27
Oct

How to Create a User Hostile Installation Experience: Windows 8 Pro

Ask any of your tech buddies and they may tell you that you can get Windows 8 Pro for 39.99. Wow! you say, that’s pretty good considering Windows 7 Ultimate was in the ~$400.00 price range. So you decide find whereabouts this purchase can be made.

Turns out, Microsoft sells it direct! Not only do they sell it, but they sell it through an app you download which tells you what version of the software you should buy, charge you for it, and let you download and install it immediately.

Sweet! I bust out the credit card, charge $40.00 and off I go into the following prompts.

Awesome, download begins, then gives me a prompt where to save it to and then the kicker…It asks me how I want to go about Installing this new OS. I want a Fresh install of course! Windows 8 does seem much different form a UI perspective.  So I choose “Save ISO and Burn to DVD to install on a computer later”. Perfect. The file is made and put on my desktop, and it even gives me an option to burn the DVD now, which I proceed to do.

So I shut down and unplug everything from my PC, remove my old 120 GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD Hard Drive, leaving the other 4 in my system, and install in it’s place my new 256 GB OCZ Vertex 4 SSD Hard Drive of which I am eager to fill with games and apps (I ran out of room for all the BETA’s I am part of). I turn the computer on, boot into the DVD, and Voila! The windows load screen appears…and just sits there…for an hour.

Ok! Time to search the forums…after 30 minutes of searching, many don’t know why it’s doing this and are blaming processors, but it turns out you just happen to have to remove any SD card readers from the system during installation…weird…but lets give it ago. Yep! Worked! Installing. Shame I can’t find where I found the resource for that to give credit, it almost blew the day away.

Windows 8 Pro Prompts me for my new CD key, of which Microsoft e-mailed me from the purchase I made through the windows app. I choose the new Hard Drive. It begins installing; Excellent.

The rest of the configuration went without a hitch. It started up, customized, downloaded all my apps. I installed my normal software and games; all working great. Awesome!

Then I notice Windows isn’t activated…and my heart sinks when I click to activate it and it says something along the lines of “This license is only good for an Upgrade License, not for clean installs”. I thought I just blew $40.00, my time and a reformat.

I had to leave for dinner, so for two hours I furiously browsed the web on my wonderfully amazing Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3, and came up with two solutions, I only tried the one, and it WORKED!

The fix was found in a comment on this site. Here is the comment by “scottoe”:

It works similarly to Windows 7 upgrades – do it twice. You can install from a formatted disc but it will not activate because it is the wrong product key for an upgrade. You then install it a second time, as an upgrade to itself and it will activate. I did a custom install the first time, booting from the Win 8 DVD and deleted the old Win 7 partition and then installed Win 8. Then launched the Win 8 setup from the desktop and installed it as an upgrade and was then able to activate it with the upgrade key. I did it today with success. It does not give any indication of a problem the first time until you try to activate it, when it displays the invalid product key message.

So at first, I am thinking…this is retarded…why would this work? Why would they give you a full version ISO, allow an upgrade license to install the software, then require you to re-install over itself to “Convert” it to upgrade software?

I get home and pop in the Windows DVD I made, and run it. It goes through this whole process, doesn’t even ask me where I want it installed, just if I want to install it and keep my files programs and settings. I say sure, since I have already configured the rig and it then proceeds to churn for 30 minutes or so.

A few reboots later, I go through all the setup screens again, but find my profile is intact and all my apps are here. I check on my windows license status in the about computer section, and it is ALREADY activated! When the PC started itself up after the “Upgrade”, it just decided to activate itself with Microsoft.

Although I think this method is awesome and I am very happy with my purchase now, I would still like to know who at Microsoft, decided it was effective licensing and anti-piracy measure, to recommend, and then sell users a $40.00 Upgrade Only License (but only reads Windows 8 Pro, not “Upgrade”) FROM THEIR OWN WEBSTORE, that lets you download a FULL ISO, BURN IT TO CD, authorize a  FULL  CLEAN INSTALL, then after installing Windows 8, have to INSTALL IT AGAIN OVER ITSELF to flag it as an Upgrade?  Do they realize how many people are going to buy the Retail Box, which is also UPGRADE ONLY, do a clean install, and wonder WTF to do?

If you look at the this Microsoft page I think I figured out why this method works. This is how it reads:

You can install the upgrade only on PCs that have a valid base license and one of the following operating systems: Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP (SP3).

What Microsoft may have not taken into account, is that Windows 8 Pro, in it’s ISO form, provided by them to the user, fulfills the “valid base license” requirement for the upgrade to take place. The Upgrade license allows a person to install a fresh copy; it doesn’t distinguish between what type of license it is at initial install, only on activation AFTER install. The “upgrade”, in essence, performs a “reinstall” or a “repair” which, because it was installed from a Windows based Operating System, qualifies it as “Upgrade” software after the process.

Why not just…let it activate? Seriously? Why all this hassle?

I just went through like 2 hours worrying that I would have to reformat AGAIN, because after installing Windows 8, setting up all my apps, I found I couldn’t Activate due to choosing a fresh install. This had nothing to do with me having the wrong license, just with using a valid, yet poorly thought through method on Microsoft’s part, to go about the upgrade.

PROCESS! Stop making things USER HOSTILE if you want people to keep adopting your software! If you are going to give your users an install file, and a license, they better damn work. And they should work without having to go through these hoops and online research. If I wanted to do all that, I would have installed a Linux build.

There is another possible way to correct this without the re-install method, though I have not tried it. I found the solution at hard forum through Google Searches. The idea is to tell windows its an upgrade copy via a registry key, then rearm the activation sequence, reboot, and let it activate…it might be simpler and worth a try before doing what I did which took a TON of time.

This is the process:

  1. hit ctrl+r
  2. look for  [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE] and change “MediaBootInstall”=dword:00000001 to  “MediaBootInstall”=dword:00000000
  3. Open elevated command prompt (Right click -> Run As Administrator)
  4. Type slmgr -rearm <enter>
  5. reboot
  6. auto activation will occur on next boot.

If you use the first method, don’t forget to run disk cleanup when the upgrade completes, which will free about 26 GB of data from the “Upgrade of your Upgrade”. Also, pick up a free copy of Windows Media Center while they are giving them away and save yourself another $10.00, might as well!

Good luck upgrading! I am looking forward to writing GOOD things about Windows 8 as I am enjoying the new user interface, it is a breath of fresh air, and the OS seems to boot and run very very smooth. I love the windows app store concept, and their multi-platform. integration. IF they can keep the cost of their OS around 40 – 80 dollars I am sure it will be adopted quickly, barring the installation issues…

 

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Alexander Conroy is Chief Optimization Officer and Co-President of Esotech in Miami Florida
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