Clean Install From Upgrade Vista

How to Do a Clean Install of Vista with a Upgrade Version
This will show you how to do a CLEAN install with a Express or Retail Upgrade Version of Vista instead of having to install your previous OS (EX: XP) then Vista. This will prevent compatibility issues between the previous OS and Vista.
How to Do a Clean Install with a Upgrade Version of Vista

information   Information
This will show you how to do a CLEAN install with a Express or Retail Upgrade version of Vista instead of having to install your previous OS (EX: XP) then Vista. This will prevent compatibility issues between the previous OS and Vista.

Note   Note

  • A OEM Recovery installation DVD can only do a clean install. It is just a clone of the hard drive that will set your computer back like it was from day one. The installation process is basically the same though.
  • A Express or Retail Vista can be installed on any one computer at a time for as many times as you like. A OEM Vista may only be able to be installed on the exact same computer as many times as you like. The product key number for the Vista 32 bit version is the same one for it's 64 bit version. You can only have the Product Key activated on one computer and version of 32 bit or 64 bit Vista at a time. See: Microsoft: License Terms for Software Licensed from Microsoft
  • Sometimes people have problems installing Vista with more than 2 GB of RAM installed. If you have this problem, then you should install Vista with a maximum of 2GB of RAM installed and add the rest of the RAM after Vista is fully installed.
Some Common Installation Problems:

Windows Help and Support: KB935806 Troubleshooting Stop error messages that may occur when you try to install Windows Vista


Windows Help and Support: KB929777 Error message when you try to install Windows Vista on a computer that uses more than 3 GB of RAM: "STOP 0x0000000A"

warning   Warning

  • If you do not have a legal copy of XP with your corresponding or better Upgrade Vista, then you have violated the EULA and it is considered theft which you may face prosecution for. For the license terms for Vista, see: Microsoft: License Terms for Software Licensed from Microsoft
  • You can upgrade from your current edition of Microsoft Windows XP to a corresponding or better edition of Windows Vista by purchasing and installing an upgrade copy of Windows Vista. Go to this link for details on corresponding versions: Windows Vista: Upgrade Paths from Previous Versions
Tip   Tip
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS FOR VISTANOTE: For more information, see: Microsoft Windows Vista: Recommended System Requirements

Vista Home Basic
  • Processor: 1GHz (32 or 64 bit)
  • System Memory (RAM): 512MB
  • Hard Drive: 20GB with 15GB available for Vista
  • Video Card: 32MB Memory and DirectX 9 Support
  • DVD-ROM Drive
Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate
  • Processor: 1GHz (32 or 64 bit)
  • System Memory (RAM): 1GB
  • Hard Drive: 40GB with 15GB available for Vista
  • Video Card: 128MB Memory, DirectX 9 Support with: WDDM Driver, Pixel Shader 2.0, 32bits per pixel
  • DVD-ROM Drive


warning   Warning
Before doing this clean install, you should download and save all of your device drivers to a USB flash drive, another HDD\partition, DVD, or some other media, to have them handy to make setting Vista back up easier after installation.

1. Boot the computer from your Vista Upgrade installation DVD.
NOTE: Make sure that the CD/DVD drive is selected first in the boot order in the BIOS.
2. When prompted, press any key to start Vista from the installation DVD. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: You will only have about 8 seconds to press this key. If you miss it, you will have to restart the computer.

3. Set up your language preferences and click on Next. (See screeshot below).​

4. Click on Install Now to start the installation. (See screenshot below)​

5. Select Do not get the latest updates for installation. (See screenshot below)​

6. Do not type in a product key. (See screenshot below)​
7. Leave the Automatically activate Windows when I'm online box unchecked.​
8. Click on Next.​

9. Click on the No button for the Do you want to enter your product key now? prompt. (See screenshot below)​

10. Select which version of Vista you have. (See screenshot below)​
11. Check I have selected the edition of Windows that I purchased and click on Next. (See screenshot below)​

