I am planning to install Windows 8 on my machine and I'm wondering what the best way to go about this is based on my rather unusual situation:

My machine originally shipped with (what I understand to be) an OEM copy of Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit). This was installed on the machine when I bought it - the hard drive contained two partitions: the Vista partition and the recovery partition.

Now, here's where things get a little bit confusing - I eventually swapped out the original hard drive for an SSD and did not preserve the Vista installation (or the recovery partition) on the new drive. I have been dual-booting Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 8 CP.

Now I would like to install Windows 8 on this machine and I should definitely qualify for the $40 upgrade offer - my only problem is how to go about this, since obviously the installer needs to verify I do have a valid licensed copy of Windows Vista.

There is a little sticker on the bottom of the machine with the Windows logo and a serial number - will that work? I still have the original hard drive with Vista and the recovery partition if necessary. I was wondering if I could clone the recovery partition, dump it on the SSD, perform the recovery to install Vista on the machine, and then upgrade that - but I'd love to hear if there is an easier way.

Edit: some comments below made me realize that I missed a couple of things in my original question (sorry about that).

  • I have a 32-bit copy of Windows Vista and I would like to end up with a 64-bit copy of Windows 8 (I am using the 64-bit copy of the Consumer Preview right now).

  • Obviously a direct upgrade from 32-bit Vista to 64-bit Windows 8 isn't going to work. I was hoping to perform a clean installation of Windows 8 regardless of whether I start with my Vista installation or not.

  • You need windows installed, either on the target machine or another machine, as the upgrade utility only runs on Windows... Once you download the upgrade you can either put it on USB or a disk drive then install it on the target computer... The only way around not having windows installed (that I know of) is to buy the physical media for 69.99$. The way to get around the Windows needing a copy of Windows is simple as well, all you have to is install it as a clean install, boot, but don't activate it, then do the upgrade from the inactivated install. – TheXed Oct 26 '12 at 18:43
  • Hmm, if I’m not mistaken, you can use the same key for 32- or 64-bit, so you should be able to install a 64-bit copy of Vista with your key and upgrade that to 64-bit Windows 8. I’m not sure if the Consumer Preview is eligible for the $40 upgrade because I notice that the documents specifically say Release Preview, so unless they are the same (which doesn’t seem to be the case), then you might have to reinstall Vista first. – Synetech Oct 27 '12 at 0:15
  • Apparently you can get ISO files for Windows Vista from Digital River and use the product key on the machine to complete the installation. If that is truly the case, that might save me a lot of time and trouble. I can perform a clean install of Vista (64-bit) and then perform a clean upgrade to Windows 8. – Nathan Osman Oct 27 '12 at 0:41

Everywhere that mentions the upgrade, at least on paper, indicates that the requirement states that you need to be running a legitimate copy of Windows XP, Vista, or 7 [1][2][3], and that you need to have a valid base license and one of the following operating systems. This can be interpreted as requiring that the OS to be upgraded actually be installed (which you can certainly do since you have the key).

However, Microsoft has said

"They won't need to reinstall the previous version to do the upgrade; they can just upgrade on top of the Release Preview,"

So, you should be fine. You should be able to install the upgrade on either your Windows 8 Release Preview or enter your Windows Vista key. The Upgrade Assistant will let you choose to upgrade directly or build installation media. The upgrade process[4][5][6] will eventually prompt you for a key, and it should detect if the key is from XP, Vista, or 7 and ask you if you want to upgrade. (I can’t seem to find the page at the moment—I’ll link to it when I find it—but one of the upgrading to Windows 8 pages specifically mentions that the installation process detects the Windows version from the key, so it should acknowledge the attempt to upgrade.)

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Worst-case scenario, you can re-install Vista with your key and upgrade to Windows 8 from there.

  • I've read the article you linked to but there appears to be one slight problem: "Assuming the customer had a previous version of Windows installed before the Release Preview..." seems to rule out my situation since I installed the Release Preview on a brand new hard drive (it wasn't an upgrade from Vista). – Nathan Osman Oct 26 '12 at 18:56
  • You should be prompted for a key. Try using your Windows 7 key, at which point you should/may be prompted for the upgrade. If that doesn’t work, then you can reinstall Windows 7 with the key, then upgrade directly from there. – Synetech Oct 26 '12 at 18:57
  • @Synetech - The author doesn't have Windows 7, he has a 32-bit installation of Windows Vista, so this means while he can go to Windows 8 it would have to be 32-bit. The upgrade path is also limited going from Vista to 8. – Ramhound Oct 26 '12 at 19:55
  • @Ramhound, the author of what? Are you talking about the OP? If so, they never mentioned anything about 64-bit, so that’s not relevant. – Synetech Oct 26 '12 at 20:01
  • @Synetech: Sorry, I should have added a couple of details to my question - which I have now done. Your answer is very helpful though. – Nathan Osman Oct 26 '12 at 20:27

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