Vista upgrade could lead to woes

Summary:Reports are circulating that the upgrade versions of Windows Vista won't allow users to "clean install" the operating system. If this turns out to be true then it's time to image your old Windows XP and Windows 2000 systems, buy Vista Ultimate or Business or by the full version instead of upgrade.

Reports are circulating that the upgrade versions of Windows Vista won't allow users to "clean install" the operating system.  If this turns out to be true then it's time to image your old Windows XP and Windows 2000 systems, buy Vista Ultimate or Business or by the full version instead of upgrade.

Microsoft is getting tough on licensingArstechnica are reporting that upgrade versions of Windows Vista Home Basic, Premium, and Starter Edition can't be "clean installed" on a PC and that Windows XP or Windows 2000 will need to be installed before being able to carry out the upgrade.  This information is based on a knowledge base article (KB930985) which makes the point pretty clearly:

You purchase an upgrade key for Windows Vista. Then, you try to use the upgrade key to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista by starting from a Windows Vista DVD. However, Windows Vista does not let you perform a clean installation by using the upgrade key, and you cannot upgrade to Windows Vista.

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Microsoft offers two resolutions (I'll allow readers to add a third - go to Linux):

  1. Upgrade to Windows Vista from an earlier, supported version of Windows that is already installed on the computer.
  2. Purchase a full license which permits you to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista.

Doesthis mean what we think it means?  Who knows, no one outside of Redmond has seen an upgrade version of Vista yet.  However, the knowledge base article is pretty clear I think.  And if things play out that way, it could spell trouble for users.

Let me just make one thing clear - clean installs will still be possible, the limitation is that you won't be able to install these versions on a clean PC.  You'll have to install the old version just to wipe it or install over the top of it.

From a business perspective I can see a number of reasons that Microsoft might want to do this.  It's a quick and easy way to prevent people getting an upgrade copy of Vista and installing that on a new PC and then running one PC with an upgrade edition Vista on it and the other with XP on it.  I would imagine that the upgrade process will check to see that the PC to be upgraded is running a genuine copy of XP (you can upgrade to Vista from Windows 2000 too, but that doesn't have activation or WGA) and only allow an upgrade disc to be used on a PC running a genuine copy of XP.

But from a practical perspective this is a nightmare.  If your PC dies will be forced to install XP or 2000 before installing Vista - a major step in terms of the time it takes to install the old OS. 

So, what can you do?  Well, you have several options:

  • Image your old XP system before upgrading - that'll make reinstalling much quicker, especially if you store the image on a hard drive rather than on DVD or CD.
  • Buy Vista Ultimate or Vista Business - the knowledge base article refers to only the following versions of Vista:
    - Windows Vista Home Premium
    - Windows Vista Home Basic
    - Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition
    - Windows Vista Home Basic 64-bit edition
    - Windows Vista Starter
  • Buy full versions rather than upgrade versions - only upgrade versions suffer from these limitations.
  • Stick with your old OS.

The issue I have with Microsoft taking this kind of action is that it will hit basic users harder than those with more experience.   These are going to be the people who end up paying PC repair shops extra to install two operating systems on their PC as opposed to one.  If you lose the disc, you've had it unless you have an image of the drive and it'll be time to buy another copy of Vista. 

It's odd that all your troubles go away if you by Vista Business or Ultimate.  Microsoft are serious about pushing the more expensive version of Vista, so much so that they are willing to cripple cheaper versions in order to be able to make Business and Ultimate seem like the better choice.  I don't like those tactics.

I think that this is the first stage of Microsoft tightening up on upgrades.  I wouldn't be surprised if the next version of Windows didn't tie together the key for your old operating system to your new PC in some way to prevent a single copy of the old OS being used as a seed for multiple upgrades. 

Microsoft is getting tough on licensing.

Topics: Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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