12. Click on Custom (advanced). (See screenshot below)​

13. Select the hard drive you want to install Vista on and click on Drive Options (advanced). (See screenshot below)​

14. Click on Format to format the hard drive. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: If you have more than one partition on this hard drive and want to get rid of it to make one big drive, then click Delete for each partition. Now click on New and adjust the partition size to what you want, then click on Format.
15. Click on Next when it is done formating the hard drive.​

16. Follow any instructions left until Vista is finished installing and has rebooted to the final welcome screen on the Vista desktop.​


17. When this first install is done, run the Vista Upgrade installation again from within the First Install (STEP ONE) of Vista this time.​
WARNING: Do not boot from the Vista DVD this time. Leave the Vista installation DVD in the CD/DVD drive.
A) Click on Computer in the Start menu.​
B) Click on the DVD drive to open a window with the DVD files.​
C) Click on Setup to start the 2nd install.​
D) Repeat steps 4 and 5 above.​

18. This time, type in your product key for Vista and click Next. (See screenshot below step 8)​
NOTE: If you are upgrading from Vista to another version of Vista, then type in the product key for the new version.
19. Leave the Automatically activate Windows when I'm online box unchecked. (See screenshot below step 8)​
20. Check the I accept the license terms box. (See screenshot below step 21)​
21. Click on Next.​

22. This time, click on the Upgrade option. (See screenshot below)​

23. To setup Vista, see the STEP TWO section here: How to Do a Clean Install with a Full Version of Vista
24. Remove the Vista installation DVD.​
25. Run Disk Cleanup.​
A) Check Files discarded by Windows upgrade. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: These will be the leftover upgrade files, C:\$INPLACE.~TR and C:\$WINDOWS.~Q, that did not get copied over.
B) Click on OK to delete it.​

26. Update your WEI score.​
27. Now all you need to do is to activate Vista.​
A) Right click Computer (Start Menu) and click Properties, or open the Control Panel (Classic View) and click on the System icon.​
B) Scroll down a bit and click: Activate Windows Now. (See screenshot below)​

NOTE: Now you have a clean install of the Upgrade version with no remnants of XP, or previous OS, to mess you up later.

That's it,



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Who Dat?
Power User
I have been trying for the past two days to get my computer back up and running after my boot hard drive quit working suddenly and for no apart reason.
My main hard drive (with all my important saved information) was unharmed by the inexplicable frying of my old IDE drive.
I still am going to get the hard drive but THANK YOU for saving me so much time!
I can't do much (still in high school lol) but this being beyond helpful I will try donate to that new computer everyone is trying to get you.


Staff member
You're welcome BigEasy18. I'm happy ro hear that it was able to save you time and was helpful.

Thanks so much for these tutorials... I had an XP Pro x64 that I had gotten Express Upgrade on, then had my motherboard warrantied and replaced with another model by ASUS. Long story short, when I found this post, I already had a 1 week old unactivated Vista installation, because I had run the installation without entering my product key. Since this was on a dual boot system with a modified Vista BCD for dual boot and everything tuned already, I did not want to have to go through the headache of installing my XP again. Lucky for me, I had never activated Vista on the old motherboard.
I really like how you've got these tutorials linked to each other, I found myself jumping around between them a bit.


Staff member
You're welcome Bad_the_Ba. I'm glad to hear that you find them helpful.



It is great. Thanks so much. I appreciate what you are doing for this Forum. You are one of the best in Great Texas. Best regards

jordan vista

New Member
i never new you can do that with an upgrade copy of windows, i did what the instructions said and succesfully reformatted and reinstalled windows vista, thanks so much


New Member
The system files of the Dell installed OS (Vista Home Premium), which I upgraded to Ultimate via a retail copy, became corrupted resulting in CHKDSK at almost every reboot. This fixed numerous errors 'initially' but I was ultimately left with limited Vista functionality (i.e. could not run Aero; many Windows services would not start or run and I could not do a system restore). This was very frustrating issue to troubleshoot/resolve...until this tutorial.

