Microsoft hit by Vista upgrade workaround

An IT professional has discovered a way of getting a full version of Vista for the cost of a simple upgrade

An IT professional claims to have discovered a way of upgrading to a full version of Vista from scratch, while only paying the cost of an upgrade for an earlier version of Windows.

As part of the Vista launch, Microsoft is offering Windows users a range of upgrade paths allowing them to move to one of six flavours of Vista without paying the full cost. These upgrades are supposed to work only on a PC that contains an existing copy of Windows.

However, Marc Liron, a Microsoft MVP, has discovered a way of circumventing this procedure so that a Linux user, for example, could get Vista while saving several hundreds of pounds. Other websites have also published the workaround.

The key to the method discovered by Liron (and explained below) is that the upgrade package contains a complete version of Vista, which it can be encouraged to install on a machine without checking for an existing authorised copy of Windows.

Microsoft confirmed to ZDNet UK that the workaround would be successful, but cautioned that anyone using it would violate their licence terms.

"People who use this workaround without a licensed copy of XP or earlier versions of Windows are violating the terms of use agreed to when they purchased the upgrade version of Windows Vista," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

However, the company is not — at this stage at least — threatening to penalise anyone who uses the workaround, or block them from important upgrades via its Genuine Advantage.

In fact, it does not seem especially concerned, and does not appear to have taken action against Liron.

"We believe only a very small percentage of people will take the time to implement this workaround, and we encourage all customers to follow our official guidelines for upgrading to Windows Vista, which can be found at www.WindowsVista.com, instead," the Microsoft spokesperson continued. "Following these guidelines will allow customers to easily and validly upgrade to Windows Vista."

The Vista upgrades offer significant savings compared to the cost of a brand new version. For example, the upgrade for Vista Ultimate Edition has a retail price of £249.99, while a full version retails at £369.99 in the UK.

How it works
Marc Liron has posted a full explanation of his method on his website. In summary, the trick is to install the upgrade version of Vista but not to enter the product key. Once all the Vista files have been copied across, the user starts the installation procedure again rather than attempting to activate Vista. Once the installation procedure has been followed again, the user is left with a fully functioning version of Vista.

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