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If I’m performing a an upgrade to Windows 8, do I have to have the previous version installed, or is just having the key enough?

I have a license for Windows 7 but don't have it currently installed anywhere. I bought the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade. Do I need to install Windows 7 and then upgrade or is there a easier way to install Windows 8 Pro Upgrade?

When I try to activate I am getting an error Code: 0xC004F061. Description: The software licensing service determined that the specified product key can only be used for upgrading, not for clean installations.

  • You must have a license copy of Windows to upgrade to Windows 8. If you don't then purchase the System Builder license. The error is clear, you can't use it for a clean installation, you are out of luck.
    – Ramhound
    Oct 26, 2012 at 21:55

5 Answers 5


As already mentioned here, you'll need a previous version of Windows installed, it could be Windows 8 Release Preview too.

Alternatively, you could have purchased the System Builder version of Windows 8.


Do you have ANY Windows (XP or later) installation on any of your computers? You could try to clone the partition with this installation to the hard drive you want to have Windows 8 on and then boot the upgrade DVD (no point in booting the cloned system, it would probably want to install a lot of drivers, etc.)

Alternatively, if you have a backup of one of your Windows installations, you could restore this backup on the target machine before upgrading.


There is an old method originally used for Vista and also works for W7 and reportedly works for W8, it called the double install method. Basics are you install W8 using the advanced selection (which allows you to delete any partitons on the hard drive and clean install), once at the desktop launch the W8 installer from inside windows 8, and install a second time, this time it will active properly and you will have a clean install.

  • Any sources for this successfully working? Nov 2, 2012 at 18:11

More information about the error (0xC004F061) here.

According to reports, the same trick/workaround that enabled users to clean install using Windows 7 Upgrade media also works with Windows 8:

  1. Run Regedit (Win+Q, type regedit)

  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE

  3. Change MediaBootInstall from 1 to 0

  4. Go back to the Start Screen and type cmd there

  5. Right-click Command Prompt and run it as administrator

  6. Type slmgr /rearm

  7. Reboot

  8. Run the activation utility, enter the product key, cross your fingers and attempt to activate Windows

Note 1: According to other reports, this method (using the cheap $15/$40 Upgrade key to clean install) does not work with the USB/DVD (ISO) media the Upgrade Assistant allows you to create. Instead you apparently need either the Windows 8 (32/64-bit) DVD version (that contains both Core/Pro) available on MSDN, or possibly the System Builder DVD.

Note 2: If this doesn't work, the double install trick should (as mentioned by Moab).


  • Thanks, this worked very well for me. What a pain it is to use Windows legally...
    – Marius
    Feb 10, 2013 at 19:09

There is a custom install for windows 8 where you can use is as clean installation for Windows 8.

  • I did that but when I try to activate I am getting an error code. Oct 26, 2012 at 21:30
  • @Vineet Bhatia: Can you please paste the error here. Oct 26, 2012 at 21:31
  • added to the question Oct 26, 2012 at 21:34
  • @Vineet Bhatia: The serial key isn't right one for clean installation. Sorry to say, contact Microsoft. Oct 26, 2012 at 22:40

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