Upgrade from 32 bit Vista to 64 bit Windows 7 using custom install

The upgrade process for Windows 7 is pretty straightforward – if you’re doing an in-place upgrade from 32 bit Vista to 32 bit Windows 7 or 64 bit Vista to 64 bit Windows 7. It gets tricky when you want to perform an upgrade from 32 bit Vista to 64 bit Windows 7.

You can’t do an in-place upgrade. An in-place upgrade is where Windows 7 is installed while Vista is running. Your programs, documents and settings are preserved.

To migrate from one architecture to another, as in the case of 32 bit to 64 bit, you must perform a clean or custom install. Unfortunately, the upgrade version of Windows 7 must be able to check to see that you are eligible for the upgrade.

Windows Easy Transfer
Image via Wikipedia

We spent a ton of time tonight searching through the Windows documentation. We had just purchased a new hard drive and a Windows 7 64 bit upgrade to install on that hard drive, using the eligibility of an existing 32 bit Vista installation. We tried several times to perform a custom installation, but every time we were asked to enter the product key, Windows reported that the key was invalid.

The secret to getting this type of upgrade to work lies in a free tool provided by Microsoft called Windows Easy Transfer. It’s promoted as the tool to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. It is recommended for a custom install to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, but we didn’t see anywhere that it was required. We had no interest in moving any files or settings to the new installation, so it wasn’t an obvious tactic.

Using Windows Easy Transfer apparently saves the information from the Vista installation so that Windows 7 recognizes that the upgrade is valid.

Here’s the correct process to perform a clean, custom installation using a Windows 7 upgrade.

  1. Download and install Windows Easy Transfer
  2. Use Windows Easy Transfer to copy all your settings and files to an external hard drive
  3. Reboot your computer from the Windows 7 DVD
  4. Select custom install and follow the prompts
  5. When you are finally prompted to enter your upgrade product key, Windows will search and find the external hard drive with the files saved by Windows Easy Transfer and approve the upgrade

If you find a place where Microsoft states that Windows Easy Transfer is required to upgrade from Vista 32 bit to Windows 7 64 bit, please let us know in the comments. If you know of another way to perform this type of upgrade without using Windows Easy Transfer, that’d be good to know as well.

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Aaron Traffas, CAI, ATS, CES

twitter.com/traffas | aarontraffas.com | aarontraffasband.com

Aaron Traffas, CAI, ATS, CES is an auctioneer from Sharon, Kan. He is currently community evangelist for Purple Wave in Manhattan, Kan. Aaron serves on the Board of Directors for the Kansas Auctioneers Association and in the past has served on the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Board of Trustees. He is a past instructor at CAI and co-wrote the ATS designation course from NAA. During the summer, Aaron operates a farm in south central Kansas. Aaron is an active singer and songwriter and the Aaron Traffas Band's latest release, Dirt Red Sun, can be found at iTunes and Amazon.
  • http://www.dreamnotoftoday.com/ Rob Spectre

    Bullshit it is. I poured three hours into my in-place 32-bit upgrade on my Lenovo X60 Tablet and didn't get past the compatibility screen.

    $200 and this patch doesn't even work.

  • sr00t

    Compatibility is tricky, Mr Spectre. did you try moving the paperclip up 2mm?

  • http://twitter.com/jdschultz John Schultz

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/

    Towards middle bottom of page: “How do I do a custom (clean) installation?” There the Windows Easy Transfer is discussed.

    Aaron, thanks for the info and tips. I'm sure it will save me a large amount of time!

  • http://www.aarontraffas.com Aaron Traffas

    I read that many times.

    “Windows Easy Transfer is a free tool you can use to copy your information (but not programs) off your PC and then put them back after you install Windows 7.”

    …and…

    “If you used Windows Easy Transfer…”

    Words like “can use” and “if you used” led me to believe that it wasn't a requirement of a clean install since those passages were in the clean install section of the document. They should have said “must use” since that more accurately describes how to perform a custom install using an upgrade license.

  • http://www.aarontraffas.com Aaron Traffas

    I read that many times.

    “Windows Easy Transfer is a free tool you can use to copy your information (but not programs) off your PC and then put them back after you install Windows 7.”

    …and…

    “If you used Windows Easy Transfer…”

    Words like “can use” and “if you used” led me to believe that it wasn't a requirement of a clean install since those passages were in the clean install section of the document. They should have said “must use” since that more accurately describes how to perform a custom install using an upgrade license.

  • http://twitter.com/jdschultz John Schultz

    indeed, the comments in this post, coupled with the Microsoft info, definitely parlay to “must use”… chalk it up to cost of early adoption?

    while you're still in “microsoft fanboy” (your statement, i believe) mode, what do you think of win7? worth the upgrade?

  • Pingback: Windows 7 Home Premium (64 bit)

  • Pete

    I believe to do a custom install after you “wipe” the hd clean,boot to the 7 upgrade disk, you will be prompted to insert the vista install disk and then after 7 deems the vista cd to be valid, you will be prompted to insert the 7 disk. This is for a “not in place” upgrade. Go to the microsoft site for instructions. Do run easy transfer to save doc's. When you do a custom install, of course because you wiped the hd clean your programs and drivers, such as printer will need to be reinstalled.

  • Pete

    I believe to do a custom install after you “wipe” the hd clean,boot to the 7 upgrade disk, you will be prompted to insert the vista install disk and then after 7 deems the vista cd to be valid, you will be prompted to insert the 7 disk. This is for a “not in place” upgrade. Go to the microsoft site for instructions. Do run easy transfer to save doc's. When you do a custom install, of course because you wiped the hd clean your programs and drivers, such as printer will need to be reinstalled.

  • http://onlinediscprinting.com/ CD Printers

    Seems impossible at first, but when reading it now it look really possible. It worked on my laptop.