Warning: Always look at the date when you read a hardware article. Some of the content in this article is most likely out of date, as it was written on November 7, 2006. Check out our more recent articles.
When it comes to upgrade options for Vista, there are plenty of ads out there (such as the one above), but what is sorely lacking is a place you can go to just get the facts. In my search, it seems there are plenty of websites that speculate about the upgrade options, and even more websites that are complaining about one Vista feature or another. However, what isn't being addressed is that people just need to know, in simple terms, what upgrade options there are. As a system builder, this is information we really need to know, so after weeks of squeezing information out of every contact possible, I would like to help by providing this information to everyone in as clear a format as possible.
One of the biggest topics we're getting asked about right now is the Vista upgrade coupons. This is a program recently announced by Microsoft, as a means to help the computer industry through the holiday season (since Vista will be released immediately after the holiday season). These upgrade coupons are provided by Microsoft, and give people who purchase computers with Windows XP this holiday season the ability to upgrade to an analogous Vista version for just the cost of shipping and handling (about $20).
Of course, it can't all be good news, can it? The downside to the program is that you can only upgrade to 64 bit Vista if you purchased Windows XP 64 bit, which is much less common. Personally, going 64 bit is one of the biggest things I'm looking forward to in Vista, so that's a problem for me. Some have suggested that this is Microsoft's way of making an upgrade gesture while also encouraging new purchases. Whatever the case, it is good to know!
|What about Vista Ultimate?|
Since here at Puget, one of our biggest markets is the high end enthusiast crowd, we expect that Windows Vista Ultimate will be one of our more popular versions, even though it is more expensive. You'll notice that there is no upgrade path to that version, which may be another problem for some people. Here is a quick overview of the major versions of Vista to help give you some perspective:
Notes: For more in-depth information, an excellent resource describing the versions in more detail can be found at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. Also, I mentioned Aero a few times -- in simple terms, that is the new shiny interface that makes Vista look nice. Here is a video demonstration.
If you want to upgrade to Windows Vista Ultimate, do you have any way to do so? It looks possible! Once you have upgraded yourself to Vista, you can use a new feature called Anytime Upgrade. This is a new service Microsoft is providing, to allow you to pay for an upgrade to a higher version. When you purchase an upgrade license, you can insert your Windows Vista CD or DVD to perform the upgrade process. Not a lot of information is out yet on this feature or what the costs will be, but if you're looking to upgrade to Vista Ultimate, it looks like you'll be able to.
|Upgrade or Clean Install?|
Although I always recommend a clean installation, all of the upgrade paths discussed above will be able to be performed with an in-place upgrade installation. That means that (in theory), you can perform the upgrade while keeping your files and programs intact. However, upgrade installations are typically more problematic, so go for the clean install if you can. Here is a helpful chart showing you what installation options are possible based on your upgrade path.
Speaking as a system builder, these upgrade options are a welcome announcement! With a holiday season fast approaching, this gives consumers the ability to purchase the computer they need without feeling like they are throwing away money on Windows XP, which is going to be a great help to PC sales. Of course, the upgrade path isn't without its trouble -- you'll have to pay the $20 for shipping and handling, you have to wait for the upgrade disk, and then you have to actually perform the upgrade. Depending on your experience level with OS installations, you may not be comfortable performing the upgrade installation.