It wasn't a flawless process, and I had to wipe my drive BUT I now have a "clean" PC with ZERO installed programs, including none from Dell. Now I have FULL Vista Ultimate functionality. Thanks.


Staff member
Hello FLVistaDude, and welcome to Vista Forums.

I'm sorry to hear that you eventually had to do a clean install to fix your problems, but happy to hear that you are running smoothly again.



Im fixing to finish building my new computer and it has 4 gigs of memory installed on the MB, 2 x 2gig sticks. Am I going to run into problems if I don't physicall remove one of the sticks or should I be okay but the system just won't see the 4th gig until I install the SP?


Staff member
Hi Bratboy, and welcome to Vista Forums.

If it is a newer motherboard, then you should not have any problems during the installation.

If you happen to have problems, then you can just remove a stick and start over with a clean install again. After you have finished, flash the BIOS with the latest edition to help have your motherboard support the latest hardware. You can then add the 2nd stick of RAM back.

The SP1 will trick the 32 bit Vista into displaying that you have 4GB of RAM, but a 32 bit OS cannot use more than 3GB of RAM. Only the 64 bit Vista will see and use more then the 3GB limit.

Hope this helps,


New Member
Shawn Thanks alot for the info on the clean install.I joined the forum a 1/2 hr and already learned a lot from it.Thanks again. Rex031


New Member
Hi. Shawn, love this site, read here a lot
Can I still go back to Factory Install Default?
If so, witch Page do I study?
Present Condition of my Computer, Refurbished Emachine
Vista Home Basic 32 bit, SP1
C; used space 31.7 GB, free space 80.0 GB ( Recovery D partition no longer exist)long story.)
Operating System Disc that came w/computer has these files(Nov.2006)
Boot file folder 15.1 MB
Sources files folder 2.43 GB
Upgrade file folder 37.9 MB
Bootmgr file 428 KB
EFI file folder 11.6 MB
Support file folder 26.6 MB
Autorun Setup Info 43 bytes (option to install)
Setup Windows Vista 106 KB (option Run as Admin.)
I have made DVD Drivers and Application
srry for the trouble and thanks



Staff member
Hi Fritz, and welcome to Vista Forums.

Since you still have the OEM Vista Recovery CD/DVD, you should be able to. Run the Setup Windows Vista file to start the installation. It should have some option to select to restore factory default Vista installation. Just have all of your driver installation files on DVD, or some other media, to have them handy after you reinstall Vista to make it easier for you.

Hope this helps,


New Member
Thankfully if found this how-to... inculding screenshots, very helpfull!

I have an Asus laptop with a OEM Vista Home Basic WITH SP1 32 bit, and an upgrade DVD for Ultimate (cheap student version) without SP1, so it won't install since my current Vista SP1 version is newer than the Ultimate.
And of course no way to uninstall the SP1, since it is preinstalled on the laptop!
(Microsoft makes it all so easy for us.....)

Just some questions before I'm gonna try it, cause your method is gonna help me al lot!:

1) I have a C partition with my Vista Home Basic installed, a D partition for my data, and a hidden Recovery Partition.
Since I it is an Asus laptop, and I've heared that the Asus Recovery DVD is crap (it will create a really big red ERROR on your screen beacause apparently it is missing or cant find a file during recovery, leaving your computer a vegetable...).

So I would like to keep my D: (all my data, but is also back-upped on an external hard drive) and Recovery Partitions.
During Install, can I just select the current C partition, only format that partition to install Vista (leaving the other partitions unharmed)??? Think its possible but I couldn't figure it out for sure from your descriptions...

2) And I also have a Asus DVD/CD with drivers and utilities, but I assume that the driver for my DVD drive is already in Vista probably, ...right? (If the driver is missing for my DVD drive after reinstallation, then its going to be hard to install them back from a DVD...:p)

3) When you choose the Vista version in the first installation, do you choose the one already installed (so for me Home basic) or the one you want to upgrade to (for me Ultimate)?

Thanks heaps!