In last week’s edition of the Windows Vista Report I talked
about the various Vista licensing schemes designed for home and small business
users. However, Microsoft has another program that it is using to help roll out
more copies of Windows Vista operating system — the Windows Anytime Upgrade

The Windows Anytime Upgrade Program is designed to provide
you with the ability to upgrade from a lower edition of Windows Vista to a
higher edition if you decide you want or need features not available in your current

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I’ll take a
closer look at the Windows Anytime Upgrade Program and explain how it works.

The program

The Windows Anytime Upgrade Program is designed to make it
very easy for a user to upgrade from one of the lower editions to a higher
edition because every edition of Windows Vista is on every DVD. All you have to
do is launch the Windows Anytime Upgrade procedure from within Windows Vista,
follow the instructions to purchase a license and product key via an online
transaction, and then perform the upgrade.

For example, if you purchase Home Premium DVD and decide
that you want to upgrade to Ultimate, you can purchase the Ultimate license and
the product key. You then insert your Home Premium DVD and upgrade your system
to Ultimate.

On the other hand, if you purchased a new computer with Home
Premium preinstalled on it and decide that you want to upgrade to Ultimate, you
may not need to have a Windows Vista DVD since the Windows Anytime Upgrade code
for other editions of the operating system may be on the computer’s hard disk. Alternatively,
the new computer may come with an Anytime Upgrade DVD. If the code isn’t
installed on the computer’s hard disk and the computer didn’t come with an Anytime
Upgrade DVD, then you can get a special Windows Anytime Upgrade DVD when you
purchase the license.

The cost of performing a Windows Anytime Upgrade is pretty comparable
with the cost of the edition you’re upgrading to. For example, if you purchased
the Home Premium upgrade for $149.99 and then upgraded to Ultimate via the
$159.00 Windows Anytime Upgrade, your total cost would be $308.99. The full
version of Windows Vista Ultimate currently sells for $369.99 on

Table A lists the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for
using Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade to higher editions of Windows Vista.

Table A

Upgrade path


Home Basic to Home Premium


Home Basic to Ultimate


Home Premium to Ultimate


Business to Ultimate


The procedure

Now that you have a good idea of how this works, let’s take
a look at the Windows Anytime Upgrade procedure in action. We’ll go through the
procedure for upgrading from Home Basic to Ultimate.

The first thing that you should do is back up all your
crucial data. Although the Windows Anytime Upgrade procedure is designed to
incorporate all of your data and settings into your new edition just like a
standard upgrade, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side. Second, make sure
that you close all open programs before you begin.

In the lower editions of Windows Vista, you’ll find icons
for launching the Windows Anytime Upgrade procedure in several locations
including the Start menu, Control Panel, and in the Welcome Center, as shown in
Figure A.

Figure A

Since the Welcome Center is configured to run at start up, it’s very easy to
find the Windows Anytime Upgrade icon.

As soon as you launch Windows Anytime Upgrade,
you’ll be prompted to learn more about the various editions. As Figure B shows, you can also choose the
edition to which you want to upgrade and begin the procedure immediately.

Figure B

When you see the Windows Anytime Upgrade opening screen, you can choose to
compare editions or jump right into the action.

The second screen, shown in Figure C, provides you with a quick overview. There is also a link
that will take you to a FAQ in the Windows Help and Support system should you
require additional information before you take the plunge.

Figure C

This overview page very succinctly describes the procedure.

When you click the Begin Upgrade Process button, Internet
Explorer launches and connects you to the Windows Anytime Upgrade site. As you
can see in Figure D, Microsoft has
allowed a fairly large group of retailers to sell the Windows Anytime Upgrade
licenses. Of course, you can purchase licenses directly from Microsoft as well.

Figure D

As you can see, Microsoft has allowed a fairly large group of retailers to
sell the Windows Anytime Upgrade licenses.

For my example upgrade, I’ve chosen to purchase the license
from Microsoft, as shown in Figure E.
The first thing that you’re prompted to do is indicate whether you have a
Windows Anytime Upgrade disk. If you have any edition of the Windows Vista DVD,
then you’re all set to go. If you don’t have a disk and your computer’s hard
disk doesn’t include the Windows Anytime Upgrade code, then you can buy a disc
for $7.

Figure E

Purchasing the license from Microsoft is really not much different from any
of the other online retailers.

From this point, the rest of the online purchasing phase is
a pretty standard operation of entering credit card and billing information. Once
you purchase the license, you’ll be prompted to click an Upgrade Now button.
(Alternatively, you may be prompted to follow a link that you receive by e-mail.)

In either case, once you start this part of the procedure, a
small program that includes a product key and the license is downloaded on your
computer. As soon as the download is complete, you’ll see a Windows Anytime
Upgrade screen like the one shown in Figure
. When you click Next, you’ll see a UAC and will
need to respond accordingly. At this point, the product key and the license
will be installed on your computer and you’re ready to begin the upgrade procedure.

Figure F

Clicking Next will install the product key and the
license on your computer.

When you begin the upgrade procedure, you’ll be prompted to
insert your Windows Vista disc, as shown in Figure G. You can click the Close button and then insert the disc.

Figure G

At this point, you are prompted to insert your Windows Vista disc.

Since you’re working from within Windows, you’ll see an
AutoPlay dialog box, as shown in Figure
. To continue, just click Run Setup.exe.

Figure H

When you see the AutoPlay dialog box, just click Run Setup.exe.

At this point, you’ll see the standard Install Windows
screen, as shown in Figure I. To begin the actual upgrade procedure, all you
have to do is click Install now. The software that you downloaded earlier
determines the edition of Windows Vista that you can install from the disc and
the installation procedure will proceed as normal for that edition. Keep in
mind that the installation procedure will take between 60 and 90 minutes and
will reboot your system several times.

The digital locker

Keep in mind that when you purchase a Windows Anytime
Upgrade, Microsoft create a personal digital locker for you on its Digital
Locker Web site (
and stores your purchase information, product keys, license, and a copy of your
upgrade. That way, you can reinstall your upgrade if necessary.

Will you use Windows Anytime Upgrade?

As you can see, Windows Anytime Upgrade is very easy to use because
the software needed to launch the procedure is a part of the operating system
and the code for other editions is on the Windows Vista DVD. Will you use
Windows Anytime Upgrade to move up to a higher edition of the operating system?
Have you used Windows Anytime Upgrade already? Please drop by the Discussion area
and let us hear from you.