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Over the weekend, I got a frantic call from a friend who had decided to take the plunge and upgrade his organization to Windows Vista. Although he had done his due diligence in performing the necessary compatibility testing ahead of time, he had a rude surprise when it came time to actually begin the upgrade; he had failed to account for the version to version Windows upgrade requirements. Unless you match Windows versions correctly, Setup does not allow you to upgrade to Windows Vista, but rather requires a clean install. Here is a quick breakdown of the upgrade path.
Windows XP Professional
If you are running Windows XP professional, you can upgrade to Windows Vista Business or Ultimate. Installing Vista Home Basic or Home Premium requires a clean install.
Windows XP Home
If you are running Windows XP Home edition, then you can upgrade to Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate.
Windows XP Media Center
Windows XP Media Center is the edition of Windows XP that my friend’s organization was running. He chose it because it gives you the best of both worlds. It provides domain connectivity like Windows XP professional, but also includes the various bells and whistles of Windows XP Home. Being that my friend owns a creative marketing company, the various multimedia capabilities were important to his organization.
He had initially intended to upgrade to Windows Vista Business, but an upgrade from Windows XP Media Center Edition to Windows Vista Business Edition is not allowed. Microsoft only allows an upgrade to Vista Home Premium Edition or to Vista Ultimate Edition. The Home Basic and the Business editions of Vista require clean installations.
Windows XP Tablet PC
Tablet PC users can upgrade to either Vista Business Edition or Ultimate Edition. Upgrades to Vista Home Basic or Home Premium are not allowed.
Windows XP X64
The 64-bit version of Windows XP seems to be the big exception to the rule. Upgrades from the x64 version of Windows XP are not allowed. A clean install is always required.
Windows 2000 Professional
There is no direct upgrade path from Windows 2000 Professional to Windows Vista. Organizations wanting to make the transition will have to either perform a clean install or upgrade to Windows XP and then to Vista. I tend not to recommend this approach though, because multi step upgrades tend to leave behind a lot of the remnants of the previous operating systems, and stability may possibly be an issue in some cases.
If you are using Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP x64, you are still eligible for an upgrade license (which costs less than a regular Vista license), you are just limited to performing a clean installation.