I’m seeing lots of posts these days about “evil Microsoft” being “greedy” and “forcing” people to buy full licenses instead of upgrades. These words are used about every time Microsoft releases something new and I’m still waiting for Microsoft employees to come at my door and put a gun on my head while shouting “sign this form and install Windows! NOW!!”.
This time, it’s all coming from a post from Eric Ligman on MSDN. Unfortunately, it seems that many people just misunderstood what the article is saying. I’m quoting: “technically possible does not always mean legal”. In his post, Eric does not point a finger at all the people who’re tricking the setup of Windows 7 to install onto a freshly formatted hard drive. His post talks about licenses, and licenses only: if you buy an upgrade license of Windows 7, for it to be valid, you need to own fully valid license of Windows XP or Windows Vista. That’s it, end of the discussion, that’s why upgrades are priced differently from full products. He does NOT imply that using the installation hack breaks your license to use Windows as it does not.
The problem at hand is that people always mix technical things and legality issues. This case is similar to when people were saying that you could change a couple of registry keys in Windows 2000 to make it work like the Server Edition. That was technically possible, but legally, you did not ended-up with a Windows Server license so people using this trick were probably be better off just pirating the real CD of Windows Server in the first place. Eric’s post is directed toward all the general users who may be in search for a bargain for their Windows 7 shopping. Some people would find this way to hack the installation, would not understand the possible legal requirements (= owning a license of XP or Vista) and would happily buy an upgrade of something they don’t have. Those people would not be thinking they are pirating anything and these are the same people who could complain later on if WGA bugs them about the issue (it won’t happen in this case but you see the point).
If I buy myself a GPS and set of brand new tires, I won’t expect Audi to give me a car to go with them, even if that GPS and those tires are designed specifically for Audi cars. The same logic applies to software and software upgrades. In the end, it’s just a matter of paying for what you’re using. I agree Microsoft probably made a bad decision in preventing people from doing fresh installs like they could before, I also find that annoying, but this is not an excuse for pirating it. If you own an XP or a Vista license, you’re free to install Windows 7 anyway you like, really, I don’ t see why Microsoft would mind. And to those claiming Microsoft is ripping them off, I have a solution for you.