"Rules" for Windows 7 Upgrades Verified

Technophiles like ourselves who are also frugal have, in the past, purchased upgrade editions of Windows, and been able to do a clean, fresh install either by entering a prior valid license key or inserting a CD for the older software at install time. That went away with Vista, which required a hacky workaround, but now Microsoft is completely shutting down even that methodology, for Windows 7.

Why the big deal about a being able to do a clean, fresh install with an Upgrade edition? If you install an upgrade on top of an well-used copy of Windows, you've got all that leftover dross on your hard drive. Typically, extra crappy drivers and unneeded files are left behind, using up drive space, but also possibly destabilizing the system.

We realize many will take this route anyway, simply because you won't have to reinstall all your programs and drivers in that case. Not us, though.

Without a way to this, the only way to get a "relatively" clean install is to install an older OS (say Vista) cleanly, then install 7 on top of it. That will pretty much minimize any extra garbage on the system.

An alternative, and perhaps even cleaner, would be to install the Windows 7 RC first. That requires a fresh install, anyway. Then you can install the Windows 7 release on top of the RC.

Technically, however, this isn't an upgrade. Microsoft calls this a custom installation. Your existing operating system, programs and data are placed in a folder labeled WINDOWS.OLD. You'll have to reinstall any programs in place, however, which is why it's not really an upgrade.

Still, if you want a clean install that won't contain any remnants of Vista, it's the cleanest you can do. At that point, we'd take a snapshot of the disk, using something like Acronis' True Image, and then if we ever need to restore a clean copy of Windows 7, we've got it on hand.

Oh, and for those who might ask why anyone should complain about having to install an old OS, since after all the consumer bought an upgrade copy, the reason is not just the hassle of having to install the older OS, but also the fact that the end user has to keep around the install media and all the license info as well. What a hassle.

Yes, we realize we could buy a full, not upgrade copy, but really, we've been "supporting" Microsoft for years and don't see why we have to go through the extra expense, aside from adding to Microsoft's bottom line, that is.

Caveat: there is, of course, always a chance that Microsoft will modify the upgrade process; October is a ways away.  However, once the RTM build is seeded, that will be it.

bob_on_the_cob 5 years ago

Way to tell everyone this right after the huge preorders for the upgrade version finish.

devin_p 5 years ago

what happens when you want to do a fresh 7 install after next year when the RC dies

dr.tj 5 years ago

It looks like you are misinformed about the changes to the upgrade install process.

If you want to reinstall at a later date, you won't need your old license key or the old copy of Vista installed.

Why is this different now? Because now when you install an upgrade version, it requires the old OS's license key which will then be tied to your new Windows 7 key on Microsoft's servers. The benefit to you is that you can toss those old Vista media and license keys, since they will be invalidated on Microsoft's servers. However, that also means you can't then use that copy of Vista on another new machine.

Also, when you install you will always be given an option to "Clean Install" which will put any old OS's in Windows.Old. That old directory is more of a way to make things easier for you, Microsoft could have just deleted it. This "Clean Install" option is available even without the RC installed. And for those of us going from a 32-bit OS to a 64-bit OS, it's actually the only option allowed.

The upgrade version just wants your old license key just once, so it can be tied to it forever on Microsoft's servers. So the only fundamental difference to the "full" and "upgrade" version is how the license keys are validated on the first try. After that, they are the same. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the media is EXACTLY the same when you get it from Microsoft, just that the license keys are different so they can be handled differently on Microsoft's side.

Iria 5 years ago

dr.tj, that's incorrect. The upgrade version requires an activated version pre-installed on the PC every time you install.

Let's say you want to reinstall your upgrade version of Windows 7. In order to do so you need to install a Windows Vista version, activate it, and then install the Windows 7 upgrade.

To be honest, Windows Vista would have required this as well if the "two install" workaround had not been discovered.

Also, as far as the item about Windows.old, all it is saying is that there is no way to do an upgrade install on top of the RC. You have to do what Microsoft calls (their terminology) a custom install.

Anonymous 5 years ago

I have been playing with 7 for about 3 weeks now and I absolutely LOVE it.



leonheart390 5 years ago

Does anyone actually know if you download the RC can you buy the full version and then install the full version with no reprecussions?

mentaldisorder 5 years ago

As Bob just said...you can't install the retail version over it.  You need to do a fresh install.

dr.tj 5 years ago

You're confusing the first upgrade activation and subsequent reinstalls of Windows 7. Microsoft has confirmed that they now require an activated key on the harddrive when you FIRST upgrade. This is something new.

However, what is also new is that when you do your first upgrade activation, it will disable your Vista key, so you won't be able to activate it again. You have been only licensed for one copy of the OS, not two. This means that you won't be able to install and activate Vista again. Lucky for you, Microsoft will have tied your new upgrade key to your old one, so you can just use your Win 7 media with your new key if you need to reinstall.

