Vista upgrade workaround revealed

An IT professional discovers a way of getting a full version of Vista for the cost of a simple upgrade.

An IT professional claims to have discovered a way of upgrading to a full version of Vista from scratch, while only paying the cost of an upgrade for an earlier version of Windows.

As part of the Vista launch, Microsoft is offering Windows users a range of upgrades allowing them to move to one of six flavors of Vista without paying the full cost. These upgrades are supposed to work only on a PC that contains an existing copy of Windows.

However, Marc Liron, a Microsoft MVP, said he has discovered a way of circumventing this procedure so that a Linux user, for example, could get Vista while saving several hundreds of dollars. Other Web sites also have published the workaround.

The key to the method is that the upgrade package contains a complete version of Vista, which it can be encouraged to install on a machine without checking for an existing authorized copy of Windows. The WindowsITPro site, for example, posted information on the upgrade and the workaround at the end of January.

Microsoft confirmed that the workaround would be successful, but cautioned that anyone using it would violate their license terms.

"People who use this workaround without a licensed copy of XP or earlier versions of Windows are violating the terms of use agreed to when they purchased the upgrade version of Windows Vista," said a Microsoft representative.

However, the company is not--at this stage at least--threatening to penalize anyone who uses the workaround, or block them from important upgrades via its Genuine Advantage. In fact, it does not seem especially concerned, and does not appear to have taken action against Liron.

"We believe only a very small percentage of people will take the time to implement this workaround, and we encourage all customers to follow our official guidelines for upgrading to Windows Vista, which can be found at, instead," the Microsoft representative continued. "Following these guidelines will allow customers to easily and validly upgrade to Windows Vista."

How it works
Marc Liron has posted a full explanation of his method on his Web site. In summary, the trick is to install the upgrade version of Vista but not to enter the product key. Once all the Vista files have been copied across, the user starts the installation procedure again rather than attempting to activate Vista. Once the installation procedure has been followed again, the user is left with a fully functioning version of Vista.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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