Installing Vista Upgrade without valid media to upgrade from

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jethro's picture

vista logo I had a long term client come to me on Monday with his PC crashed. He went to bed Sunday night and it was working fine and Monday morning it had gone into an endless boot loop. Fortunately he had backups (I have trained him well).

We tried numerous things to get the drive to boot including safe mode and so on to no avail. The drive seemed to be physically OK so I copied all the data off the drive before trying a few more things. I ran a chkdsk on the drive and fixed errors. No luck. Then I finally did a fixmbr and fixboot command from inside the windows XP recovery console. These reported back as working, but it still refused to boot.

Finally to save the customer time I offered to rebuild his PC. Here is where the fun really started.

The PC was an Acer E500 and had come with MS Windows XP Home OEM. The licence key was on the side. The client had upgraded to Vista Home Premium himself using an Upgrade DVD. He had the Vista DVD but not the XP Home CD.

I don't have an XP Home CD.

So how was I supposed to upgrade? Fortunately I read an article about this on Susan's blog the other day and was able to find on the Windows Secrets blog step by step instructions. And let me tell you they work just fine. Best to disconnect the network cable (from the internet) before doing it though. This also works in the numerous cases where the upgrade DVD wont work anyway (states it on the package) and only a clean install will work. This is a legitimate workaround and is endorsed by Microsoft in this Knowledge base Article 930985.

The secret is that the setup program in Vista's upgrade version will accept an installed copy of XP, W2K, or an unactivated copy of Vista itself as evidence of a previous installation.

Full instructions on the Vista upgrade secret

Step 1. Boot the PC from the Vista DVD.
Step 2. Select "Install Now," but do not enter the Product Key from the Vista packaging. Leave the input box blank. Also, turn off the option Automatically activate Windows when I'm online. In the next dialog box that appears, confirm that you really do want to install Vista without entering a Product Key.
Step 3. Correctly indicate the version of Vista that you're installing: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate.
Step 4. Select the "Custom (Advanced)" install, not the "Upgrade" install.
Step 5. Vista copies files at length and reboots itself one or more times. Wait for the install to complete. At this point, you might think that you could "activate" Vista, but you can't. That's because you haven't installed the Vista upgrade yet. To do that, run the DVD's setup.exe program again, but this time from the Vista desktop. The easiest way to start setup again is to eject and then reinsert the DVD.
Step 6. Click "Install Now." Select Do not get the latest updates for installation. (You can check for these updates later.)
Step 7. This time, do enter the Product Key from the Vista packaging. Once again, turn off the option Automatically activate Windows when I'm online.
Step 8. On this second install, make sure to select "Upgrade," not "Custom (Advanced)." You're not doing a clean install now, you're upgrading to Vista.
Step 9. Wait while Vista copies files and reboots itself. No user interaction is required. Do not boot from the DVD when asked if you'd like to do so. Instead, wait a few seconds and the setup process will continue on its way. Some DOS-like, character-mode menus will appear, but don't interact with them. After a few seconds, the correct choice will run for you automatically.
Step 10. After you click a button labeled Start in the Thank You dialog box, Vista's login screen will eventually appear. Enter the username and password that you selected during the first install. You're done upgrading to Vista.
Step 11. Within 30 days, you must "activate" your copy of Vista or it'll lose functionality. To activate Vista, click Show more details in the Welcome Center that automatically displays upon each boot-up, then click Activate Windows now. If you've dismissed the Welcome Center, access the correct dialog box by clicking Start, Control Panel, System & Maintenance, System. If you purchased a legitimate copy of Vista, it should quickly activate over the Internet. (You can instead activate by calling Microsoft on the phone, which avoids your PC exchanging information with Microsoft's server.)


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matt's picture

This is actually what

This is actually what happens to my Vista box everytime it installs an update, and almost everytime it is told to reboot.

I imagine you would have tried something along these lines, and I suppose it's probably not all that relevant anymore.

But anyway, I completely cut the power with the switch on the back of the PSU (just switching it off with the button at the front makes no difference). Then power it back on, let it run through one cycle, boot to safe mode, reboot, let it run through a cycle once, then boot into the last known working configuration. That's worked pretty much everytime. Good reason to reboot as minimally as possible =/