| By Brian Livingston |
I revealed in my Feb. 1 article that you can buy the "upgrade" version of Windows Vista and clean-install it to any hard drive, with or without a preexisting version of Windows XP or 2000.
This renders the more expensive “full” version of Vista unnecessary — and many of my readers have provided additional information about why this upgrade trick works.
Vista workaround is a deliberate feature
My previous article explained that the Vista upgrade will succeed, and will validate, when any previous version of Windows is running at the time. That includes a 30-day trial version of Vista. Every retail copy of Vista allows a trial period by installing the product without entering a product key. (See my previous story for the exact steps.)
The evidence is mounting that this upgrade policy is an official decision by Microsoft. It’s clearly not any kind of hacker trick. The steps to install without a product key, and to upgrade regardless of what version of Windows is running, is hard-coded into Vista in such a way that it can’t be a mistake.
One source of mine shared with me some of the thinking within Microsoft on Vista upgrades. I’m withholding the source’s name to protect his relationships within the Redmond company. He exchanged e-mails with a support engineer who said (I’m paraphrasing here):
- “Checking for previous versions of Windows was easy to spoof in XP. So Deployment just said, ‘Let’s skip it.’ Vista only requires that the Upgrade Key must be entered while an instance of the operating system is running.”
I wrote last week that upgrading Vista over a copy of itself might violate Microsoft’s EULA (End-User License Agreement). Now I’m not so sure. Is it a violation to install the product in a way that Microsoft itself programmed the product to operate?
I’d like to acknowledge a couple of readers who wrote that it might be unethical to install the Vista upgrade without having purchased a previous version of the product. I agree. The clean-install method should only be used by people who did purchase a copy of XP or 2000, but can’t install the Vista upgrade over their copy for some legitimate reason (as described in the next section, below).
If Microsoft doesn’t want the clean-install method to work at all, the company can easily change its policy. The Redmond firm could simply code Vista Home Premium’s setup routine, for example, so it actually does check for XP, 2000, or a lower-priced edition of Vista, such as Vista Home Basic.
When a Vista clean install may be necessary
Reader George Walker describes several situations in which Microsoft technical support would need a back door to allow Vista to be installed without a running copy of Windows being present:
- “There are certain instances in which a person might not be able to install over an existing copy of XP or 2000.