FAQ: Windows 7 Family Pack and Anytime Upgrades

Which Windows versions are eligible, where to get it and other details

Microsoft Corp.'s release last week of details on the Family Pack and Anytime Upgrade licenses for Windows 7 were, by the softmaker's standards, downright minimalist. That left many potential buyers scratching their heads. After a conversation with Microsoft, we've tried to answer your questions.

Will all Windows 7 PCs be eligible for Anytime Upgrades, including pre-installed copies of Windows 7, i.e. OEM versions? Sold to PC makers at a heavy discount, OEM copies of Windows are often treated as second-class citizens by Microsoft, rendering them ineligible for many upgrade programs. That's not true of Anytime Upgrades, which will be available to any Windows 7 user, but are expected to be most taken up by those owning OEM copies of Windows 7, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Will Microsoft also honor OEM licenses of XP and Vista for its Family Pack upgrades? Yes! Whether it's a 7-year-old desktop running its original copy of Windows XP, or a year-old Vista laptop with the same, both can be upgraded to Windows 7 Home Premium via the $149.99 three-license Family Pack.

Can I upgrade my OEM copy of XP or Vista to Windows 7 Home Premium via the Family Pack, and then transfer the whole she-bang to a custom-built PC without its own Windows license (OEM or not)? No, because OEM licenses are only legal if running on their original hardware. They cannot be transferred to another PC.

Can I do the Family Pack upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium from any SKU of Vista or XP? Yes. Contrary to rumor, you do not have to be running a home version of Vista or XP to upgrade to Home Premium. Thus, you can go to Windows 7 Home Premium from XP Home or Pro, and from any of the six versions of Vista. The difference, though, is that for XP and for "higher" editions of Vista, such as Enterprise, Business and Ultimate, users will need to do a clean install of Windows 7 Home Premium (Users will be allowed to archive their existing Windows files and settings for transfer to their new environment). For the consumer editions of Vista, users can do a faster upgrade installation.

Can I take my old, decommissioned PC home from work and install a Family Pack Upgrade on it? Most likely. While your company's volume license of Vista or XP expired as soon as you took the PC home, the computer almost certainly shipped from the factory with an OEM license of XP or Vista. That would suffice.

Am I limited to installing my Family Pack upgrades on just three PCs? You are limited to running the Famly Pack upgrades on three PCs at the same time. But as long as you uninstall or de-commission your Home Premium upgrade license on a PC first, you can re-install it on a different PC.

Where will I be able to buy the Family Pack? Microsoft is being coy. Besides the U.S. and Canada, Microsoft won't confirm other countries where it will sell the upgrade pack. "Most major retailers" will sell it, as well as the online Microsoft Store, said a spokeswoman.

How much will the Family Pack cost outside of the U.S.? Microsoft confirmed a price of $199.99 in Canada. Because no other countries are confirmed yet, no prices are available, the spokeswoman said.

Why is Microsoft limiting the supply of Family Packs? Family Packs will become available at Windows 7's official launch on Oct. 22 and will be available only until supplies last, Microsoft said. Why? Probably to create a sense of scarcity, in order to stoke demand and excitement, as its recently concluded limited time offer of discounted Windows 7 pre-orders did.

Microsoft will only say that "we continue to explore ways of bringing value to our customers through compelling offers, and this is just one option we're trying with Windows 7."

Will Microsoft release a Family Pack of Windows 7 Ultimate licenses? "We have no information about additional offerings at this time," the spokeswoman said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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