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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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My take on this...
By Wonga on 4/16/2008 1:31:56 PM , Rating: 2
I think this rant was likely aimed at shops which are selling Vista upgrades to their customers and telling them how to get around the 'upgrade' issue on PCs with blank hard disks. Whatever your personal opinion on the Vista upgrade, this is a practice which is illegal (and harms honest outlets).

There is one bit in the article I am a little confused about: "...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)..."

Are you saying an OEM copy only has a key which will work with either 32-bit OR 64-bit, but not both? If so, this is incorrect. I have used OEM keys for PCs which originally came with 32bit Vista and 64bit has gone on without issue, using the same key. The fact that Microsoft shipped all versions of Vista on a single DVD (ok, all 32bit versions on one DVD and all 64bit versions on another) is a major benefit; I've used a 64bit 'Home Premium' retail upgrade DVD to install what was originally a 32bit 'Home Premium' OEM purchase, as well as using the same DVD for what was originally a 32bit Vista Business OEM (obviously its 64bit now). The key you put in dictates the version you get, but 32/64bit is interchangable.

Finally, the compaints about having to install and overwrite another copy of Windows to put Vista upgrade on: I bought the upgrade version and yes, you do have to have a copy of Windows on prior to install (or install it twice), but to clarify one matter, you can still choose to have a clean install with the option for no remnants of the original hard disk contents. From what some people are writing, they believe this is not the case, yet it is.

RE: My take on this...
By sprockkets on 4/16/2008 1:39:16 PM , Rating: 2
So what you are saying is, that even OEM keys are not 32bit or 64 bit specific? Hmmmm...., it seems that they are not even retail or OEM specific if what you say is true.

RE: My take on this...
By Wonga on 4/16/2008 2:06:37 PM , Rating: 2
They ARE retail/OEM specific, but, as an example, if you originally bought 32bit Vista Business OEM, you can install 64bit Vista Business OEM. The key dictates the Vista version, but it applies across 32bit and 64bit.

If you bought Vista OEM and used a 'retail' DVD to install Vista (I use inverted commas, since OEM/Retail/Home Premium/Business/whatever DVDs are the same, exept being 32bit or 64bit), you still have an OEM copy, since the key has the say. So, you buy a new motherboard, you're OEM still doesn't transfer over like a retail would.

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