Skipping the Skip

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Another surprising first for me: I’ve just bought a copy of Windows.

I’ve never used an unlicensed copy of Windows but I’ve also never actually paid for a license before. My previous sources of Microsoft’s once dominant operating system have been:

  • Skips
  • Office rubbish bins
  • Secondhand computer fairs
  • Stickers scraped off PCs awaiting bin men

As a result I consider my use of Windows so far to be quite good value for money. I haven’t ever enjoyed it but you can’t have everything.

I’ve not run Windows on a the ‘bare metal’ of a real PC since the turn of the century - it’s always been safely inside a VM of some sort. (The my first copy of Windows ran inside an Amiga, although ‘ran’ is an inappropriate word to use - it shuffled). Windows has always been something I used when forced to, usually for a chore, and then found itself turned off. With Windows XP these dormant periods led to uncountable hours of OS updates every time I booted the bloody thing, making the chores more of pain, but I digress.

Two things have caused me to buy a new copy of Windows: I need to test DIL websites with IE9 and IE10, and there’s currently a surprisingly cheap upgrade offer that expires at the end of January 2013 - £24 isn’t skip-cheap but it’s a lot better for a penniless startup than £160 or so. The catch is that the download must be purchased from Windows to upgrade an existing system.

After a lot of digging through manuals I discover that I my unsticky license sticker for Windows XP is so safe I can’t find it, and I remember that I deleted my VM a few months ago to make space for some photo library rearrangements (it was in need of thousands of hours of updates anyway). While considering the purchase of a Windows XP key from EBay I noticed this:

“You can upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 8 Release Preview, Windows 8 Consumer Preview, or Windows Developer Preview”

Windows 8 Consumer Preview is legitimate upgrade base, and is also a free demo… It’s no longer publicised on Microsoft’s website but it’s still available. There’s no need to pay for an OS to upgrade from.

Here’s what you need to know:

Tom’s Guide have download links (from Microsoft) and a demo license key:,0301-43286-42855.html

There’s a page on explaining how to do a clean install after downloading the upgrade:

I’m not sure if this is a mistake by Microsoft, a cunning plan to sell to users who notice the loophole but otherwise wouldn’t bother (like me), or the result of painting themselves into a corner with the free preview release.

Either way it’s worked out quite well: Microsoft get their first money from me, my software should work better with their quirky browser, and I get to save some money.

At the risk of sounding like an advert for Microsoft, the offer ends in a week.

Update: Aha. The catch is revealed. It’s possible to make an ISO when downloading the upgrade, and to do a clean install, but the license key you get when buying the upgrade will only work when there are traces of a previous Windows OS. I had to install the Windows 8 Preview and then run the update - a completely new install wouldn’t work.