Easy XP to Win7 Upgrade Program Likely Illegal

Dennis Faas's picture

An independent software company is offering a program it says will smooth the process of upgrading from XP or Vista to Windows 7. But there are questions about whether or not it breaches Microsoft licensing conditions.

The package, called Desktop Upgrade to Windows, comes from Parallels. The firm specializes in virtualization software, most notably a package allowing Mac users to run Windows, which can be particularly useful for those making the leap from a PC to a Mac.

The software aims to deal with two major upgrading headaches: one is that, with the exception of moving from one edition of Vista to the equivalent edition of Windows 7, any XP or Vista to Windows 7 upgrade requires a clean install. That means effectively wiping the hard drive clean and starting from scratch, which (for most folks) entails backing up all programs and data first.

The second problem is that some applications, particularly from XP, aren't compatible with Windows 7.

The former problem is solved by a combination of automating the installation process and backing up the relevant data and settings to Parallels servers. (Source: parallels.com)

Virtual XP Runs Behind the Scenes

But it's the latter problem which raises legal queries. The software works by installing a copy of XP on the computer that runs in the background. Technically speaking it runs on a virtual machine, effectively treated as if a second computer were running. This then powers any applications which don't work in Windows 7.

That creates a situation where, technically, the user is running two different editions of Windows at once. That's only allowed where the user has bought the full-price copy of Windows 7; most users will have simply bought the lower-priced upgrade edition.

Issue Hasn't Blown Apart -- Yet

Parallels says it has no way of knowing the individual license situations of customers. Microsoft says it is talking to Parallels about the issue but isn't commenting further.

The program has a suggested retail price of $39.99, or $49.99 with a bundled USB 2.0 cable. Such cables can be bought elsewhere for less than this $10 premium, though it's not an extortionate mark-up. Of course, the cable is only needed when moving from one computer to another, for example in transferring XP or Vista files and settings to a new Windows 7 machine.

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