Brien Posey's Windows Blog

Feb 25 2009   4:51AM GMT

Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade Policy

Brien Posey Brien Posey Profile: Brien Posey

Earlier this month Microsoft announced that they weren’t going to offer an in place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Since that time, I have seen numerous blog posts on the Internet criticizing Microsoft for their decision. Some have even made up ridiculous conspiracy theories saying that not allowing a direct upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 is Microsoft’s way of punishing people for not using Windows Vista. After reading so many of these posts, I had to throw my two cents worth in on the issue.

Before I give you my opinion, let me just say that I do not work for Microsoft, nor do I have any vested interest in the company. Yes, I write about Microsoft products for a living, but those of you who are familiar with my work know that I am not one to just blindly agree with everything that comes out of Redmond. I have always felt that it was my journalistic duty to let my readers know when I don’t personally agree with Microsoft’s stand on an issue.

Having said that, I have to say that the conspiracy theories simply do not hold water, for several reasons:


1.       If someone really wanted to do an in place upgrade badly enough, they could. Windows Vista will operate for a couple of months without even requiring a product key. It would be simple to get a Vista CD, upgrade a machine to Vista, and then perform an in place upgrade to Windows 7. Keep in mind that I am not recommending that anyone do this, because I think that the end result would be less than optimal.

2.       Many of the PCs that are running Windows XP simply do not have sufficient hardware to run Windows 7 efficiently. Preventing an in place upgrade is one way of discouraging people from installing Windows 7 on old hardware.

3.       Any time that you upgrade from one operating system to another, there are always fragments of the old operating system that are left behind. These fragments can result in all sorts of performance and compatibility problems. That’s a big part of why I don’t recommend upgrading from Windows XP to Vista to Windows 7. Microsoft wants Windows 7 to make a good impression, so of course they are not going to support a type of upgrade that could cause problems with it.

4.       In an enterprise environment, new operating systems are almost always deployed through imaging, not upgrades. Therefore, the fact that you can’t perform an in place upgrade shouldn’t even effect most large companies that are still running Windows XP.

5.       Nobody is being forced to upgrade to Windows 7. Yes, there will come a day when Windows XP is considered to be dead by Microsoft, but so what. I know of companies who are still running Windows NT. If an operating system meets your needs, and you aren’t worried about long term support, then there is no reason why you absolutely have to upgrade. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to use a current operating system, but that’s beside the point.

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  • Hyjanks
    I ran across this site while trying to find Microsoft's policy on what they will allow with a Windows 7 upgrade. It seems that even the techs (the ones who ultimately decide if the caller will be granted the "privilege" of having their copy verified when one is inevitably met with the "key code is invalid" message during a Custom Installation) at Microsoft are confused as to what the is allowed when reinstalling the OS. Here's the problem I constantly face because I like to reinstall the OS every year to get rid of the junk that accumulates or because I want to switch hard drives, or whatever. 1) With a Custom install it doesn't matter if, for instance, a copy of Vista or XP or the original Win 7 install is on the hard drive as far as having to call tech support to have them talk you through making the key code "legitimate". The last time I did this I spent TWO HOURS with tech support personnel who I couldn't understand for the most part because they have English as a second or third language. 2) It's a hit or miss proposition to have the tech guy actually give his permission to re-grant verification. There should be a policy that states that IF you have a legitimate Win 7 upgrade and IF you have a legitimate Vista or XP on the machine then re verification should be automatic--no calling tech support to PLEADE with them to give you something that you paid over a hundred bucks for. 3)I am currently in the process of accumulating two 1Tet hard drives, a new motherboard and processor in which I will set up a RAID configuration. As you know, new hard drives arrive low-level formatted and you MUST format the drives during installation before RAID configuration. Which means, of course, that you must violate the Microsoft policy (I guess this policy exists) of putting the Win 7 upgrade on a fully-formatted disc, free of a previous OS. 3) I long ago "lost" my Vista OS that came with a Gateway computer. Therefore, the recovery discs that came with that factory job does not work on a custom computer. Which means, of course, that I am left without a previous version for verification when I install my bought and paid for Windows upgrade disc. This is pure, utter nonsense as far as I am concerned. I should be able to put that recovery disc in the DVD tray as verification that I have a previous copy so that the Win 7 upgrade goes smoothly. Nobody is "forced" to upgrade to Windows 7, you say? What nonsense! If that's the case, then nobody should be required to jump through hoops every time they want to reinstall that copy of Windows 7 that they bought and paid for. I don't believe in "conspiracy" theories, either. But what I've outlined here are legitimate problems that are REAL and should be addressed by the monopoly that is Microsoft just for the sake of bettering their public relations, if nothing else. Otherwise, Bill Gates and his crew may become just as extinct as the Passenger pigeon. And can you imagine the celebration in the streets if that should happen . . .
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