Monthly Archives: October 2009

Yes you can activate a clean install of Windows 7 with an upgrade product key

I am not promoting piracy, but I ran into a nasty little problem when I tried to activate Windows 7 on my home computer.  Maybe this post will help others like me who can’t get help anywhere else. 

In anticipation of obtaining my Windows 7 Pro upgrades (which I ordered in July on the pre-order 50% off sale) I installed Windows 7 Pro using a clean install without entering a product key for activation on two of my computers.  My laptop and my main home computer.  Both computers were clean installs on either a new hard drive or a new partition.  On my laptop I resized my partitions and installed Windows 7 on a new partition separate from Windows Vista.  So now its in a dual boot configuration with Windows Vista and Windows 7. 

On Thursday, I got my upgrade product keys from the Microsoft store and went to activate my computers.  On my laptop the activation was successful wtihout a problem.  Then I went to activate my home computer and got the error telling me that I can’t use an upgrade product key to activate a clean install of Windows 7.  So now I am left with a fully loaded PC running Windows 7 with only 10 days left to activate before I either have to re-arm or enter a new product key.  It takes hours to backup and restore the data on this PC, its my wife’s main computer and we have tons of stuff to backup and move around.  I’d pay a fee to avoid having to do this! 

The home computer was running Widnows Vista 32-bit Home premium edition.  It got upgraded to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit using a clean install method.  A while after I had installed Windows 7, I decided to cleanup the old hard drive that had the Windows Vista install on it because I wouldn’t need it anymore.  So I can’t even go back to Vista without having to do a clean install of Vista first which is something I want to avoid.  But from my understanding you can’t upgrade a 32-bit OS to the 64-bit version, so I have to do a clean install anyway.  But now that I’ve wiped out the hard drive that had Vista on it, so the activation wizard can’t see the old OS and won’t let me use my upgrade key.  I heard hints in various forums that the activation wizard looks for partitions with an upgradable OS on it. 

On my laptop, I still have the partition with Activated Windows Vista home premium 64-bit because of the dual boot setup, so I think thats why the activation wizard let me activate my laptop without a problem.  So what can we do in a situation like this?  Call Microsoft, take a huge risk and investigate non legit options?  

I had thought about trying to run the Retail upgrade install of Windows 7 on my home PC and use my upgrade key for activation.  The reason I had hope that this might work is because my home PC was loaded using the RTM Windows 7, and the download I got from Microsoft was the official retail media, so there is a very small chance it may have let me do another upgrade using my upgrade key and then possibly activate successfully.  My other thought was to install windows Vista on a spare hard drive and just leave it in my PC when booted up to Windows 7 and see if the Windows 7 Activation wizard will recognize a valid copy of Windows Vista and let me activate using my upgrade key. 

I was getting desperate since it could easily take two days to reload my home computer and go through all the trouble to get Windows 7 running again!  This is such a pain!  It shouldn’t be this hard for legit customers to use Microsoft software!!!

Ok, now that the rant is over, let me tell you how to get around this problem and get your Windows 7 systems activated.  This is actually very easy and only took a few minutes.  To my knowledge there is nothing underhanded or risky about this procedure.  Its also not well documented, it took me two days of google research and massive searches to find the information that helped me. 

Thanks to community for this information!

After performing the clean install, ensure that there are no Windows Updates pending that would require a system reboot. (You’ll see an orange shield icon next to Shutdown in the Start Menu if this is the case).  Install the updates and reboot if necessary before proceeding.

Then, open regedit.exe with Start Menu Search and navigate to:


Change MediaBootInstall from “1” to “0”.

Open the Start Menu again and type cmd to display a shortcut to the Command Line utility. Right-click this shortcut and choose “Run as administrator.” Handle the UAC prompt.

In the command line window, type: slmgr /rearm

Then click OK, close the command line window and reboot. When Windows 7 reboots, run the Activate Windows wizard (go to system properties and click the activate windows link at the bottom of the window), type in your upgrade product key and activate windows.  It should activate successfully and you are now finished!  Congratulations on saving yourself hours (or days in my case) of wasted time jumping through hoops trying to get your genuine Windows 7 installation activated!

Exchange 2003/2007, IIS 6 Metabase and SMTP domains

   Recently I ran into a very strange issue with Exchange 2003, IIS 6 and SMTP domains.  The environment is a mixed Exchange 2003/2007 site with about 10 public SMTP domain names for which this Exchange org is responsible for.  Since the beginning of my time as the Administrator for this system the recipient policy settings have been the same.  All the SMTP domains are listed in the recipient policy but some are unchecked.  For years this has been the case and we’ve never had a problem.  But something must have happened recently, because the last few days have been busy for me trying to figure out what was causing a mail delivery issue that resulted in all incoming mail for several of the legitimate public SMTP domains to bounce back to the sender.

   After some research and manual testing to try to identify what was causing the problem, I found a strange thing.  In the IIS 6 metabase on one of the Exchange 2003 servers, the public SMTP domains were missing from the “domains” key under LMSMTPSVC1DOMAIN.  Two of our domains were listed but all the rest were missing.  If the domains are not listed in the IIS metabase for SMTP, the server will reject mail sent to those domains because it doesn’t realize that its responsible for receiving mail for them.  So I decided to do a test, I opened up the recipient policy and put a check next to all public SMTP domains and waited a minute before refreshing the IIS metabase information.  When I checked again, I found all the public SMTP domains were correctly listed in the IIS metabase now. 

   Earlier in the day I was trying to send test messages via telnet through SMTP.  When I would try to send a test message to a user on one of the affected domains I would get the error “unable to relay for”.  After refreshing the IIS 6 metabase, my telnet test messages were being accepted successfully and I confirmed that the user was receiving them.  Again, the recipient policies have been the same since the beginning of the AD in this site.  I have no idea why all of a sudden we would see incoming mail problems.  I can only speculate what might have happened, perhaps a quirk due to an unexpected DC shutdown, or maybe its some weird fluke with IIS 6 and some other third party apps that have SMTP event hooks that caused it.  I really have no idea and I don’t have a screenshot of the IIS 6 metabase config from before the time when we started to have problems. 

   What fixed the problem was to make sure all the public SMTP domains appeared in the IIS 6 metabase.  After that was taken care of, mail delivery issues were fixed and I was able to verify this using manual telnet test messages.  So I know what the problem was and I know what fixed it, I just don’t know what actually caused the problem in the first place. 

   If you don’t have a metabase explorer, you can use the one included in the IIS 6 resource kit, which is available as a download from Microsoft.