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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:38 pm 
Sophomore Member

Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 9:40 am
Posts: 128
Location: Hershey, PA
From supersite for windows


When I began inquiring into various Windows Vista installation options late last year, Microsoft and its representative grew quiet and seemed to begin selectively answering my questions. Previously, Microsoft had said that Vista's upgrade experience would be similar to that of XP: You'd be able to perform an in-place upgrade using the Vista Upgrade media or, with qualifying media (i.e. a Windows 2000 or XP CD-ROM), you could use the Upgrade media to perform a clean install. When rumors began surfacing that Vista Upgrade versions would not support clean installs, however, a veil of silence descended over Redmond.

These rumors grew louder as Vista's broad release date of January 30, 2007 approached. Then, finally, Microsoft dropped the bomb: The weekend before Vista's launch, the company quietly posted a support note on its Web site ominously titled Upgrade installation keys are blocked when you start from the Windows Vista DVD, Microsoft explains: "Windows Vista does not check upgrade compliance. You cannot use an upgrade key to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista." The support note recommends that users who run into this issue first install a compliant version of Windows first (i.e. Windows 2000, XP, or Vista) and then run Setup from within that install, upgrading the OS to the new version. Or, you could simply purchase a Full Product license. Hey, there's some great advice.

The reaction in the Windows community was predictably swift and [censored]. Clearly, Microsoft was disabling this previously handy option in order to inconvenience users (at best) or force them to spend more money on a Full product version (at worst). Either way, the company had pulled a fast one, silently taking away a feature we had all come to know and expect.

Well, it turns out that Windows Vista Upgrade media can indeed be used to perform a clean install of the operating system, at least sort of. Using an undocumented workaround which I first revealed in WinInfo Daily UPDATE earlier this week, you can fool any Upgrade version of Windows Vista into installing itself on a PC without upgrading a previous OS install.

Here's how it works.

Step 1: Install Windows Vista
Boot your PC with the Windows Vista Upgrade DVD. After the preliminary loading screen, click the Install Now button to trigger Vista Setup. In the next screen, you normally enter your product key. However, there's a little-known trick in Windows Vista Setup whereby you can simply skip this phase and use the install media (Upgrade or Full, any version) to perform a clean install of virtually any Vista product edition. What you do is leave the Product Key field blank, deselect the option titled "Automatically activate Windows when I'm online," and then click Next. Vista Setup will ask you whether you would like to enter your Product Key before continuing. Click No.

In the next Setup screen, you'll be presented with a list of the Windows Vista product editions you can install. This list may vary from locale to locale, but in the US, you'll see Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, and some N editions. Choose the product edition you actually own. You'll be asked to verify that you've chosen the correct version. Do so to continue past the End User License Agreement (EULA) screen.

In the next screen, you select the type of install. Choose Custom (Advanced) instead of Upgrade. Next, you choose the partition to which to install Windows Vista. If you need to format the disk, select the Drive options (advanced) option to do so and then continue.

Now, Setup copies the Vista install image to your PC, expands it, and installs Windows. This phase of Setup should take about 15 to 20 minutes and trigger at least one reboot. When Vista is installed, you'll step through the penultimate phase of Setup in which you enter, in succession, your user name and password, computer name, and the date, time, and time zone. Then Setup runs its final task, a performance test that could take about 5 minutes. If everything goes well, and you're running fairly modern hardware, you should hit the Welcome screen and, after logging on, the new Vista desktop less than 30 minutes after you began this process.

Step 2: Upgrade
What you've installed is decidedly temporary. You've got 30 days during which you can run this non-activated version of Windows Vista. If you try to activate Windows now, it will fail, because you've performed a clean install of Vista and you only have an Upgrade product key.

What to do, what to do? If you read Microsoft's support note carefully, you will have seen that the Upgrade versions of Vista support upgrading from "a compliant version of Windows, such as Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP, or Microsoft Windows 2000." Well, you just installed Windows Vista, so why not just upgrade from this install? That's right: You're going to upgrade the non-activated clean install you just performed, which will provide you with a version of the OS that you can, in fact, activate.

