When Vista was released, I ended up buying 2 full copies (versions not requiring a prior version of Windows) of Vista Ultimate to install on my MacPro and my MacBook Pro. I use VMWare Fusion, although I’ve also used Parallels and recommend either to people who ask.
When Windows 7 was available for pre-order, I bought 2 upgrade copies. I decided against getting another ‘Ultimate’ version though. I chose ‘Pro’ because it was all I needed. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to say it either, but all those versions are way too confusing, Microsoft.
If you’ve done much research on the Windows 7 upgrade path, you may have already spotted the problem. Windows 7 does not allow you to run an upgrade installation when you’re ‘trading down’ the Windows heirarchy of versions. I went into this knowing I could only do a clean install. I made a back up of my important Vista files and programs and erased my Vista image and tried to do the upgrade.
Surprisingly, it seemed to go well. It installed quickly and it looks nice. My problem came when Windows required ‘activation.’ My serial number is an ‘upgrade’ serial. In most software that requires an upgrade path, entering in the prior software’s serial number would let the software know that you do indeed qualify for the upgrade. That’s not the case with Windows 7. My serial number only registered an error and provided no phone number for further help. After being juggled through a variety of phone calls, including one dropped call, I was told by a Microsoft technician how to authorize my upgrade copy of Windows 7. Strangely, it has nothing to do with entering in your valid Vista or XP serial number. I’m not telling you to skip buying a full version of Windows, but seriously, who hasn’t owned a copy of Windows by now at some point.
Whatever the case. Don’t steal software. (Update: Microsoft has a blog post on the issue of the legality of this process here: http://blogs.msdn.com/mssmallbiz/archive/2009/10/27/regardless-of-what-any-hack-says-a-windows-7-upgrade-is-an-upgrade-what-you-need-to-know.aspx Basically, use this technique if you are legally entitled to it.)
How to actived your upgrade version of Windows
Here’s how the Microsoft agent me to use my upgrade serial number to validate Windows 7 on a clean installation. (You may also want to check out my Flickr set of screen shots taking you through the activation steps described below.)
- Install the version of Windows 7 that you have a valid serial number for.
- Do not enter that serial number during the installation process if asked. (VMWare Fusion will offer that as an option to you.)
- Once installation is complete, you will have a freshly installed Windows 7.
- Don’t try to activate your Windows yet. We need to dig into the registry first. Click the Start menu (now just a Windows logo) and type in “regedit” and press ENTER to open the Registry Editor window.
- You’re going to be digging deep into your registry keys here. I’ll list them in the order you’ll need to dig through. By digging through, I actually mean finding the word listed and then clicking the arrow to its left to open up folders within it. Okay, here we go. Just find these keys in order:
- Current Version
- Now that you’ve got to OOBE, there are no more arrows to flip down. Look to the right part of the window and you’ll find “MediaBootInstall”. Double-click that word and it will bring up a dialog box.
- It will have the a text box with “1” in it. Change that to “0” (zero, not the letter “Oh”). Leave the other setting set to Hexadecimal as it was when you got here. Press “OK” to exit the window. You can now close the Registry Editor window as well.
- Now go back to the “Start” menu. Type in “cmd” but don’t hit “Enter” yet. Notice that “cmd” has appeared at the top of window under the word “Programs”. You need to run this command as an administrator. To do that, right-click the the “cmd” at the top of your Start window and a menu will appear that will allow you to do that. It should be the second option in the list. (See the image here.)
- Windows will prompt you to trust Microsoft now with a User Account Control windows. What choice do you have? Click “Yes”.
- The command line window will now come up. Type in the following command:
- If you’re successful, the window will refresh and tell you “Please restart the system for the changes to take effect.” So, restart your machine.
- Now when you’re asked to activate Windows, you just use your upgrade serial number. You won’t need your original serial number.
- If you want to prompt activation, you can do that by going to your Start menu and right-clicking on “Computer” and selecting “Properties”. You’ll find the activation info at the bottom of that window.
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