February 14, 2007 9:21 AM PST

Vista upgrade workaround revealed

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 upgrades allowing them to move to one of six flavors 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, said he has discovered a way of circumventing this procedure so that a Linux user, for example, could get Vista while saving several hundreds of dollars. Other Web sites also have published the workaround.

The key to the method 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 authorized copy of Windows. The WindowsITPro site, for example, posted information on the upgrade and the workaround at the end of January.

Microsoft confirmed that the workaround would be successful, but cautioned that anyone using it would violate their license 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 representative.

However, the company is not--at this stage at least--threatening to penalize 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 WindowsVista.com, instead," the Microsoft representative continued. "Following these guidelines will allow customers to easily and validly upgrade to Windows Vista."

How it works
Marc Liron has posted a full explanation of his method on his Web site. 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.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
workaround, IT professional, Microsoft Windows Vista, upgrade, Microsoft Corp.


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An "authorized" workaround?
Sounds like a carrot.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dollar short and a day late...
"Other Web sites also have published the workaround."

This was all over the place the day Vista shipped.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_upgrade_clean.asp" target="_newWindow">http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_upgrade_clean.asp</a>
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
This isn't anything new
In fact I believe Microsoft knew about this "work around" before they released Vista. I'm sure they had their reasons to keep it in there.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
paid copy
So long as Microsoft got you to pay for a copy, that's all they really want. They have to say that it violates the EULA but deep down, they're just happy you aren't giving out copies to all your friends!
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Link Flag
Does the Vista "upgrade" version require windows to be pre-installed, or will it accept the (older windows) install disk as proof of eligibility?
I ask because I've yet to see any Windows upgrade work well - a fresh install is always best.
Posted by Marcus Westrup (630 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You may have missed the point
you don't need a previous version of Windows at all.

You simply install Vista as a full install - then instead of activating it (it won't activate because your key is for the upgrade version not a full install) you proceed to install Vista again - this time using the Upgrade option rather than the clean install option.

Vista then sees a valid OS on the hard disk (it doesn't know or care that this valid version hasn't been activated) and will happily proceed.

The reason this came about is not because someone wanted to save $40, but because people have been downgrading their operating systems from XP Pro to Vista Home Premium, or worse, Vista Home Basic.

The way the installation works is to install the full Ultimate version of Vista on every hard disk, then unlock the purchased portions via a key. If you want to officially upgrade XP Pro then you need a Vista Business or Vista Ultimate upgrade key, anything else is a downgrade.

They could have made all the upgrade versions of Vista compatible with all the versions of XP, however then you would have people complaining that they've been cheated (which indeed they have been).
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Link Flag
Yes. Vista "upgrade" requires you to have a version of Windows previously installed. It will NOT accept install disks as proof.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Link Flag
Another Question:
Why would Microsoft not simply have allowed customers to perform a clean install using the upgrade DVD without having another version of Windows actually running? Since they've allowed this workaround, all they've done is inflicted a great inconvenience on legitimate customers for absolutely no reason.
Posted by vm019302 (85 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I suspect the work around may be temporary
We'll likely see a "fix" for this workaround with a later service pack. In the past, it was too easy to get around the upgrade validation so with Vista and the newer, less consumer conserned MS it's not (officially) suppose to upgrade without an older OS on the drive.

Like anything, if it's not broke, don't fix it. MS old upgrade process was broken in there view.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Another Answer
Only people who read tech sites like this and build their own computer will resort to the work around. The majority of people will pay for the full version to avoid the inconvenience or because they don't know about the work around. Microsoft wins.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Link Flag
Not new...
Hi, actually it was revelaed by myself on the 29/1/07 here <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.warp2search.net/modules.php?name=News&#38;file=article&#38;sid=31186" target="_newWindow">http://www.warp2search.net/modules.php?name=News&#38;file=article&#38;sid=31186</a> and then confirmed by MS a few days later. All this guy is copying is old news. Perhaps cnet should check their sources a bit more thoroughly...
Posted by cuke2u (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
XP Pro
This has been an issue with XP Pro. If you install the operating system, do not register, then format and install windows again and it does not ask you to register it.
Posted by tinye13 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Bill: "Oops, I did it again!"
As always, Microsoft makes it super easy to "violate" their license "agreement" in order to assure monopolistic distribution of their OS, then whines that they've "lost" millions in "revenue" as they continue to make their staff into millionaires. I was wondering how they'd work around their own increased "anti-piracy" measures, and here it starts. Hmm, wonder if they write off all that "lost revenue" for a tax break?
Posted by imhodudes (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe "read" the "article" first...
...then you would "know" that nobody said "anything" about lost "revenue". And how does this "assure" monopolistic "distribution" of their OS? Sounds "like" someone is "jealous" about not "becoming" a Microsoft "millionaire". """"""""""

