The Secret Windows Vista Upgrade - Explained

There is a well known Windows Vista Upgrade secret in the IT community. In this article I talk about it and the possible legal implications! Please take this article "as-is" I provide no warranty of any kind by providing this information. Well to be honest it is no big secret as you can find this information anywhere online and many Microsoft staff must also know about it as they created this process! The "secret" is that the setup program (setup.exe) in Windows Vista's upgrade version will accept an installed copy of XP, W2K, or an un-activated copy of Vista itself as evidence of a previous installation.

...and it is this last option that enables you to perform a "clean install" of an upgrade version of Windows Vista to any formatted or unformatted hard drive! Basically you are installing Windows Vista twice to take advantage of this trick.

Is This Windows Vista Upgrade Secret Legal? Probably not. I am no legal expert but I am guessing this will violate some part of the Windows Vista EULA (End User Licence Agreement.) BUT Microsoft have created this process.... It is not something you have to try and crack in their software or run a third party application to perform this process... Their development team created it. Which kind of begs the question WHY?

Link: Undocumented Upgrade Option @ Instant Vista

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Old news. And you asked why Microsoft did this? It's because you can only clean install from some OS's, such as Windows 2000 Professional.

The better secret is that you can install Vista with no key and use it for 30 days and then reset the 30 day period three times giving you 120 days.

Gotta love all the loopholes.


hardgiant said,
The better secret is that you can install Vista with no key and use it for 30 days and then reset the 30 day period three times giving you 120 days. Gotta love all the loopholes.

But after 3 months you should do something. Remove it? Buy it? Go back to XP? That said, I guess Vista would be much more appreciated (and installed) if online comparisons between XP and Vista weren't so bad (speaking of performances, I mean). I was really interested in this product but after playing a couple of hours with Aero... I should really think about possible incompatibilities and small bugs. It's ok at home, I can "geek" to have fun. But at work... Brrrr!

Flatty said,

But after 3 months you should do something. Remove it? Buy it? Go back to XP? That said, I guess Vista would be much more appreciated (and installed) if online comparisons between XP and Vista weren't so bad (speaking of performances, I mean). I was really interested in this product but after playing a couple of hours with Aero... I should really think about possible incompatibilities and small bugs. It's ok at home, I can "geek" to have fun. But at work... Brrrr!

I feel like the UI is in fact faster but my games perform worse. This is to be expected to some degree, but it seems that ATI has been on the ball here more lately while nVidia's drivers for Vista have been dismal at best. I have a 7950GX2 running in no SLI mode for Vista. Talk about taking a performance hit... I can't wait to see what ATI unveils here in the near future.

Congratulations and welcome to last month.

While we were already talking about (and probably using) this method, News sites were just learning what Vista really was!


.... Okay sarcasm aside, why has it taken this long to show up?

Good question.

The most likely answer is that when you register, Microsoft first checks the serial number to see if it was an upgrade or a retail purchase. They have all of that information in their databases, so that's not where the problem exists. The problem is if it flags as an upgrade, how does Microsoft check to see if it really was upgraded?

The answer is probably simple and trivial. Look for a file that exists under Windows XP but doesn't under Windows Vista in the system32 directory. If it's there, then it's likely a true upgrade. If it's not, then it's likely that you're using this 'hack' (which isn't quite a true hack) to install over a previous version of Windows Vista. I wouldn't be surprised if someone at Microsoft is thinking along these lines, and the Windows Genuine Advantage checker is modified to do just such a check sometime in the near future.

Microsoft is not going to simply allow folks to purchase upgrades to install as clean installs for long, and it's just a matter of time before they do figure out something along those lines to block it.


Axel said,
Legal... Not Legal. Begs the question though: How are Microsoft going to find out?

That sounds good if you're a private user who will be never subjected to federal inspections. The thing dramatically changes if you are in doubt when upgrading you office's PCs. I would think twice before buying an upgrade while still not knowing exactly what you're doing

The answer is simple. You buy vista upgrade, you upgrade your good ol' xp into the good mighty vista... and what happens when you want to re-install the OS? Go back to XP and then upgrade to vista?
The option is there to let upgrade users that have already installed vista to make a clean install of it in case they want or need to format their systems.

Julius Caro said,
The option is there to let upgrade users that have already installed vista to make a clean install of it in case they want or need to format their systems.
That would be a good answer. I honestly doubt that was the intention... but could be used as a good excuse

I knew there would be a catch. It didn't seem really legal anyways. I'll tell ya what... that's why I'm glad I have a legit copy of XP Pro. My question is this. Say I install and activate on the new Core2 Duo system I'm building. I then buy the Ultimate Upgrade and upgrade my system and all goes well. What happens if my system dies or I decide to later upgrade again? Since my XP key will now be invalid and unable to be activated, will my Vista key allow me to install and activate now? Someone please help!!!!

wtaag said,
I knew there would be a catch. It didn't seem really legal anyways. I'll tell ya what... that's why I'm glad I have a legit copy of XP Pro. My question is this. Say I install and activate on the new Core2 Duo system I'm building. I then buy the Ultimate Upgrade and upgrade my system and all goes well. What happens if my system dies or I decide to later upgrade again? Since my XP key will now be invalid and unable to be activated, will my Vista key allow me to install and activate now? Someone please help!!!!

