I am Still Running Windows Vista Are There Any Free Upgrade Paths to Windows 7 or Windows 10?
The only Free Upgrade mechanism is available for Windows Vista system's which had their Legacy BIOS System License Internal Code Updated to Version 2.1 to support Windows 7 OEM System Locked Preinstallation which can be used with Windows 7 and then Windows 10. This Free Upgrade Path is Documented in detail here.
Windows Vista End of Support
Windows Vista reached End of Life in April 2017 from this date Windows Vista is totally unsafe to use online. Internet Explorer is not supported, Chrome is not supported, Firefox is not supported and the OS is not supported.
Download wise Windows Vista reached End of Support in February 2015 when Microsoft removed the Windows Vista Downloads from their Digital River servers. I do not recommend Reinstallation of this legacy Operating System.
The rest of the guide below is obsolete and is not supported…
Part 1: Windows and Office Licensing and Obtaining Installation Media
This section talks about obtaining Windows and Office installation media and their product keys. If you already have all the media and product keys the bulk of this section can be skipped. You will still need to download the standalone updates and system drivers however.
1.1 Information about your Windows License
Its important to know whether your license is OEM or Retail and hence where you should request media and support.
Retail – Purchased Separately from your System or as an Upgrade
The retail license will have boxed media with a product key or a product key sent via email. If you have lost this and have a working install use Belarc Advisor.
OEM – Purchased With your System
The OEM license will use System Locked Preinstallation activation. For Windows Vista there is a generic Dell SLP key for each Windows version. The ABR program can backup and restore this SLP activation. I have backed up the activation for all Dell and HP Windows Vista variants. The SLP activation is automatically applied with Dell media. You do not need the 25 digit key on the COA.
- [OEM] Backing Up your Product Activation Using ABR (OEM Only) [Part 1 Backing Up]
1.2 Information about your Office License
- [Office 2007/2010 OEM] The MPI Card
Its important to know whether your license is OEM or Retail and hence where you should request media and support. The retail license will have boxed media with a product key or a product key sent via email, the OEM license will be on the MPI card. If you have lost your product key you can retrieve it with Belarc Advisor.
- [Office 2007/2010 OEM/Retail] Finding Information About Your System Hardware and OS Licenses Using Belarc Advisor
1.3 Downloading Windows Installation/Reinstallation Media
In order to install Windows you need installation media. I prefer this as a download:
- [OEM*/Retail/Trial] Downloading the Windows Vista Retail .iso**
* This guides fully instructs how to use a Windows Vista Digital River .iso for a Dell OEM install. Installation of an OEM license with retail media is not supported by Dell or Microsoft but proven to work flawlessly by thousands of users of this guide and is the most recommended method by the author of these guides. Its recommended due to the difficulties users experience when attempting to procure OEM installation media for out of warranty systems. Moreover it is the most up to date installation media which can help with the install.
** You may use the Windows Vista .iso without a product key for a 30 day trial.
1.4 Downloading Office Installation/Reinstallation Media
In order to install Office you need installation media. I prefer this as a download.
If you are looking for the free Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, its obsolete and there are no official download links. Use the free Microsoft Office 2013 WebApps instead which have all the functionality of Office 2010 Starter and much more.
- Microsoft Mathematics [Free]
Download the Microsoft Office installers and save to an external hard drive. Its useful to save your product key in a text file beside the installer.
1.5 Downloading Windows and Office Updates [Part 1 Downloading]
At this stage you should download the Standalone Windows Updates or most of the Windows Updates using WSUS Offline Update and copy the folder to a USB external hard drive.
1.6 Downloading System Drivers [Part 1 Downloading]
- Downloading, Preparing and Loading Preinstallation SATA Drivers
- Checking Hardware IDs
- Driver Installation Order
- Downloading Drivers from Dell and Unofficial Driver Sets
At this stage you should download the System Drivers and copy them in a folder to a USB external hard drive. If unsure of hardware variants check the ahrdware IDs and make a new post on the Dell Community – Microsoft OS Forum stating your version of Windows, model and Hardware IDs. You may want to prepare SATA preinstallation drivers in case Windows Vista can't read your hard drive. This is normally only required for newer systems.
