Windows 7 testers have long path to upgrade

Moving from the test to final version of the operating system is not as easy as just forking over the money. In some cases, two installations are required.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

Going from Windows Vista to Windows 7 is relatively straightforward. So one might think that moving from a pre-release version of Windows 7 to the final version would also be simple.

One would be wrong.

That's because the upgrade versions of the Windows operating system (the cheapest way to move to the final version) check for a previous, non-test version of Windows on the drive. That means, if a user did a clean installation of Windows 7 on their test system (as recommended by Microsoft), that same user will have to back up their data, reinstall their original operating system (XP or Vista), then install Windows 7, restore their data, and then reinstall their applications.

For testers who were running XP, that means doing a clean installation of Windows XP over their Windows 7 test build and then a clean installation of Windows 7 over that. Vista users have the option of reinstalling that operating system and then doing an in-place upgrade or a clean installation of Windows 7.

Testers looking to move from a test version of Windows 7 to the final product may find the move not only costly, but time consuming. Microsoft

Microsoft says that, for what it's worth, that's roughly the same thing that was required for those moving from pre-release versions of Windows Vista to the final release.

Even so, it's an unfortunate burden for those who have provided lots of feedback and indeed been some of the operating system's biggest champions. Users were also pushed to do a fresh installation when moving from Windows 7 beta to the latest test version, although some users found ways around having to do this.

It's just one of several scenarios in which users may find getting to Windows 7 to be a tricky proposition. In general, most people get Windows through buying a new PC. But there are still plenty of folks who decide to update their existing machines.

That's proving to be tricky, not just for testers, but also for people who want to upgrade their Netbooks. That's because such machines, by their nature, don't come with a DVD drive. However, a source says Microsoft is considering offering Windows 7 via flash drive--a move that could make that upgrade easier.

Microsoft is also trying to lower the other barrier to those moving from a test version to the final Windows 7--the cost. The software maker has a limited promotion--through July 11 in the U.S.--that lets people buy an upgrade copy of Windows 7 for as low as $49.

As for those who haven't been testing Windows 7, Microsoft notes that the upgrade version of Windows 7 just looks for a copy of Windows XP or Vista, so users don't need to find their original system discs. It should be able to tell by looking at the hard drive.

Users can also use the upgrade as a chance to move to a higher-end or lower-end version of Windows. To move from Windows Vista Home Basic, for example, to Windows 7 Home Premium, a user need buy only the upgrade version of Windows 7. Likewise, one could move from Windows XP Home to Windows 7 Professional just by purchasing that upgrade version.

Moving down in versions is also possible, say from Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Professional. However, with any downgrade, a clean installation is required.