Installing Windows 7 from an Upgrade Disk

Just a month or so ago now I received my shiny new MacBook Pro. While the matter of a long-time Microsoft fan selling out his soul so easily is the subject for another day, it is worth mentioning that I did not (indeed could not!) ditch the Windows operating system. My initial thoughts were fairly optimistic – all Macs now come with a utility called Boot Camp, which provides official support for installing a full copy of Windows alongside the existing OS X installation.

My problems, however, began when I started to read the Boot Camp installation guide. To my horror, in a clear notice in the guide, I was told that only a full installation disk for Windows can be used to install a Boot Camp (Windows) partition on the machine. Now, having long used Windows Vista on a previous laptop (which I was in the process of retiring), and given my purchase of a Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade disk less than a year earlier, I was most reluctant to shell out another larger sum of cash just to get Windows 7 running on my MacBook Pro. As it happens, my stubbornness insisted that I proceed with the Boot Camp installation anyway. (A few quickly researched articles online seemed to suggest I might have luck doing this.) In fact, I managed to use the upgrade disk to get as far as the verification code screen in the setup, before I decided things weren’t going to happen. Long story short: I played around with things for a while, eventually found a Microsoft support number to call, and had a very helpful and knowledgeable support technician guide me through the end of the installation and activation process.

As there appears to be minimal information regarding this process online, I thought I would post a short set of instructions here for all who are interested. Myself, I was much reassured to know that it is possible to make a clean installation of Windows (7) from an upgrade disk and activate the copy. While I have not tried the process on a machine other than my MacBook / outside of Boot Camp, I was reliabily informed that the process is no different. These are the steps to follow:

  1. Insert the Windows Upgrade disk.
  2. Follow the setup wizard and select the “clean install” option.
  3. Windows should proceed to install successfully, and after a few reboots, you will reach the license key screen.
  4. Leave the box for the license key blank and continue.
  5. The installation should complete and you should be able to temporarily use Windows in “trial” mode (unactivated license).
  6. Reboot the machine with the upgrade disk still in the drive.
  7. When the setup screen loads, now select the “upgrade” option.
  8. The setup should proceed to perform an “upgrade”. In fact, you are just “upgrading” Windows 7 to Windows 7 (in my case) – this is required for the sake of license activation.
  9. When the upgrade process completes, log on to your administrator account.
  10. Open the Computer Properties window (Control Panel\System and Security\System).
  11. At the bottom of the page is the Windows activation section. Select the “Change product key” option.
  12. Enter the product key for your Windows Upgrade disk, and voila, you should have a full licensed copy of Windows in your machine.
  13. (If the previous activation step did not work, try the phone activation upon failure, which is virtually guaranteed to succeed.)

While this process is somewhat non-intuitive and poorly documented, it is nonetheless quite possible. (I suspect there may be a loophole that allows customers of only upgrade disks to install full licensed versions of Windows, which explains the lack of information on the matter.) Either way, I hope this short guide helps save others the moderate amount of pain and trouble I had trying to work around this issue myself! I would be pleased to hear of any other success stories.

8 Responses to “Installing Windows 7 from an Upgrade Disk”

  1. Amar says:

    While this has been known to work unofficially for a long time, I’m surprised to hear it recommended to you by a Microsoft technician! :P

  2. Noldorin says:

    Indeed, it’s slightly surprising. Still, finding confirmation that this solution works (or even a suggestion of it in the first place) is not easy online! It’s as if someone’s been taking down all the websites describing it, hah.

  3. Bee says:

    I’m currently in the process of downloading the Win 7 SP1 ISO via one of the direct ISO links from Microsoft. Do you know if it’d be possible to clean install using this (using no serial) through bootcamp, and then upgrading from that to complete the activation (after inserting a valid serial number)?

    tl;dr – I want to do the same thing as you did but using a Win7 SP1 ISO instead of the upgrade disk. Will it work?


  4. David Crook says:

    The following is as of 4-2-13. Using OS X 10.8.3 and Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, proceed as outlined above, leaving blank the product key line. Installation will finish and system will restart. Reinsert Win7 installation disk and reinstall, this time choosing the Upgrade option. When finished and again restarted, you can then enter your product key at the Change product key option.

  5. Jason says:

    I just wondering I have windows 7 home do I need to install windows vista witch I have as well its 32bit from what I understand it won’t work? But if I just use the upgrade disk windows 7 64bit this will work once I do the bootcamp assistance?

  6. Jason says:

    to update wahat I asked I ment to say,…..WILL this work once I use the bootcamp assistance?

  7. Noldorin says:

    Yep, should be no problem! Just ignore the original 32-bit installation disk and use the 64-bit upgrade disk.

  8. ryan says:

    i accidentally clicked upgrade install instead of custom.. when i try to install again i cant get back to that screen to choose the install type, anybody know how?

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