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I'm currently running a legit copy of Windows Vista Home. I've got this student discount to buy Windows 7 Professional "Upgrade" for $64. Thats a good deal, right?

So, I want to buy this and run windows 7, but I want to reformat my computer when I do. Is this still possible? Or do I upgrade from Vista and them I'm stuck forever?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are two different, independent concepts here that get confused often.

When purchasing Windows (or Office), there are two different editions you can buy:

  1. Full license. This is the more expensive SKU. You are always welcome to purchase this SKU and install it on a computer of your choosing.

  2. Upgrade license, for owners of a previous version's full license. If you already have a license of XP or Vista, you are allowed to purchase the Upgrade SKU for Windows 7.

Which license you choose is 100% a legal issue; there is no difference in functionality between the two editions. The idea is that you purchase one full license of the software and from then on you can upgrade to newer versions at a reduced cost.

When installing Windows, you again have two options:

  1. Upgrade from existing installation. If you don't want to wipe the computer, you can take this option. It will upgrade Windows and try to leave all your files, programs, and settings in place. You can choose this option whether you've purchased an upgrade or full edition of Windows.

  2. Clean install. This option formats the volume before installing a fresh copy of Windows. Again, this option is available whether you purchased the upgrade or full edition of Windows. In the past, an upgrade SKU of Windows would ask for the previous edition's CD for verification that you've owned a full license previously; I haven't seen this in a long time, though, so it might not still be the case.

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Vista came with my computer; bought it from dell. This means I can't upgrade? – Citizen May 31 '10 at 5:02
Yes, you can upgrade. I made a mistake; I was confusing upgrading an OEM license (which is allowed) with migrating an OEM license to a new computer (which is not allowed). I've updated my answer. – Stephen Jennings May 31 '10 at 5:11
Thanks. Once I upgrade, can I reformat again in the future? – Citizen May 31 '10 at 5:29
Yes, you can reinstall as many times as you want. – Stephen Jennings May 31 '10 at 6:41
Are you allowed to upgrade an upgrade? – Hello71 Jun 1 '10 at 23:29

The Windows 7 installer supports formatting your drive during the install for upgrade editions. You will need to boot off of the install disc and choose the Custom installation option. This should present you, eventually, with the option of formatting the drive.

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So basically, the installer checks to make sure that I'm running vista, and then does a clean install? – Citizen May 31 '10 at 4:28
That is correct – Nick May 31 '10 at 4:57

'Upgrading' and 'Clean Install' are mutually exclusive, you have to choose one or the other. It sounds like you want to do an Update, then wipe the free space on your disk.

I had bad experiences Upgrading windows previously, but that was back 10 years ago. I've heard much better experiences upgrading Vista to Windows 7.

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