

    This “hack” is now being given out by Microsoft phone support. So when you refer to a “person” as a hack, are you referring to Microsoft employees?

  97. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Win Admin – As I mentioned in my post on the 2nd, the "hack" is the process.  As I mentioned in both this post and the one on the 2nd, if you are licensed properly, doing the clean install is allowed and is not an issue at all.

  98. mssmallbiz says:

    @Tyler – Nowhere did I call either Ed or Paul hacks. In fact, in my post on the 2nd I even even explained why they are not hacks.  As far as support pointing to the process, as I have noted in my post above, my post on the 2nd, and in numerous comments here, if you are licensed properly, you can do a clean install (read the text highlighted in red in the post above).  Why should support not help you in that?

  99. mssmallbiz says:

    @rob – As I have noted in my post above, my post on the 2nd, and in numerous comments here, if you are licensed properly, you can do a clean install (read the text highlighted in red in the post above).

  100. skiperoo says:

    I bought my HP desktop computer a couple of years ago.  It came with Windows XP installed, with an offer for free upgrade to Vista Home Premimum.  I did the upgrade.  Now, I want to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional.  HOWEVER, I read somewhere that I cannot go from Vista Home Premimum to 7 Professional.  I’m not a computer geek.  Nor am I a hacker.  Just need a simple answer.  Yes or no.  Thanks.

  101. mssmallbiz says:

    @skiperoo – Yes, if you look in my "What versions of Windows qualify for the Windows 7 Retail Box upgrade?" post, located at:, you will see that any version of Windows Vista qualifies the Windows 7 upgrade.  From a technical perspective, you will need to do a clean install vs. an upgrade installation to go from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional.  There is a chart showing which versions require clean installs vs. upgrades at: