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One Microsoft executive is rather ticked at sneaky users and their "hacks".

In an openly sarcastic blog entry, Microsoft's Eric Ligman tore into users who have been exploiting a workaround to allow a Vista upgrade to install on a computer that did not previously have a Windows OS, such as a new PC.  Ligman, Microsoft's senior manager of community engagement for small business in the U.S., had no sympathy for these users, who he labels as "clueless" criminals.

It was reported last winter by DailyTech that by using an 11 step process, a cheaper Vista upgrade could be installed on a PC with no pre-existing operating system.  This gaping loophole was apparently left wide open by Microsoft and stood in contrast to previous versions of Windows that required a copy of the previous Windows OS, with no exceptions. 

While many noted that the OEM version of Vista tended to be cheaper, the upgrade version did have some advantages, in that you could switch between 32-bit and 64-bit versions (OEM only allowed one specific OS), it had a more flexible license allowing easier reinstalls, and it could be found at significantly cheaper if you were a student. 

In the Windows Secrets newsletter early this month, Associate Editor Scott Dunn asserted that he believed that Microsoft purposefully left the loophole open to encourage savvy users to adopt Vista.  Said Dunn, "the fact that the upgrade back door is still present in Vista SP1 is a strong indication that the feature has at least the tacit support of Microsoft officials."

In his blog Ligman offers up a raving retort, arguing:

So if you see anyone stating, or writing, that buying an upgrade by itself (Windows Vista Upgrade for instance) without having a full license first gets you the rights to run the software, just realize that what the person is actually stating is, “I clearly have no clue what I am talking about and so I am writing a bunch of gibberish that proves this hoping people will think I have a clue, even though I obviously don’t.

If they continue to tell you that, “But I can get it to physically install, so it must be legal,” this further shows their complete lack of comprehension. Just because something will install does not make it legal. For example, a pirated piece of software will (usually) physically install; however, running pirated software is 100% illegal (and who knows what else it will install on or do to your computer). If you don’t believe me, try calling 888-NO-PIRACY and letting them know that you are running pirated software throughout your company. Explain to them that you feel it is legal to do so because you got it to physically install, so it must be legal and ask if they would mind auditing your company to verify the legality of this. Let me know how that turns out for you.

In order to clarify for "clueless" readers, Ligman offers the shortened explanation on the legality of the upgrade workaround using only three letter words or shorter-- "It is not ok to do so. It is BAD to do so."

Ligman encourages users to voice their anger against the "pirates" who have been exploiting the upgrade "hack".  He also encourages his readers to play advocate and inform news publications that have been writing about the workaround that what they are "encouraging" is wrong or illegal.

While Ligman wants to blame the users and the journalistic community for what he says is unlawfulness, many think the blame rests with Microsoft for not providing clear enough licensing terms and information.  Among the supporters of this philosophy is Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft.  DeGroot stated, "Many corporate customers still think they can buy bare PCs and image them with volume media."

DeGroot also blasts that Microsoft won't allow users to transfer installs between computers on some version, stating, "The prohibition against moving it to another computer is counter-intuitive for most people, and it smacks of revenue maximization rather than reasonable restriction."

Ligman's rant is not unfamiliar territory in the tech industry.  From Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs to Mark Cuban and Michael Bay, it seems these days nobody is afraid to opine on tech topics, and oft sarcastically and noisily at that.

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RE: Vista Upgrade
By imperator3733 on 4/16/2008 11:50:59 AM , Rating: 2
In previous versions, just like in Vista, the intention was that the upgrade version would replace the previous version. It was not meant to be a way to get cheap(er) software!

If you have multiple valid XP licenses, then just do a clean install of XP and then upgrade over that, OR do what Ligman says in the comments section and do the clean install using the upgrade media. As long as you have a license that makes you eligible for the upgrade (and then don't use that license afterwards), it is okay to do the clean install. The problem is with people who don't have eligible licenses.

RE: Vista Upgrade
By mikefarinha on 4/16/2008 12:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
just do a clean install of XP and then upgrade over that

Why should I have to install anything first just to prove to the almighty Vista CD that I am a legit owner. Why did they make this change when all prior versions of Windows upgrade just asked that you pop in the CD of the earlier version?

This effectively doubles the amount of time it takes, either way you slice it, to do a fresh install of Vista Upgrade.

From my point of view this is simply an added hassle to "encourage" customers to buy the full version even if they already have a legitimate prior version of Windows.

RE: Vista Upgrade
By imperator3733 on 4/16/2008 12:19:28 PM , Rating: 2
Then just use the "loophole" method to do a clean install. As long as you have an eligible license for a previous version, and you don't use that license after the upgrade, you don't have anything to worry about.

The reason they changed it was so that people couldn't borrow a friend's disc to "prove" that they were eligible just to save some money. It makes it harder for the people who aren't eligible to do this upgrade, it won't affect most civilians (who would most likely just be upgrading from their current install no matter how the upgrade process is), and it is still possible for eligible people to do a clean install.

RE: Vista Upgrade
By ElFenix on 4/16/2008 1:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
uh, the loophole requires you to install vista TWICE. that's fuggin' ridiculous.

RE: Vista Upgrade
By imperator3733 on 4/16/2008 5:16:34 PM , Rating: 2
Would you rather spend around an hour of your life doing the installation process again, or pay more money for a full version? I think most people would rather do the installation twice. You can always do something else while that is happening.

RE: Vista Upgrade
By mikefarinha on 4/16/2008 6:25:57 PM , Rating: 2
Would you rather spend around an hour of your life doing the installation process again, or pay more money for a full version?

Why should we have to choose?

RE: Vista Upgrade
By imperator3733 on 4/17/2008 12:15:49 PM , Rating: 2
Because that's the trade off for buying the upgrade version.

RE: Vista Upgrade
By prenox on 4/17/2008 1:34:25 AM , Rating: 2
I think the reason they changed it is because OEM's don't give you a Windows CD when you buy your computer they only give you Recovery CD's

RE: Vista Upgrade
By zombiexl on 4/16/2008 2:34:51 PM , Rating: 2
They could always just ask for your XP product code and then invalidate it. Of course then people would complain that their XP is not valid anymore.

Why? Because people are morons and think that if they dont agree with the license then it and laws dont apply to them.

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