How To: Use Your Windows 7 Upgrade Disk On a Fresh PC

Installing to a Fresh Drive

Step 1 - Access & Edit the Registry

A true geek has never been intimidated by the registry, but lets face it, it's a mess in there. To access the registry you will first need to open up the start menu and type " regedit " into the search field, followed by enter. To find the proverbial needle in this haystack, you will need to navigate through the tabs listed on the left in the following order:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/ . If you don't like doing it the hard way just click Edit then Find and type MediaBootInstall into the search field, and press enter.

Once found, double click MediaBootInstall and change the "1" to a "0". Once you have finished this, simply click Ok and close out the Registry Editor.

Step 2 - Re-Arm The Activation

Before we try to activate our copy of Windows, we need to reset or "Re-Arm" the activation sequence. To do this, simply open up the start menu and type cmd but instead of just pressing enter, you need to press " Ctrl " + " Shift " + " Enter " to run it as an administrator. You can also accomplish this by clicking the start menu, typing cmd into the search box, then right clicking the command prompt application and selecting Run as administrator .

Once the command prompt appears type slmgr /rearm and press enter . Next simply type Exit and hit enter again, after which it will ask you to restart your machine.

It’s worth mentioning that this tip will allow you to reset the 30-day activation period for new installs. On Vista it worked 3 times before refusing to add any more time, but the RTM of Windows 7 hasn’t been out long enough for us to re-test the feature. I expect it would be much the same and it allows you to make sure your system is 100% stable before using up an activation.

Step 3 - Activate Windows

The final step is to simply bring up the start menu, type " Activate Windows ", then follow the prompts to success. This is a known working solution to perform a fresh install using upgrade media, but let me warn you now, it may eventually get patched out. With this in mind, it’s probably best to make sure activating is the first thing you do before you hit up Windows Update if you're trying this on SP1 or SP2.


Its unfortunate that Microsoft didn’t choose to enforce the honor system method when it comes to upgrading, but I suppose you can’t begrudge them their attempts to stem piracy. As for why Microsoft was so tight lipped about the exact upgrade requirements, we’ll probably never know, but it was likely just an attempt to avoid further controversy.

All things considered however, its rather underhanded to allow users to install without a product key, fine tune their systems, then not allow them to activate, with no phone number to call and petition your case. This happened to me simply because the installer failed the first time, and was then faced with a fresh disk when it came time for round 2.

How do you think the upgrade process was handled? Let us know in the comments below.

Additional Resources

If you’re looking for help on how to install Windows 7 as a Dual boot, check our step by step tutorial .

And if you didn’t find the answer to your upgrade question here, that’s probably because it was covered in our past guide .