Re-installing Windows Vista 64 bit over a Windows Vista 32 bit install using a Vista Upgrade DVD

They only hit until you cry
And after that you don’t ask why
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore

— Suzanne Vega/Luka

Welcome to Total Suckage.

You may be wondering what a Suzanne Vega song quote about child abuse is doing in a post about installing one version of an operating system on top of another. I think you will understand by the end…

The Goal

I want to Re-installing Windows Vista 64 bit over a Windows Vista 32 bit install using a Vista Upgrade DVD.

I wanted to do this because my Vista system was becoming unstable over time and because I wanted to be able to use 4 GB+ of RAM. I will provide a spoiler that in the end switching from the 32bit version to the 64bit version was worth it, though it may not have seemed that way at various points in my journey.

My first stop was to check the Microsoft site to see if I could upgrade without reformatting my existing Vista installation to 64bit…

Suckage: You cannot upgrade a Vista 32bit install to 64bit

I can’t.

There’s no way to do an in place upgrade of the 64bit version of Windows Vista from a 32bit version even though Vista can run all the applications (or at least the vast majority) that the 32bit version can run.

Yes, the drivers MUST change and be updated with 64 bit versions but as far as the applications go, Vista64 can run 32 apps just fine, so an upgrade isn’t out of the question it theory it is just out of the question in Microsoft Reality.


I’ll do a "clean install" which means formatting my system volume and then installing the 64 bit version of Vista from scratch. The down side is that I’ll lose all my applications and settings and have to reinstall them, but at least I know any registry issues from my original install won’t be corrupting the new install. I’ll back up the data on my machine using the free version of Macrium Reflect (a great program) and then install a squeaky clean version of Vista64.

Suckage: Vista Upgrade DVDs cannot be used for a clean install

I actually knew this from the anguish I felt when I initially tried to an upgrade using the Windows Vista upgrade DVD from Windows XP over a year and a half ago… After you go to the trouble to enter the long product ID of your upgrade dvd you are informed that you cannot do an clean install upgrade using the upgrade DVD. Because… Well because Microsoft didn’t put any way to detect whether you owned a copy of windows before you started including something as simple as keying in your old product ID. The official option you’re given is to either start your upgrade from inside of windows (don’t boot from the upgrade DVD) OR buy the full version from Microsoft.


Many people came up with a solution over a year and a half ago that would let you do a clean install.

The entire key to this is to leave the product ID blank after you boot from the install DVD and to then tell it to NOT automatically activate. This allows you to install a lame half-activated version of Windows that you can then use to launch the real upgrade process.

So, after leaving the product ID blank after booting from the Vista upgrade DVD Windows asks if you are high and you should say "No" because they are, after all, the man.

They’ll then ask what version of Windows Vista (Home Basic? Home Premium, Business Vanilla Chocolate twist?) and for lack of creativity I picked the version (Ultimate) that I actually had, although for this part of the install it doesn’t matter much since I know I’ll have to be installing it again and this is really just going to be a launcher for the REAL upgrade.

Finally this lets me select the Custom/Clean Install option and I’m able to pick my system volume re-format it and begin the install…

Suckage: Windows is unable to find a system volume that meets its criteria for installation…

I formatted the C drive, and selected that volume to install Vista and it responded "Windows is unable to find a system volume that meets its criteria for installation." It’s WHAT for WHAT?! Arrggg.


This Microsoft KB article describes the error message, but implies lamely that you have a bad partition. The fact of the matter is that you will get this error message if you have more than one partition on the hard drive you’re installing to. Yes, the Vista installer is retarded and will not install Vista on a partition if more than one partition exists on your hard drive, so the solution is to remove ALL partitions, create a new primary partition of the entire hard drive, format it with NTFS and then can continue on with the installation.

Fixing this issue quickly brought me to my next problem (are you KIDDING me?)


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