Upgrading to Windows Vista without Windows on the hard drive

Updated: 05/21/2018 by Computer Hope

Windows VistaMany users may want to upgrade to Windows Vista doing a clean install, which is installing Vista onto the computer without an existing version of Windows 2000 or XP on the hard drive. In the past, this was a good troubleshooting method to perform when attempting to upgrade Windows was unsuccessful or for those times when you want to have a fresh Windows install. Unfortunately, Microsoft now requires users who are upgrading to Windows Vista to upgrade from within Windows 2000 or XP. If you upgrade to Windows Vista by booting from the Vista Upgrade CD and running setup from within MS-DOS, you'll receive the below message.

To use the product key you entered, start the installation from your existing version of Windows.

If you want a fresh copy of Windows Vista on the computer and do not yet have Windows 2000 or XP installed on the computer, you can do one of the two below recommendations. Both of these options will require that you install an OS twice. We recommend for most users to follow the first workaround recommendation.

  1. Boot the Windows Vista CD and start the Windows Vista setup.
  2. When prompted to enter the product key for activation do not enter your activation key and click Next.
  3. You will then get an Install Windows prompt asking if you want to enter your product key now. Click No.
  4. Select the edition of Windows XP you've purchased, check the box "I have selected the edition of Windows that I purchased" and click Next.
  5. Once the Setup has been completed and you're in Windows Vista start the Windows setup again either by ejecting and entering the CD again or by double clicking the CD drive in My computer.
  6. During the Windows Vista setup when prompted for the activation key this time enter it.
  7. When prompted to do an Upgrade or Custom install select Custom and perform a clean Windows Vista install.


  1. Delete the partition and reinstall Windows 2000 or Windows XP using the 2000 or XP CD.
  2. After 2000 or XP has been installed update the operating systems with all the latest Windows updates.
  3. Then Install Windows Vista Upgrade or do the Custom install and perform a clean Windows Vista install.

Or if you have Windows 2000 or XP installed on the computer, but want to have a clean install (removing all settings and programs) during the Windows Vista install select the option for Custom install during the installation.