My point about the "custom installation" is that the article writer seems to think that you can't get a "clean install" unless you have the RC already installed. In fact, the option for a "clean install" is always available to you. And it's actually required for XP to Win 7, and 32bit to 64bit upgrades. In fact, an inplace upgrade which leaves old crap on your system is only available if you are going from Vista 32bit to Win7 32bit, or Vista 64bit to Win7 64bit. Those are the ONLY scenarios where you even have the option to do an upgrade which leaves old crap on your hard drive. Just because the activated OS is required to be there at first doesn't mean the upgrade process will have to use any of the old files.

This refutes the two complaints that the article writer listed. You will always have the option to not use the old stuff in the new installation and you won't have to keep your old media around.

The only drawback to the changes are for those who wanted to end up with two license and for those who have their copy of Vista sitting in a box on their desk instead of installed. Tough cookies for the first group and a minor TEMPORARY inconvenience for the second.

Iria 5 years ago

dr.tj, "crap" in the old installation also includes all the dross left behind by the programs that installed previously, not just Windows itself. And has anyone tried an upgrade and see all the garbage left behind.

What I would love to do is what I used to be able to do: reformat the hard drive, enter a key or CD to validate an old install, and then install 7.

What Microsoft has said, AFAIK, is that each time you will need an activated copy.

Shoot, I've been using Windows for years, even if Microsoft said they wiped all the dross from the system when upgrading from an older OS I would not believe them.

I want the "format," "Proof of older OS," "new OS" scenario.

J2ack2 5 years ago

I tried Microsoft's XP operating system when it game out. It was a nightmare. Why on EARTH would you use Microsoft? Only crap has come from Microsoft. Remember Bob? Or how about Office 2007? Then you got Vista. Now we have Vista version 2 being release. It may be a little better than Vista- but that isn't saying much. It's a crummy system not worth using. So why would I care about this article? I don't. I just thought it was curious that people still put up with this crap when Apple and Canonical (Ubuntu/GNU/Linux) put out much better solutions.Actually Apple sucks too- but for different reasons. Nothing works with Apple's products (due to DRM) and compatibility suck (not standards compliant)-beyond their own crappy overpriced solutions ecosystem.

ice91785 5 years ago

You must have a HUGE bridge Mr. Troll.....Jack, I understand you are a linux fanboi but all the same--MS didn't become a multibillion $$ corporation by releasing crappy products. You may not prefer MS which is fine but your post is pointless, go start a new "I hate MS" thread or something

amdcrankitup 5 years ago

Im curious when you install Windows 7 and it archives the older files (windows old) can you remove that file from  your computer without comprimising the new OP system!?  And while Im thinking about it it gave me a period of 3 days befoore I had to activate it whats up with that and do I just activate it like a retail copy and run it until it expires!???Zip it!

bob_on_the_cob 5 years ago

[quote user="amdcrankitup"]Im curious when you install Windows 7 and it archives the older files (windows old) can you remove that file from  your computer without comprimising the new OP system!?[/quote] As long as there is nothing you need in there delete away.

[quote user="amdcrankitup"]do I just activate it like a retail copy and run it until it expires!???Zip it![/quote] Yep. Not sure why it was 3 days. You should have 30 days before you have to activate.

tigernest 5 years ago

One problem with installing the RC- MS has announced that this will not be upgradeable.

rodriro 5 years ago

Wow, It's been 12 years now since I've been following MS products and its amazing how far we've come. Funny though I have all of them for free. MS-Dos 6.22, MS-3.1, MS-3.1 Windows for Workgroups, Windows95, NT-3.0, NT Workstation, NT-4.0, Office 1997, MS-Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000 Pro, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 advanced server, Windows XP Pro, Office XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows 2003 Enterprise, and then Windows Vista, Office 2007, and now Windows 7 Beta, Windows 7 RC1 which I am running right now. I LOVE YOU MS, It takes me from A to B homies, if it is not broken don't fix it, Mr isohunt man will hook up with a image of 7 as well, don't have time to figure out how to crack the key nonsense, I'll have someone (hindu) do it for me. END OF LINE...

rookey 5 years ago

I have Vista64 installed, I have a coupon for a free upgrade to w7-64 (with serial#).

Question: Could I get w7-64 RC and later use my coupon on w7 release, and maintain my data files from my Vista installation without transferring them off the harddrive at any point between?



edit: ps. obvious reason being that vista sucks. and backing up 120gb sucks too.

Iria 5 years ago

I don't get it. Microsoft modifying a Windows 7 activation code so it now is full rather than upgrade? That would be great, but doubtful. I haven't see that reported anywhere.

ekunkel85 5 years ago

If I have Win 7 RC and I have MS Office 2003, when I "upgrade" then do I have to reinstall Excel, Word, etc? Do they go in the windows.old folder? I don't have the CDs for the Office so I don't want to lose those programs. Any suggestions?

bob_on_the_cob 5 years ago

[quote user="ekunkel85"]

If I have Win 7 RC and I have MS Office 2003, when I "upgrade" then do I have to reinstall Excel, Word, etc? Do they go in the windows.old folder? I don't have the CDs for the Office so I don't want to lose those programs. Any suggestions?


You have to do a fresh install from the RC, so everything will go into the windows.old folder. You can however download any version of Office from the MS site and use them for 60 days. So install them then justt put in your product key.

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