If you have a branded PC/Laptop (eg. ASUS, HP, Dell, Sony, Gateway, Acer, Lenovo, etc) with Vista factory installed, there is a way to upgrade your edition of Vista to Ultimate for free. This trick does not work with self assembled PCs.
Microsoft allows large hardware manufacturers to ship their computers containing a factory installed version of Windows Vista that does not require any product activation. This is to prevent any unnecessary inconvenience for the end-user. The product is validated by a special BIOS SLIC (Software Licensing) Description Table. The BIOS SLIC contains certain license information embedded by the hardware manufacturers. This method of activation is commonly referred to as SLP 2.0 (System Locked Pre-installation 2.0) and consists of the following key elements:
- The OEM’s hardware-embedded BIOS SLIC information signed by Microsoft.
- A certificate issued by Microsoft that corresponds to the specific SLIC information. The certificate is an XML file found on the OEM’s installation/recovery media, usually called something like ‘oemname.xrm-ms’.
- A special type of product key (SLP key)that corresponds to the installed edition of Windows Vista. This key can usually be obtained from some installation script found on the OEM’s installation/recovery media or directly from a pre-installed OEM system.
If all three elements match, Windows Vista’s licensing mechanism considers the given installation a valid system-locked pre-activated copy (that does not require any additional product activation procedures).
To upgrade your Vista Edition to Ultimate, you will need the following:
- A branded (eg. ASUS, HP, Dell, Sony, Gateway, Acer, Lenovo, etc) PC/Notebook with a factory installed version of Vista.
- A full Vista Installation DVD. Note that this is not a recovery disc that comes with your computer. You should be able to find links from Google.
- Vista Ultimate SLP key. This key is different for different manufacturers. Get your keys from Google.
- OEM Certificate. This can be found in your Windows installation directory. The file has an extension of “.xrm-ms”. This certificate is only necessary when you are installing a clean copy of Vista.
- There is more than 15GB of free space in C drive.
- Upgrades are possible only from the same service pack level. Which means that if your installed copy is SP1, you will need a Vista SP1 installation disk.
Before starting the installation, perform a backup.
- Boot to Windows Vista and insert the Vista Installation DVD. Click on “setup.exe” found in your DVD drive, if Autorun is disabled.
- Do not enter the product key and uncheck the “Automatically activate Windows when I’m online” option.
- Select the Vista Ultimate Edition.
- Accept the License Agreement and click on the Upgrade option.
- The Vista upgrade will start. Wait for the wizard to complete the installation.
- Once installation is complete, open the “Command Prompt” as Administrator.
- From the Command Prompt, install the 25-digit SLP Product Key by using Windows Software Licensing Management Tool.
1C:\Windows\system32>slmgr.vbs -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
- A window will popup once the key is installed successfully.
- If you did a clean install, you will also need to install the License (OEM Certficate) using the Windows Software Licensing Management Tool. This certficate has a file extension of “.xrm-ms”.
1C:\Windows\system32>slmgr.vbs -ilc C:\path\to\cert\oemcert.xrm-ms
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