Part 2: Backing Up Data
This section talks about backing up data, if you have no data to backup then this section can be skipped.
Follow Backing Up your Files unless your installation can’t boot in this case follow Data Recovery Using Fedora.
You may also want to backup your entire old Windows installation in some cases:
Part 3: Updating the BIOS and Hardware and Preparing the System for Windows Installation
This section takes you through upgrading some hardware which will optimise your systems performance. It also takes you through updating the BIOS and making some changes which may or may not be necessary depending on your hardware configuration. Finally it takes you through preparing the hard drive before Windows installation i.e. securely wiping it.
3.1 BIOS Updates
If you cannot update the BIOS from the old Windows installation then update it after installing Windows.
3.2 Hardware Upgrades
- Solid State Drive and Hard Drive Upgrades for your System
- Memory Upgrades for your System
- Video Card Upgrade for your System – Ask on Desktop Video Forum [Desktops only]
Ensure that you refer to your Service Manual (older systems) or Owner’s Manual when adding/removing hardware. DDR2 RAM is quite expensive now and the best performance from old systems will be from a SSD.
3.3 BIOS Settings
3.4 Preparing your Hard Drive
- Preparing your Hard Drive: Securely Wiping your System using DBAN
- Preparing your Hard Drive: Setting Up Media Direct [A Small Subset of Dell Systems Only] [Part 1 Making System partitions and Part 3 downloading a Media Direct .iso]
Securely wiping your system with DBAN is recommended if you want to remove any personal information or you suspect you were infected by Viruses/Malware.
SATA drivers generally only need to be loaded if the installation cannot detect any hard drives or reports later during the setup that it can’t configure your hardware.
Part 4: Windows Installation and Driver Installation
This part takes you through the actual Windows installation aswell as updating it and installing the system drivers.
4.1 Windows Installation
If you see no hard drives during installation refer to:
4.2 Office Installation
Office installation is pretty simplistic, simply launch the .exes and input your product key, I recommend installing Microsoft Office immediately after Microsoft Windows.
4.3 Standalone Updates [Part 2 Installing]
- Installing Windows Updates Offline [Part 2]
At this point you should install the updates using the updates downloaded with WSUS Offline Update. WSUS Offline Update can be set to update Microsoft Office as well as Microsoft Windows.
4.4 System Drivers Download and Installation [Part 2 Installing]
At this stage you should install the drivers in the correct order.
4.5 Product Activation
Unfortunately product activation can get a bit involved depending on your license and installation media.
The OEM License
Clean Install with “Upgrade” License
- [Retail] Product Activation via the Command Prompt (Windows Vista Upgrade Key After Clean Installation)
Removing Product Activation
4.6 Power Settings
Its recommended to optimise your power settings to your preference
4.7 Windows Update
4.8 Windows Experience Index
The Windows Experience Index should be run in Windows Vista as it is sometimes needed to enable the Aero Theme. The Aero Theme is often disabled at the initial boot because a generic graphics driver was used and the full potential of your graphics adapter was not taken into account hence Aero was disabled and the Windows basic theme was used. The Windows Experience Index was removed in Windows 8.1 for some reason but a third party tool mimics it.s.
4.9 Customisation and Desktop Enhancements
4.10 Recovering Files
This is only present if you didn't Securely Wipe the system or format the drive during the install.
Part 5: Dell Preinstalled Software and Third Party Software
This gives some notes about additional Dell software and other Third Party software.
5.1 Backing up your Clean Windows Installation
These steps are highly recommended as it gives you a means to quickly restore your clean Windows installation if something goes wrong. I recommend making one before any additional software is installed.
5.2 Additional Microsoft Services
5.3 Dell Preinstalled Software
- My Dell formly Dell Support Centre
- Installing Media Direct [A Small Subset of Dell Systems Only] [Part 2: Installing the Media Direct Application, requires the Media Direct Partitions to be setup earlier]
5.5 Adobe Software
5.6 Other Software