From the Trenches – Clean Install Using Windows 7 Upgrade

My personal computer came with Windows Vista.  Most pre-installed computers also come with a ton of applications that nobody will ever use, mine is no exception.  Running a spyware detection on my computer, right after doing a system restore, warns of several applications that are “potential” spyware.  So, when I have the opportunity to re-install I prefer to use the latest upgrade I purchased, rather than doing a system restore and upgrading.  Doing a Windows 7 install from upgrade media has proven to be a little difficult.  Microsoft has changed the process such that an upgade cannot be used to do a clean install.  I understand the reasoning, everyone would purchase the lower cost upgrade – and do a clean install, thereby getting the full version for less.

The installer does not tell you this is a problem until you have formatted your drive, installed the new version and are trying to enter the product key.  Once you get to that point you’re, quite literally, stuck.  So what do you do?  You do have options, any of which are workable depending on your scenario.  These were my choices:

  1. Call Microsoft Tech Support
  2. Install Windows 7 upgrade, then upgrade the Windows 7 upgrade
  3. Install from the recovery CD or Original OS, and then do the upgrade

Let’s discuss -> Click Read More.

I consider myself to be a responsible member of the Information Technology community.  I purchase operating systems and software when I need them, I register shareware and contribute to open source projects that are really useful to me.  The options I present here are all technically correct, and were given to me as options by Microsoft.   I’m sure there are hacks and cracks that let you use an upgrade as a clean install and bypass the purchase and activation process.  If you are seeking that information – go elsewhere.

For the record, I chose Option 1.

Option 1 – Call Microsoft

Being a legal owner of my software, I have no compunctions calling the manufacturer and asking for help.  Doing a quick search through Microsoft’s Support Website allowed me to find the Product Activation Support number for United States.  The number I found was (866) 234-6020, this may vary, depending on where you are and how you search.  So after navigating a phone menu that was a mix of voice recognition and pressing buttons, I made it to a person.

The Customer Service Representative, at Microsoft that I first spoke to, indicated that this is a designed mechanism within the upgrade install.  You cannot activate the upgrade if it did not detect a previous version of Windows on the hard drive.  Fair enough.  I explained why I wanted to do it the way I did, he was quite agreeable and created a issue and passed me on to an technician.  I did expect to sit in a hold queue for a while, and was surprised that my connection to the technician was near immediate.  (Note to self, calling Microsoft at 8:30AM on a Saturday is a good time).  The technician was able to walk me through a few steps, and about 30 minutes later, I had my Windows 7 upgrade activated and functional.  The below steps do not prevent you from calling Microsoft, but give you an idea of what to expect.

  • During the install, when asked for the Product Key, leave it blank.  In addition, there is a check-box right below it regarding activating as soon as possible. (forgot the exact words), un-check that box and click Next.  If all went well, you should move on through the install and eventually get to your desktop.
  • Now that you are at the Desktop, click Start and Right-Click on “Computer“, select properties from the menu. (for you IT Guys, this is the System Properties)
  • At the bottom, you have your Activation information.  Click on it and try entering your Product Key again.  The Microsoft guy indicated that sometimes this will work and it will be accepted.
  • If it doesn’t, you will have to run the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (msdt from the run line).  This tool requires a code from the technician to work.  It’s pretty much automated after that, the usual, Yes, Next, Next, Yes, Restart.  Yes, when the tool is done, you will need to reboot.
  • Once your computer reboots, and you pass the login box, the activation window will come up again – you can do nothing else.  At this point, you’ll enter your product key again, and then get an activation code (9 six digit numbers.)  The technician was nice enough to take these numbers and call the activation phone number for me and get the resulting 9 six digit numbers that I needed.  But you can always call the phone number yourself.  Fair warning, I’ve found it’s hit or miss when you call the number – being able to talk to a human seems to be somewhat challenging.
  • After all those steps, my upgrade is activated.  The technician had me reboot one more time just to verify that the activation took effect.

Please make sure to thank your technician when the process is done.  They do appreciate the feedback.  If you get a survey in email, respond to it.  It only takes a few minutes of your time and can make all the difference.  So often, people only give feedback when they get bad service, I am a big fan of giving feedback when I get good service as well.

Option 2 – Upgrade Your Upgrade

This may seem like a bizarre action, however the Microsoft Technician explained that it can sometimes save you the trouble of calling technical support.

  • Like the above process, go through the install until you get to the Product Activation screen.
  • Again, do not type a product key and un-check the activate immediately box.  Click next and go through the install.
  • Once you are at your desktop, reboot and re-install Windows again, but be sure to select Upgrade.
  • The upgrade will then detect the previous install and might let you complete the process.
  • The technician did say that results can vary, and you might end up calling Microsoft anyway.

Option 3 – Use Recovery CD or Original Media then Upgrade

I don’t think there’s much discussion here.  This is what most people do when they get Windows 7 for the first time.

So, that’s my fun for a Saturday morning.  I hope that the information was able to help you in some way.

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