An alternate title for this post could be “How I managed to memorize my Vista key in one day.”
In previous versions of Windows when you purchased the Upgrade version of the new operating system you could always just insert the CD of the previous version during the install to verify that you indeed had a previous version and were eligible for the upgrade version. In Vista, as far as I can tell, this is not possible. It actually checks for a previous operating system for an upgrade key. This makes for a huge inconvenience that in the end is completely retarded because there is a “workaround” that nullifies the whole process.
So I get my copy of Vista Ultimate the other day, mostly because I am technical enough to troubleshoot the problems, the first DirectX 10 games are coming out soon, and I like eye candy. I proceed to jump right into Vista x64 (the 64 bit version). I take my Windows XP partition, along with the 15 other partitions that I foolishly made (to keep partition sizes down, which I honestly do not care much about anymore), delete all of them, and create 3 new partitions from within the Vista install program. I format and install Vista onto the smallest of the three and everything installs great. It loads up no problem, all my drivers (except for my graphics card and ATI remote wonder) are pre-installed with the OS. I easily find my video card drivers on Nvida and install them easily. The ATI remote wonder, unfortunately has some problems, but by installing the manufacturer drivers (X10) and then the software I overcome everything. However, I my Disk Stakka does not seem to work in x64 and in looking in the benefits of x64 right now, and the drawbacks of device compatibility, I decide to switch back to x86 (32 bit).
Now comes the fun. What I should have tried (and since I prefer clean installs I did not try this) was to start the x86 disk inside of Windows itself and tried to “downgrade” through that. Unfortunately I cannot tell you if that works because before I could try that I had already started my standard clean install routine that I have done throughout all versions of windows.
So I am in the Vista install program after booting off the DVD and I decide to format the OS partition and do a clean install. It does not stop me from doing that. I go to install onto the clean partition and then it asks for the key. No problem. I put in the key and then Vista says, wait a second … you are an Upgrade version! I need to see an older version of Windows to allow you to do a 32 bit upgrade. This was not a problem with a 64 bit upgrade because they require you to do a clean install anyway.
So it wants me to install Windows XP to install Windows Vista 32 bit? I am not prepared to give up just yet though, so I choose not to enter in a key at all and just authenticate when Windows is up and running. So I go through the whole install process again and load up windows. I go to the windows authentication screen and enter in my key …. only to get an error about my key being for an Upgrade only. At this point I am pretty pissed off because sitting next to me is my shiny XP CD and I am literally begging the computer to just read it and say that its ok, I am not a pirate trying to steal software.
I end up biting the bullet and installing XP and then doing the stupid upgrade (I hate upgrades too). Luckily, since I just installed XP very fast, no service pack 2 or anything (I didn’t even activate my XP install, the first time it booted I inserted Vista and started the install process), it “forced” me to do a clean install. Unfortunately it did leave a “windows.old” directory on the partition, but that was easily deleted. I was worried that it would leave an older version of NTFS on there, but as far as I can tell all the Vista features (which consists of symlinks) work.
Later I found a nice workaround that negates the entire process and makes Microsoft look really stupid. Here I was jumping through hoops to make sure Vista knew that I had XP and was upgrading properly. To work around that all you have to do to do a “clean” install without XP is install Vista without a key. Once you boot up into Vista for the first time, just insert the CD/DVD again and then choose to “upgrade” to the same exact version. You don’t even have to let the software know that XP was ever installed. Using this process this could have been the first time you used Windows and you can use the upgrade option.
Way to go Microsoft. If securing your upgrade versions from pirates and users who are not really upgrading was your goal, you utterly failed. In the process you managed to make everyone else jump through hoops.