Livingston Off Base On Vista Upgrade Use

Brian Livingston wrote a very controversial article in his Windows Secrets newsletter last week. The article was titled “Get Vista upgrade, never pay full price” and discusses how you can use an upgrade version of Vista to do a clean install of Microsoft’s new version of Windows. Upgrades are meant to install over Windows XP but Brian explains how to install the upgrade on an empty hard drive, an operation reserved for the full version of Vista.

The topic itself is not very controversial. Every time Microsoft releases a new Windows version a slew of articles are published describing how to do this very thing. The controversial part was Brian’s justification for actually carrying out this type of install.

Microsoft spent years developing and testing Vista. This upgrade trick must have been known to many, many people within the development team. Either Microsoft planned this upgrade path all along, knowing that computer magazines and newsletters (like this one) would widely publicize a way to “save money buying Vista.” Or else some highly placed coders within the Vista development team decided that Vista’s “full” price was too high and that no one should ever have to pay it. In either case, Vista’s setup.exe is Microsoft’s official install routine, and I see no problem with using it exactly as it was designed.

I’m no great fan of Microsoft and it’s business practices but that’s the king of all rationalizations. And while I agree with Brian’s statement that “this isn’t a black-hat hacker exploit” it’s still akin to saying that identity thieves are justified for taking advantage of known security holes to acquire peoples personal data. In both cases the person carrying out the operation is using software in a way that was not intended. And a defense the developers left a hole there to be used would not hold up in a criminal court.

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