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Time to kill the OS upgrade disc?

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CNet's Rafe Needleman has a great idea: Kill the OS upgrade disc!

Here's a better idea: Sell software at a reasonable price. And take the upgrades off the shelves.

I love upgrades. But I hate upgrade discs and upgrade pricing. Let's find a way to do away with both, or at least make the upgrade transaction a bit cleaner. The reason I'm writing this column won't be a surprise to anyone one who follows technology: Windows 7. I bought the upgrade disc (on the pre-order special price). When it arrived, I started the upgrade process for my Vista desktop. Knowing that the disc was licensed only to upgrade an existing Windows installation, I pressed the big button for a "Custom" installation and the disc set up my computer more-or-less cleanly with Windows 7. What I really wanted to do was re-format my hard drive and start from a blank slate on my computer, but I was afraid to do that since I thought the disc would see that as a non-upgrade install and not work.

He includes OSX in this, too.

Interesting point he's making. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

There's a problem on both sides of the checkout counter with single pricing something that is effectively a subscription service masquerading as a packaged product. Existing software customers have refused to accept the subscription model, and also expect to be given a significant price break on any new releases.

Then there's also the issue of how to further the adoption cycle of a new release. Most software makers are extremely reluctant to risk doing anything that could be perceived as rewarding the 'late adopters' and 'version skippers.' Single 'versioning' would amount to an amnesty program for dawdlers if they went that route.

So various customer incentive deals have become almost mandatory when trying to convince a customer to spring for an upgrade they (very likely) don't actually need.

And since it's all about customer expectations, I'm willing to bet that "upgrade" and "pre-order" prices (and disks) are here to stay, no matter what anybody says.


BTW: I'm amazed somebody 'in the biz' (and a CNET editor no less) isn't aware of Paul Thurott's simple workarounds to do a clean install of Win7 using upgrade disks. It's been all over the web, and blogged extensively, so I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned in Rafe's article.

In case anybody missed Thurott's original article, here's the link to the (now updated) how-to:


However, on the local shelves here, the full version (for Win7) is only $20 more than the upgrade! All the while, piracy glides along, with the starter/32/64 versions already cracked and posted online.

I downloaded and installed the Home Premuim "upgrade" from Microsoft. I only do clean installs (if I can) so I decided to try doing a clean install using the ISO I downloaded from MS. It worked just like Vista - if you don't put in a key during the install it'll install a "trial" - the only difference is that it did not ask which version I bought. I left it installed for I guess about a week now and just a minute ago put in the key. So far so good, it activated without even a hickup.

To summarize: I did a clean install using the "upgrade" key I got from Microsoft.

Oh, even though I hadn't read Paul's site before, what I did was what he labeled "Method #1".

Then again, perhaps Microsoft wants you to buy a new Win7 PC instead. You figure that most people don't change the OS except when they buy a new computer. The OEM version on a new system is what, $50? But if you're a consumer, the only choice you have at the store is either pay Microsoft or Pay Apple (whose OS is tied to its hardware).

If you're thinking the math doesn't add up, then consider when a small business upgrades 100-500 PCs. Pay the $220 for the upgrade (or $1500[?] for the volume license), or simply buy new machines with it already loaded.


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