To do this, just open Computer and double click on the icon for the DVD drive that contains the Vista Upgrade media. Run Setup again, this time from within Vista. Choose Install Now, and then "Do not get the latest updates for installation" in the next screen. Then, in the now-familiar Product Key phase, enter your product key. It's on the back of the pull-out Vista packaging. You can choose to automatically activate Windows when online or not, it's your choice. In the next screen, accept the Windows EULA.

Now, choose the Upgrade option. Windows will install as before, though you might notice that it takes quite a bit longer this time. (Upgrade installs seem to take up to 45 minutes, compared to 30 minutes or less with clean installs, and reboots at least one additional time.)

Because you've just completed an upgrade install, you won't be prompted to enter your user name and so forth (only the time zone screen is presented). Instead, you'll just boot directly to the Welcome screen when the performance check is complete. Using the user name and password you created during the first install, logon to Windows.

Once again, you have 30 days in which to activate Vista. However, this time activation will work: To activate Vista immediately (unless you told it to do so during Setup), open the Start Menu, right-click Computer, and choose Properties. Then, at the bottom of the System window that appears, click the link titled Activate Windows now.

Is this legal?
One might naturally wonder whether the aforementioned instructions describe an action that is legal or ethical. After all, anyone could purchase an Upgrade version of Windows Vista (therefore saving a lot of money when compared to a Full version) and use it to perform a clean install even if they don't own a previous, compliant Window version.

After telling my "Windows Vista Secrets" coauthor Brian Livingston about this workaround, he wrote that using this process was indeed ethical, in his opinion. "Microsoft itself created the upgrade process," he wrote in a newsletter article describing the workaround. "The company designed Vista to support upgrading it over a previously installed copy of XP, W2K Pro, or Vista itself. This isn't a black-hat hacker exploit. It's something that's been deliberately programmed into the approved setup routine."

Fair enough. Of course, if you do use this workaround to clean install Vista with the Upgrade media, and you don't own a previous, compliant version of Windows, you're most certainly violating the Windows EULA and, thus, breaking the law. Proceed at your own risk.

Final thoughts
This is an interesting and viable workaround for anyone who owns a previous Windows version but would like to perform a clean install of the new operating system on their existing hardware. While I'm a bit nervous about legal implications and Microsoft's ability to cut off this process in the future, I'm glad that innocent Windows upgraders do in fact have all the options that were available to them in previous Windows versions. For its part in this silliness, Microsoft gets a virtual slap on the wrist: Sometimes, it seems, the company forgets that Windows is expensive and paying customers should be able to easily install the new OS without taking on the added clutter of a previous Windows installation.

--Paul Thurrott
February 3, 2007

Senior Admin Edit to clarify that this is a reprint..
thanks for the information.. :)

IBM T60p 2613HQU- 2.33 GHz T7600, 2GB RAM, 100GB 7200 HD, 14" LCD SXGA+ TFT, 256MB ATI FireGL V5250, CDRW/DVDRW
Intel 802.11abg wireless, Fingerprint, BT, and Vista Ult.
#1 Laptop

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:09 pm 

Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 3:46 pm
Posts: 47
Location: West Coast
Very helpful post. THANK YOU.

When my new thinkpad arrived, I did a clean install off of the upgrade Vista Disc (the only disc that came with the T60p 8744J2U). The problem was, the product key at the bottom of the machine didn't work. It kept saying invalid key. I had to call up Microsoft and get it activated via phone, which I thought was strange since it was a new system, the product key should have worked.

Now I see that there's a difference between Vista's fresh install and the upgrade, and that the product key is meant for the upgrade, not for the fresh install.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:38 pm 
Sophomore Member

Joined: Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:21 am
Posts: 241
Location: EU

I'm sure that I read website which describes that trick :!:
Besides as I remember the link is somewhere in this forum but not sure where.


Senior Admin edit: Thanks for showing the original website reference.. :)

Image T43-2668-CTO , T43p-2668-G7G
ex: A31-2652-D5G with 1GB Ram

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2007 2:23 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:56 am
Posts: 5
Location: Hollywood, CA
I did just as described above and it installed fine last Friday, but was I just notified via the activation key that it didn't work and I needed to call. I called and the recording said it wasn't valid and I needed to speak to a human...

What to do?

PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2007 8:28 pm 
Senior Member
Senior Member

Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 9:36 pm
Posts: 892
winesmile wrote:
I did just as described above and it installed fine last Friday, but was I just notified via the activation key that it didn't work and I needed to call. I called and the recording said it wasn't valid and I needed to speak to a human...

What to do?

so what happened?

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 10:47 am 
Sophomore Member

Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2004 8:34 am
Posts: 197
Location: Hanford, CA
Worked perfectly for me, although I needed to do it twice. Did not follow precisely enough the first time :oops:

T41p-GEU / T42p-KXU bought from Bill/ T60p-8HU / 4 T400p's and now a T440p

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 11:44 am 
Junior Member
Junior Member

Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 5:31 pm
Posts: 400
Location: NYC, NY
Bookmarked, bookmarked and bookmarked. ;)

PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 8:25 am 
Freshman Member

Joined: Wed Jan 17, 2007 12:41 pm
Posts: 76
Location: Denmark, Viborg
I read the same article and followed it when I got my copy of Vista.
However i needed to reinstall recenntly, and forgot I had to do the install-upgrade trick.

I installed it, and choose to register later, set my windows up and got it all neat & fine, and remembered that I needed to do an upgrade, however my code was accepted.

To my extent, one doesn't need to do the trick more than once. Once you've registered, the next installations should be fine...

Please post here, if you've done the same, to confirm my theory.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2007 8:03 am 
Freshman Member

Joined: Tue Sep 21, 2004 9:00 pm
Posts: 103
Location: Washington, D.C. area
Folks should also be aware that lots of the bloatware can be eliminated simply doing 'restore' from the Rescue/Recovery partition and picking 'Custom' restore -- and unclick stuff you don't want. Might be the simplest. But, I had a hard time finding out what some of the choices are -- needs to be researched and added to a FAQ. In particular, not sure what these are:

Leadertech Registartion
Maintenance Manager 3
TVT - Welcome Message Applet
Vista OOBE First Run
Vista - Lenovo Welcome
Vista-Gadgets Lenovo Essentials
Vista - OOBE offer

The thing that put me over the brink in terms of wanting to restore was I was unable to uninstall some of the MS Office junk from the factory preload. I'm hoping the Office 'trial' is in the 'OOBE offer' or 'OOBE First Run' section, which I unclicked. Restore in progress -- will update!


PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2007 8:36 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:08 pm
Posts: 1085
Location: Hong Kong
Have a ThinkPad came with Home Premium pre-installed. Now planning to upgrade to Ultimate, and also, setup BitLocker.

However, according to Microsoft's official instructions, you must create 2 partitions BEFORE installing Vista in order to setup BitLocker.

Now, the dilemma is that, ThinkPads don't come with the original Vista installation disc. So how can I setup BitLocker...?

OTOH, since I'm going to use Anytime upgrade (to Ultimate), and it's possible to get an "upgrade disc" (?). Can I use THAT disc to do a clean install, so I can setup BitLocker...? Using the methods mentioned in this post...?

Many thanks in advance.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:18 pm 
Freshman Member

Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 7:57 pm
Posts: 111
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Just wanted to add my experience.

I had a legal, pre-installed XP Pro Thinkpad T60. I bought a single-user Vista Upgrade license from CDW, for about $180, and bought the media for $20. The license type I got required me to go to the Microsoft open licensing site and 'register' the product information I got from CDW; The end result was, I generated the classic long 'product key' for use during the install.

I wanted to do a clean install, rather than upgrade my existing environment, so I bought a new hard drive and formatted it.

I started the install from the Vista DVD, and got all the way to the end, clicked some 'register now' button, and got registered!

So I never once entered any info about my XP setup, nor had to enter any info from the XP license sticker, or anything. I didn't have to 'upgrade' this Vista install to get it to register.

I'm still mystified by why this worked the way it did, but it did!

PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:54 am 
Freshman Member

Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:39 pm
Posts: 76
Location: Moorestown, NJ
thank you gt5l for posting this thread.

i finally decided to upgrade XP to Vista on my T60p using the Lenovo Vista Upgrade CD (provided free shortly after i purchased this machine). I installed Vista on a new hard disk following the process outlined above and it worked flawlessly. Vista is activated and running nicely.

thanks again!

PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:15 am 

Joined: Tue Sep 30, 2008 8:49 pm
Posts: 39
Location: Edmonton, CA
For those of you looking to install Vista with factory media you may want to check out the ABR tool which will backup your Lenovo pre-activated keys which you can then restore into your new install. A friend recently introduced me to this tool and it's quite handy. ... nd-restore

PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 6:59 pm 
Senior ThinkPadder
Senior ThinkPadder

Joined: Sat May 12, 2007 10:54 am
Posts: 2975
Location: Munich, Germany
With every new line of Lenovo ThinkPads there are more and more users interested in performing a clean install of Vista on their machines without having to purchase another Vista license. Many come asking how to do this or why the key from the sticker on the bottom of the ThinkPad doesn´t work or why the Volume License Key from their installation, found by some keyfinder, doesn´t exactly work as expected, but no one cares to read that sticky or to pay attention to the provided links :banghead: That´s why I´m now reposting here the simply excellent Wh1t3w0lf´s guide from in hope someone will read it...


Disclaimer: I sincerely believe this guide to be on the legitimate side and I in no way support the use of this guide for purposes other than activating Vista on your Viste preinstalled Lenovo laptop!

I recently bought a T60 and although I’ve been reading these wonderfull forums/community for 6 months now I never needed to post as it’s a habit of mine to not post in forums unless I really can’t solve something or I have a suggestion/solution to something. This time it’s the latter and this will be my first post!

The first thing I did when I bought my T60 was to clean install Vista. I suppose everyone knows the benefits of this but what not many people know is that you can’t automatically activate Vista using the product key which is located in the sticker under your laptop. You must go through the telephone activation route which is sometimes really boring or even worse, unusable. I also didn’t want to use any of my spare MSDNAA licences because… I payed for this laptop’s Vista licence and I might as well make it work!

So I started digging on how I can activate my T60 the same way Lenovo activates them during the factory restore. I’ve found out that Lenovo (and other OEMs) use a different product key, not the one you see in the sticker, which is hidden in the restore partition (or the discs you made yourself). This product key in combination with a license file that Microsoft has given to each OEM can activate windows without the need of online or telephone activation. Ofcourse for the product key/license file to work your BIOS must be compatible (aka support SLIC - Software Licensing Description Table) so that you can’t ilegally use this technique on every pc you own (doh!).

Here are the steps for a successful offline activation:

1. While you are using your factory preinstalled Vista find out your REAL OEM product key. You can use many utilities for this, like TweakVI but the easiest one is the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder. Print or write your product key.

2. Clean install Vista using either a retail DVD or with the Windows Anytime Upgrade DVD that might have been included in your Lenovo purchase. They are exactly the same media so no need to go the ware… *ahmm you know * way! When asked for your product key during installation enter the product you found in step 1 and NOT the product key which is written on the sticker under your laptop.

3. Find the Lenovo OEM licence file. It is found in your recovery media. For example if you wrote 2 DVDs with the R&R4 program the licence file is located in the data DVD (big one) into an imz archive (actually an encrypted zip archive) named 0ADPE07.IMZ Inside that archive you must find SWWORK\C\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\OEM\lenovo.oemcert.100036.xrm-ms
The problem with all the archives in the recovery DVD is that they are encrypted! I am currently brute forcing them but it will take days to find the correct password.
So to save us some trouble we can find it on the net by searching Google for lenovo.oemcert.100036.xrm-ms. Download this file and place it somewhere (for easy install put it C:\)

4. Now we can oem/offline activate Vista by issuing the following well documented and supported by Microsoft commands. These are:
slmgr –ilc path/to/licence/file/lenovo.oemcert.100036.xrm-ms
(a message should pop after a while telling you that it installed correctly)

slmgr –ato
(another message should pop which says that vista is now activated!)

Now go to Control Panel -> System and see that you are actually activated!

I hope this mini guide will help some of you do a clean Vista OEM installation without the need of the boring telephone activation. 8)

IBM Lenovo Z61p | 15.4'' WUXGA | Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 2x 2.16GHz | 4 GB Kingston HyperX | Hitachi 7K500 500 GB + WD 1TB (USB) | ATI Mobility FireGL V5200 | ThinkPad Atheros a/b/g | Analog Devices AD1981HD | Win 7 x86 + ArchLinux 2009.08 x64 (number crunching)

Last edited by Marin85 on Tue Aug 18, 2009 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:33 am 

Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:45 am
Posts: 5
Location: Austin, Texas
Thanks a lot for this post! Very informative!

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