Windows 7

Windows 7 Upgrade Paths

Windows 7 is the next generation of operating system due from Microsoft with an expected releaseof of late October 22, 2009.

As part of some recent posts here on the site I have written articles that deal with upgrading previous versions of Microsoft Windows to Windows 7.

Upgrading Windows XP Professional SP3 to Windows 7 Ultimate was an article that I wrote intentionally misnamed as upgrades from Windows XP Professional to any version of Windows 7 are not supported.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] The actual walkthrough showed the steps when an upgrade installation is attempted and how the installation routine defaults to a Custom (advanced) clean install because it is not permitted.

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Upgrading Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate walked through the steps of performing a supported upgrade to Windows 7.

An additional article, Setting up Windows Vista to multi-boot Windows 7 Ultimate, reviewed the steps to set up a system with an additional partition (by shrinking the existing volume) where an existing operating system was already installed so that you could have an environment that would allow you to dual boot into that existing operating system or the new install of Windows 7 (covered in my Dual Booting Windows Vista with Windows 7 Ultimate walkthrough).

Recently, Microsoft released a white paper titled Windows 7 Upgrade Paths that outlined the support boundaries for supported upgrades from prior installations of Windows operating systems to Windows 7. I wanted to provide that summary information here and to go into a little additional details on the topic.

What “Supported Upgrade” Means

Microsoft outlines which versions of an operating system can be upgraded, both from a specific operating system and to one as well. Historically this has meant understanding Home versions from Professional versions and more recently understanding the limitations of x86 editions and x64 editions when the hardware scales to either.

You also need to have a subtle understanding of the potential impact of multiple upgrades on a single system.

As an example, you cannot upgrade from Windows 2000 Professional to Windows 7.

If the underlying hardware supported it, you could upgrade Windows 2000 Professional to Windows XP Professional is supported. Upgrading that same system now from Windows XP Professional to Windows Vista Ultimate is also supported technically speaking – again, if the hardware met the minimum requirements and the driver updates were available.

From there you can upgrade that Windows Vista Ultimate installation to Windows 7 Ultimate Edition (if the hardware met the minimum requirements and the driver updates were available).

Technically speaking you skirted the supported upgrade limitation of going from Windows 2000 Professional to Windows 7 Ultimate.

There are a ton of factors complicating your effort of course.

From the administrative effort point of view, that is a lot of work over just doing a clean installation.

From a security and system stability point of view, especially if the system was used over a period of time, you are going to be negatively impacting a system with a multiple in place upgrade effort as outlined above and would be much better served doing a custom installation that results in a clean install when given the scenario as described.

So in a nutshell – technically speaking you’d be in a supported configuration to do an in place upgrade but from a practical standpoint you’re “breaking the spirit of the rule” for lack of a better definition.

Unsupported Upgrade Scenarios

As outlined within the whitepaper the following operating systems are unsupported for direct upgrade to any version of Windows 7:

  • Windows 95
  • Windows 98
  • Windows Millennium Edition
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista RTM
  • Windows Vista Starter
  • Windows 7 M3
  • Windows 7 Beta
  • Windows 7 RC
  • Windows 7 IDS
  • Windows NT Server 4.0
  • Windows 2000 Server
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2008 R2

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] Windows NT4 Workstation is not included in the list despite the fact that Windows NT Server 4.0 is. You’ll notice as well that Windows 2000 Professional is also missing. It is safe to assume that neither of those desktop operating systems can be directly upgraded to any version of Windows 7.

Windows NT4 workstation has been out of support for a number of years and with respect to Windows 2000 Professional and the fact that a clean installation is required to get to Windows Vista, it is a safe bet that going to Windows 7 is going to require the same effort to keep the desktop operating system in a supported condition.


  • Cross-architecture upgrades, such as taking an x86 build and upgrading it to x64 are NOT supported.
  • Cross-language in-place upgrades (i.e. en-us to de-de) are NOT supported.
  • Cross-SKU upgrades (i.e. Windows 7 N to Windows 7 K) are NOT supported.
  • Cross-build type in-place upgrades (i.e. fre to chk) are NOT supported.
  • Pre-release in-place upgrades across milestones (i.e. Windows 7 RC to Windows 7 RTM) are NOT supported.
  • Upgrades from Windows Vista to Windows N, Windows K, Windows KN, or Windows E are NOT supported.

As a final point, there is often the situation where something is “not supported” but yet works somehow (through custom configuration, an error checking routine that fails and allows something that shouldn’t be allowed, etc). All this means is that you were able to complete your unsupported action – it doesn’t mean that it would be supported if you needed to get assistance from support nor would it mean that it would run correctly in the future.

Supported Upgrade Scenarios

From Windows Vista Service Pack 1 or Service Pack 2 you can upgrade the following versions of Windows Vista in place to the corresponding versions of Windows 7:

Windows Vista Home Basic can be upgraded to

  • Windows 7 Home Basic Edition
  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Windows Vista Home Premium can be upgraded to

  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Windows Vista Business can be upgraded to

  • Windows 7 Professional Edition
  • Windows 7 Enterprise Edition
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Windows Vista Enterprise can be upgraded to

  • Windows 7 Enterprise Edition

Windows Vista Ultimate can be upgrade to

  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

In a situation where a “lower” SKU version of Windows 7 is already installed and you want to do an in place upgrade to a “higher” SKU, you can do so in a supported fashion by performing an in place upgrade in the following situations:

Windows 7 Starter (x86) can be upgrade to

  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
  • Windows 7 Professional Edition
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Windows 7 Home Basic can be upgrade to

  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
  • Windows 7 Professional Edition
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Windows 7 Home Premium

  • Windows 7 Professional Edition
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

Windows 7 Professional

  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] The actual whitepaper does not indicate that Windows 7 Starter Edition can be upgraded to Windows 7 Home Basic.

Generally speaking, I always assume that the information provided on the Microsoft website and within its whitepapers to be the most authoritative source of information since they are the ones that own the operating systems and applications.

Having said that (and without testing it myself) it would seem logical to be able to go from Windows 7 Starter Edition to Windows 7 Home Basic if the in place upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium is supported since Home Premium is a super set of sorts over Home Basic.

This concludes my review of the supported Windows 7 Upgrade Paths as outlined in the recent whitepaper release from Microsoft. I hope you found it informative.

Microsoft provides a free 90-day trial of Windows 7 Enterprise here, if you’d like for yourself… I certainly recommend it!

I am looking forward to any feedback you have on the article and I would also welcome any suggestions for topics of interest that you would like to see covered. Based on demand and column space I’ll do what I can to deliver them to you.

Best of luck in your studies.

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