Just because something is technically possible doesn't mean it's legal. That's the message Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead inMicrosoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s Worldwide Partner Group, is sending this week to bloggers who claim to have found a way to circumvent Microsoft's rules and perform a clean install of Windows 7 using upgrade media.
Cost savings is the motivating factor here: The Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade sells for $80 less than the full version, and the Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate upgrades are $100 less than full price. However, Microsoft's EULA only allows Windows 7 upgrades to be installed on PCs that have a previous version of Windows already installed.
Ligman, whose knowledge of Microsoft's complex licensing terms is nearly as vast as the lawyers who drew them up, often warns of the dangers of violating Microsoft's EULA, which include potential Business Software Alliance audits and a host of other costly legal hassles.
"For those of you without an existing Windows license to upgrade from, you should be aware that an upgrade license by itself is not a license to install and run Windows on your computer," Ligman wrote in a Tuesday blog post.
Added Ligman: "In order to upgrade, you need to have a qualifying license to upgrade from. Again, that's why it is called an 'upgrade.'"
Ligman also called out unnamed sources who've recently published instructions on how to use a Windows 7 upgrade disk to install Windows 7 on a blank hard drive. "Regardless of what any hack says, a Windows 7 upgrade is an upgrade," Ligman wrote in the blog post.
The same situation arose after Vista's launch when users figured out that Vista upgrade media could be installed on a blank hard drive, and then installed a second time to activate it as an upgrade. When Microsoft failed to close the loophole in Vista Service Pack 1, some pundits suggested that Microsoft had included it intentionally in order to make Vista more appealing to sophisticated customers.
Ligman's response to those claims was much more pointed.
"The fact that there are people writing articles advising people to illegally install software that they are not licensed for 'because they can get it to physically install' just shows how clueless some people are and how willing they are to share that with others," Ligman wrote in an April 2008 blog post.