Some XP, Vista PCs “eligible” for free Windows 7 upgrades

Microsoft Corp. will provide free or discounted Windows 7 upgrades, not only to users who buy Vista PCs between June 2009 and January 2010, but also to people who buy systems that have been factory-downgraded to Windows XP, according to a report on the Web., a Malaysian Web site that earlier this year leaked Microsoft’s upgrade plans, said Saturday that users who purchase PCs equipped with a Windows XP downgrade will also be eligible for the “Windows 7 Upgrade Option” program.

In Microsoft’s terminology, “downgrade” describes the Windows licensing rights that let users of newer versions replace the operating system with an older edition without having to pay for another license.

In effect, the license for the newer Windows is transferred to the older edition.

Last year, had correctly named the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) dates for several Windows editions.

In January, the Web site reported that Microsoft would unveil a program for Windows 7 similar to Vista Express Upgrade, a 2006 marketing effort that provided free or discounted Vista license to buyers of Windows XP in the months leading up to Vista’s early 2007 release.

It said Microsoft would allow resellers to purchase Windows 7 upgrade media, which they could then offer to customers who buy a Vista-power system between July 1, 2009, and a date to be determined.

The upgrades, however, would not be shipped to those PC buyers until the general availability date for Windows 7.

The Windows 7 upgrade program as spelled out by TechARP resembled the earlier Vista Express Upgrade.

In that program, people who purchased Windows XP PCs between Oct. 26, 2006, and March 15, 2007, were eligible to receive free or inexpensive Vista upgrades.

TechARP did not have a closing date for the program, noting only that it was “TBA,” or “to be announced.” The site did say, however, that resellers would be free to specify a shorter eligibility period than Microsoft’s.

Upgrades, it said, would be available from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium, and from Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate.

Buyers of PCs equipped with Vista Business would be able to upgrade to a Windows 7 Professional.

Vista Express Upgrade also used clearly defined upgrade paths. People who had bought a computer with Windows XP Media Centre Edition 2005, for example, were offered only Vista Home Premium, while those who purchased an XP Home PC were given Vista Home Basic.

Microsoft and its hardware partners will be hoping for a smoother road to the upgrades this time around. Vista Express Upgrade was plagued with problems, including delays before users received their upgrade discs.

In February 2007, nearly a month after Vista hit retail shelves, for instance, users flooded Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. support forums with angry messages about the wait.

In 2006 and 2007, PC makers charged a variety of prices for the XP-to-Vista upgrades.

TechARP did not have any information on pricing, which would, if the Windows 7 program is handled the same way, be up to the individual makers.

XP inclusion no surprise

The inclusion of new PCs running Windows XP shouldn’t come as any surprise, since by definition those systems also come with a license for Vista.

“Unlike actual Windows XP installations, [these PCs] come with a Windows Vista COA (Certificate of Authenticity) and are therefore eligible for the upgrade program,” said TechARP in its latest posting.

“Hence, users with Windows XP downgrade licenses can upgrade to Windows 7.”

Because Microsoft allows downgrades only from Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, the free or discounted upgrades to Windows 7 will be for Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate, respectively, claimed TechARP.

One caveat: Windows XP users will not be able to do an in-place upgrade to Windows 7, as can people running Vista. Instead, XP owners will have to do a clean install of Windows 7 that overwrites the hard drive’s contents.

Computer makers will be allowed to start shipping the Windows 7 upgrade media to customers when Microsoft announces the general availability of the new operating system.

As with the Vista Express Program, a similar marketing effort that offered free or discounted upgrades to Vista to people who purchased an XP-equipped machine during the three months leading to Vista’s launch, PC makers will be allowed to set their own pricing for the Windows 7 upgrades.

Three years ago, PC makers charged a variety of prices for the XP-to-Vista upgrades. Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, gave away the upgrades, but others, such as Dell Inc., charged users $49.

According to TechARP, new PCs purchased between June 26, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010, with a downgrade to XP Professional Service Pack 3 (SP3) will be eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade.

The site also said that XP users will be able to run Windows Easy Transfer from the Windows 7 installation disc prior to upgrading; that utility will let users save files and some Windows settings to an external drive, such as a flash drive, then, after the hard drive is wiped and Windows 7 installed, migrate those files and settings to the new operating system.

Although Microsoft has not committed to a delivery date for Windows 7, last month the company inadvertently revealed that it will post a release candidate next month.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment on Monday, but it has previously declined to comment on reports of its Windows 7 upgrade offers.


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