Windows 7 Upgrade Scenarios
Scenario 1: Upgrade from a Higher-End Vista/XP Version to a Lower-End Windows 7 Version

Upgrade type: Custom

Here's the deal. You're running some version of Windows Vista. But you want to upgrade to a lower-end version of Windows 7. For example, perhaps you have Windows Vista Business or Ultimate, and you want to "upgrade" to Windows 7 Home Premium.

Should be easy, right?

Should be, but isn't. Here's how it works. Anyone using a valid, activated version of Windows Vista (or XP) qualifies for any Windows 7 Upgrade version. But in order to perform a "true" (or "in-place") upgrade, you must be upgrading to an equivalent, or higher-end, Windows 7 version. That process is very straightforward, and you can read about it my previous article, Upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7.


But what about that "equivalent or higher-end" bit? What if you are, in fact, upgrading to a lower-end version of Windows 7? The chart below will help you figure out which versions of Windows Vista are equivalent to which versions of Windows 7:

This version of Windows Vista... is equivalent to...
Windows Vista Starter Windows 7 Starter
Windows Vista Home Basic Windows 7 Home Basic
Windows Vista Home Premium Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Vista Business Windows 7 Professional
Windows Vista Ultimate Windows 7 Ultimate

Looking at this chart, you can see that an in-place upgrade from, say, Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium is perfectly acceptable. As is an in-place upgrade from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate.

But what if you want to upgrade from Windows Vista Business to Windows 7 Home Premium? In that and other similar cases, an in-place upgrade is impossible. So you will have to perform a migration, a process I describe in Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (don't be thrown by the title, it works the same for Vista-to-7 as well).

Here are some screenshots that illustrate important parts of the process.

Migrate from a Higher-End Vista/XP Version to a Lower-End Windows 7 Version
1. You start with some version of Windows Vista, in this case Windows Vista Business.

Migrate from a Higher-End Vista/XP Version to a Lower-End Windows 7 Version
2. Attempting an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium, by choosing "Upgrade" during Setup, will fail, because Windows Vista Business is a higher-end version than Windows 7 Home Premium.

Migrate from a Higher-End Vista/XP Version to a Lower-End Windows 7 Version
3. Instead, you must choose a "Custom" install type during Setup. (Be sure to backup your files and data first.) When you do so, you're provided with a simplified disk partitioning screen in which you cannot change the partition of the disk on which Windows now lives.

Migrate from a Higher-End Vista/XP Version to a Lower-End Windows 7 Version
4. When you choose this disk, Setup informs you that your old Windows install will be backed up to a Windows.old folder structure.

After clicking through that last screen, Windows 7 Setup will perform a clean install, replacing your older Windows Vista install. You can activate this version of Windows without issue. Success!

Continue to Upgrade Scenario 2: 32-bit to 64-bit...