Performing a Clean Install with an Upgrade Version of Vista

While most Windows Vista product editions are available in both Full and Upgrade versions, the differences between each aren’t widely understood. The more expensive and seemingly more capable Full versions are designed to be installed only in a so-called “clean” install. That is, when you purchase a Full version of Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate, you’re expected to install the software on a PC from scratch, and not upgrade an existing version of Windows to Windows Vista.

The Upgrade versions of Windows Vista, despite their apparently lower status, are in fact more powerful than the Full versions, because they can be used in different ways. Yes, you can use an Upgrade version of Vista to upgrade an existing version of Windows to Windows Vista, but you can also use an Upgrade version of Windows Vista to perform a clean install of the operating system.

The process for doing so, alas, is fairly convoluted. This wasn’t always the case: In previous versions of Windows, you could boot a PC with the Upgrade Windows Setup disk and, at some point during setup, be prompted to insert the Setup disk from your then older Windows version to prove that you qualified for Upgrade pricing. With that bit of legal maneuvering out of the way, you could then proceed with setup and complete a clean install using the Upgrade media.

Unfortunately, Microsoft disabled this upgrade compliance capability in Windows Vista, leading some to believe that it was now impossible to use Vista Upgrade media to perform a clean install. Microsoft’s own support documentation says as much. In Knowledge Base article 930985, the company notes that “you cannot use an upgrade key to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista.”

Fortunately, there are workarounds. One is documented by Microsoft and will likely be unacceptable to most users. The other is documented here and should work for just about anyone, though the process is admittedly a bit time-consuming.

Microsoft’s Documented Method for Clean-Installing Vista with Upgrade Media
According to Microsoft, the only way to perform a clean install of Windows Vista using Upgrade media is to do so on a computer on which a previous version of Windows 2000, XP, or Vista is already installed. For this to work, you need to insert the Vista Upgrade disk while running the previous operating system, run Setup, and then choose Custom (Advanced) at the appropriate place during setup.

This method is perfectly acceptable for users who wish to install Windows Vista in a dualboot setup. But if you want a cleaner system that’s free of previous-OS detritus, there’s a better way—a secret way.

Is this process legal? After all, anyone could purchase an Upgrade version of Windows Vista (thereby saving a lot of money compared to a Full version) and use it to perform a clean install even if they don’t own a previous, compliant Windows version.

If you own a previous version of Windows, yeah, it is legal. If not, no, it isn’t legal. It’s that simple. From a technical standpoint, Microsoft designed Windows Vista to support upgrading from a previously installed copy of Windows 2000, XP, or Vista. It’s not a hacker exploit but rather a supported process that was deliberately programmed into the setup routine. It’s perfectly okay to do… as long as you are indeed a licensed user of a previous version of Windows. So go forth and upgrade. Legally.

Undocumented Method for a Clean Install of Vista with Upgrade Media
To perform a clean install of Vista with Upgrade media, you need to install Windows Vista once using the Upgrade Setup disk, but without entering your product key during setup. Then, once you’ve loaded the Vista Desktop for the first time, you can run setup again from within Vista and choose Upgrade (even though you’ll be “upgrading” to the exact same version of Vista). Allow setup to complete a second time, and then you’re good to go: You can enter your product key after the second setup routine is completed and activate Windows Vista successfully. These instructions work with both the original version of Windows Vista and the version that includes Service Pack 1. Here are the complete instructions:

Step 1: Install Windows Vista
Boot your PC with the Windows Vista Upgrade DVD. After the preliminary loading screen, click Next to skip past the language preferences screen and then click the Install Now button to trigger Vista Setup. In the next screen, you are prompted to enter your product key, but leave the Product Key field blank, deselect the option titled “Automatically activate Windows when I’m online,” and then click Next. Vista Setup will ask you whether you would like to enter your product key before continuing. Click No. On the next screen, you’ll be presented with a list of the Windows Vista product editions you can install. This list may vary from locale to locale, but you’ll see options such as Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, and some N editions. Choose the product edition you actually own. You’ll be asked to verify that you’ve chosen the correct version. Do so and click Next. On the next screen, agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA) terms and click Next again.

On the next screen, you select the type of install. Choose Custom (Advanced), not Upgrade. Next, you choose the partition to which Windows Vista should be installed, and you can perform some basic disk-related tasks. If you’re installing Windows Vista to a new PC, you can simply continue. Otherwise, you can format and partition the hard drive as needed before proceeding. I recommended formatting if a previous OS is installed.
Once Vista is successfully installed and you are logged on, you’ll be presented with your new Vista Desktop. Don’t get too comfortable, however, as you’re about to do it all again.

Step 2: Upgrade
If you try to activate Windows now, it will fail because you’ve performed a clean install of Vista and you have only an Upgrade product key. That means you have 30 days during which you can run this nonactivated version of Windows Vista, but why wait 30 days? compliant version of Windows, such as Windows Vista, Windows XP, or Windows
2000.” Well, you just installed Windows Vista, so why not just upgrade from that install? That’s right: You’re going to upgrade the nonactivated clean install you just performed, which will provide you with a version of the OS that you can, in fact, activate.

To do this, just select Computer and double-click on the icon for the DVD drive that contains the Vista Upgrade media. Run setup again, this time from within Vista. Choose Install Now, and then Do Not Get the Latest Updates for Installation on the next screen. Then, in the now-familiar product-key phase, enter your product key. It’s on the back of the pull-out Vista packaging. You can choose to automatically activate Windows when online; it’s your choice. On the next screen, accept the Windows EULA.

Now choose the Upgrade option. Windows will install as before, though you might notice that it takes quite a bit longer this time. (Upgrade installs take up to 60 minutes, compared to 30 minutes or less with clean installs, and reboot at least one additional time.)

Because you’ve just completed an upgrade install, you won’t be prompted to enter your user name and so forth (only the Automatic Updates and time zone screens are presented). Then you’ll move to the setup performance check (again). When that’s completed, enter the user name and password you created during the fi rst install and log on to Windows. Now that you’ve “upgraded” Vista, product activation will actually work. To activate Vista manually and immediately (unless you told it to do so during setup), from the Start Menu, right-click Computer and choose Properties. Then, at the bottom of the System window that appears, click the link titled Activate Windows Now.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows Vista Secrets SP1 Edition

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