Gotta get "in" plenty of "quotes""!"
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
A perfect solution for Linux cheapskates
Linux users always looking for something "free" will probably fall for this hook, line and sinker, not realizing that they are abandoning their ridiculous "panacea" for computing. LOL.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
We don't use Linux because it is free.
I pay just as much for server space on Linux as I would for Windows. The advantage of Linux for me is that it is far easer to manage, has fewer exploits, fewer restrictions and generally costs less to run.

I would pay X10 upfront cost for Linux what I would for Windows.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
A perfect solution for Linux cheapskates
Linux users always looking for something "free" will probably fall for this hook, line and sinker, not realizing that they are abandoning their ridiculous "panacea" for computing. LOL.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is sad that you think Linux users are "cheapskates". Why? Because they do not want to pay hundreds for an OS that is several orders of magnitude worse then Linux?

Linux is years ahead of Windows, in some cases(no performance degradation, no running AS or AV software, no need to run defrag tools) decades ahead of Windows.

I can get a copy of Vista Business for free(through MSDNAA) and it still can't compete at that price.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Astroturfing stooge. LOL LOL LOL
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
Link Flag
"Full Package" Windows is a minor product for MS
Nearly everyone has a prior version of Windows SOMEWHERE, or knows someone that has an extra one from an old computer in the basement etc; and corporations buy licenses, and new computers come with Vista; very, very few full packages are ever sold by MS.

So I can't see this being a major issue. Years back it used to be that Upgrade versions simply asked you to confirm that you had the product with a checkbox, and the onus was on the reseller to ask for proof of prior ownership. (I recall having a box full of old Wordperfect manual titlepages we had to take as proof of ownership). So this is nothing new.
Posted by battlefella (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nifty, but a REALLY cool hack would be...
...finding a way to let me get Windows Vista Ultimate from my Home Premium upgrade disc without having to pay the upgrade fee! Anyone feel up to THAT challenge? ;)
Posted by DarkHawke (999 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Silly windows-heads
I'm (only) slightly offended by this article's reference to "Linux users" being the ones most likely to take advantage of this further example of Microsoft's continued incompetence in the field of software development.

This bug in the installer/deployment system for Vista doesn't have anything to do with Linux, and there's no reason to single out Linux users in regards to trying to steal MS software without paying for it.

I know plenty of windows users who've never touched or considered another OS like Linux or OSX who run illegal copies of MS operating systems. As a Linux/Mac user I don't have a need for MS latest bloatware because I've already got a better alternative.

So keep on trying to blame Linux users for Microsoft's lack of anything resembling quality control. It's obviously done a really good job for you up to this point...

--posted via Mozilla Firefox from a paid-for copy of Novell/SuSE Linux--
Posted by 1Incognito (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I must admit...
I don't look forward to the day when Vista gets foisted on me at the office. Sounds like a lot of pain...
Posted by coconinoite (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
vista upgrade
I try to put the full version of the vista but requested a password always and lock all the time to be able to use I had to removed vista and install the upgrade

Now we can said WOW
Posted by guatel (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft is filled with...
...arrogant jackasses, who have no clue how to traet customers.
Posted by ogman (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft is filled with...
...arrogant jackasses, who have no clue how to treat customers.
Posted by ogman (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ok, so I understand the whole "trying to stop folks from stealing the os" but what if I upgrade from XP like they want, then later my PC crashes and I have to replace the drive.... according to MS, I cant reuse my upgrade version of Vista legaly?!?!? I then would need to buy a full version to reload it instead of the way I've done it in the past which is load the upgrade and wait till it asks for the original cd..... Or go through the agony of loading XP, then the upgrade. Almost makes me want to go to a Mac.
Posted by whydidtheydothis (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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