Where in the world do people keep getting the misinformation about keys?

Installing Vista DOES NOT invalidate your XP key.

Your XP key is YOUR key, NOT Microsofts.

You OWN that key.

Morpheus Phreak said,
Where in the world do people keep getting the misinformation about keys?

Installing Vista DOES NOT invalidate your XP key.

Your XP key is YOUR key, NOT Microsofts.

You OWN that key.

If you install Vista upgrade, then your XP key is no longer valid. Fact.

Microsoft does not electronically monitor and enforce (to my knowledge) this invalidation of your XP key.

The XP key is not "yours". I don't know why you made up this hogwash, but you certainly didn't read the EULA. The piece of paper it is on is yours. The right to use it to legally install Windows belongs solely to Microsoft. They key does not belong to you.

Raa said,

Source?

Jeez, do you have Google? Does no one ever think to verify for themselves, rather than just doing a reply that says "source?"?

Microsoft EULA is the source. I stated that when I questioned if the poster had read the EULA.

9. UPGRADES. To use Software identified as an upgrade, you must first be licensed for the software identified by Microsoft as eligible for the upgrade. After upgrading, you may no longer use the software that formed the basis for your upgrade eligibility.

Seems pretty clear to me!

markjensen said,
Jeez, do you have Google? Does no one ever think to verify for themselves, rather than just doing a reply that says "source?"?

Microsoft EULA is the source. I stated that when I questioned if the poster had read the EULA.
Seems pretty clear to me!

WRONG WRONG WRONG!

You can turn that EULA item upside down, inside out, backwards, whatever. It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key! If it does, please highlight it! It says you may no longer use the XP that you upgraded from. It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key! It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key!

GreyWolfSC said,

WRONG WRONG WRONG!

You can turn that EULA item upside down, inside out, backwards, whatever. It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key! If it does, please highlight it! It says you may no longer use the XP that you upgraded from. It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key! It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key!


Holy christ.

markjensen said,
Microsoft does not electronically monitor and enforce (to my knowledge) this invalidation of your XP key.

Look up at this quote and READ! He didn't say it electronically invalidated your key. It legally invalidates it.

GreyWolfSC said,
WRONG WRONG WRONG!

You can turn that EULA item upside down, inside out, backwards, whatever. It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key! If it does, please highlight it! It says you may no longer use the XP that you upgraded from. It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key! It doesn't say ANYWHERE that it invalidates your XP key!

Untwist your panties, and reduce the urge to make the same statement over and over. It really doesn't lend any more importance or validity to your post.

Once you upgrade to Vista, your XP key is no longer valid to use to keep an XP install. It is no longer "valid". If you remove Vista (because of some odd hardware compatibility issue or whatever) that "upgrade" provision no longer holds, as you have NOT upgraded at that point. You would be free (legally) to reinstall your XP using your XP key.

It seems you can read the words of your EULA, but have problems understanding them? Or perhaps you just mis-read what I was saying, while thinking I supported the notion of a Microsoft "Big Brother" that flags keys as invalid as soon as users upgrade.

No tinfoil hats in this thread.

I don't see how this (nice) trick could be considered "legal". You buy an upgrade software that is clearly supposed to be "upgrading" some older/previous software. Installing Vista on itself is not an upgrade but a re-installing process of a software on the same software. We could say it's like installing Windows twice, using one licence (ok, you remove the frst copy later on, but that's not the point). In my opinion is like buying OEM software on eBay: you can do that, it will work. But legally speaking would you still consider it "OEM"?

well I guess its legal if you actually own XP and are just choosing to install it this way. If not and you have an upgrade licence then yeah I think it doesnt seem legal.

Smigit said,
well I guess its legal if you actually own XP and are just choosing to install it this way.

Exactly. We should hear some words from Microsoft but using some brain... this should be the obvious scenario.

Not exactly. If what I remember reading on another tech blog, it was said that "technically" the trick that people
were using which, at the time was legit, was to have the windows 98 cd nearby, boot from the XP cd, and at some
point in the install, it would ask for the previous OS cd to verify that you were installing the upgrade, is not a valid
way to do it this time. It says that you MUST have a legit working copy of XP on the computer, BEFORE you can
upgrade.
I've tried this method described here and it works like it is suppose to, but, I think technically, it is against the
EULA.
Personally, I'm sticking with XP until at least mid summer, or when the SP1 comes out, if they include some of the
features removed. There were a couple of features they couldn't get to work/compatible 100% that I would like to
see.

Smigit said,
well I guess its legal if you actually own XP and are just choosing to install it this way. If not and you have an upgrade licence then yeah I think it doesnt seem legal.

Ok, I assumed that the previous OS being installed 1st wouldnt necessarily be in the EULA just that you had to be the previous owner of one blah blah. If it's in the EULA that it has to be installed at the time of vistas install then your right, its in breach of the EULA to do this.