It was the final unanswered question about Windows 7. But now, thanks to numerous reader reports, my own hands-on experience, and a briefing with the team at Microsoft responsible for this technology, I think we have some answers. Sadly, Microsoft is still making it difficult to clean install Windows 7 with Upgrade media, as it did with Windows Vista. But fear not, there is some good news. While you can’t simply use Upgrade media to do a clean install of Windows 7 on a new or previously formatted PC, the workarounds this time are easier than ever. And that’s what this article is all about: Revealing the secrets to clean-installing Windows 7 with Upgrade media.
Remember how this used to work? In older versions of Windows, Microsoft would actually prompt you to insert an install floppy or CD from a previous Windows version, to prove that you qualified for the upgrade version. But beginning with Windows XP, PC makers were able to dramatically change the Windows install disc, so much so that, in some cases, those discs weren’t even identifiable as valid install media to Windows Setup. Clearly a different system was required.
In Windows Vista, Microsoft supported in-place upgrades from Windows XP, but if you wanted to use an Upgrade version of the Windows Vista Setup disc to do a clean install, you had to perform a weird double install trick. (I documented this process in How to Clean Install Windows Vista with Upgrade Media.)
When it comes to performing a clean install of Windows 7 using Upgrade media, there’s no simple answer. For some people, it just works, and I’ll provide information here so you can help ensure it just works for you, every time.