NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2003
Would You Like an Upgrade With That?
by Gary Inglish
PC Users Group of Jacksonville

OK, so whatís the deal about installing upgrades vs. full versions of software? Iíve repeatedly been surprised by how many computer users are confused about what is required to install an upgrade. This is especially true when it comes to installing to a new computer, a freshly formatted hard drive, or a clean install of the operating system. These folks are under the impression that they must completely install the qualifying program(s) before installing the upgrade. This patently undermines the whole reason of doing a clean install in the first place.

Which Is Which?
Before we get into the details of how to do the install, letís talk about the differences between upgrade versions and full versions. Not much really, except the price and the way they install.

To start with, full versions are required if you have never owned the program. They are not limited in any way other than by the software license agreement. But they cost five times more than an upgrade. Upgrade versions are the same programs, with the exception of the install routine. An upgrade contains all the features of the full version, and can be used just like the full version.

Software vendors are interested in keeping their customers happy and regularly upgrading so they offer these great deals. There are two basic kinds of upgrade offers, competitive and version upgrades. Version upgrades require that you own a previous version of the program. You will need to read the box to make sure your version qualifies. For example, Windows 95 does not qualify for upgrading to Windows XP.

Competitive upgrades allow you to buy the upgrade version if you can prove you own a competitorís program. These deals are usually very liberal and do not usually care how old the competing version is. Iíve taken advantage of bargain table copies of much older programs in order to qualify for a competitorís upgrade price.

The Installation
Most, but not all, of the install routines for upgrade versions will search your hard drive for evidence of qualifying programs. If it can locate what it needs, the install will proceed uninterrupted. You may not have even noticed that it did so, unless you were paying close attention.

If it cannot find qualifier, then a dialog window will pop up, asking for the location of the program. In some cases it may be that the program is installed on another drive on your system. Just point to its locationóno problem. However, in the case of clean installs, all that is usually required is to provide one or more install floppies or the install CD. Once the install routine can locate the qualifying program and it will have the evidence it is looking for, it will proceed with the installation. If you prefer, you can install the complete old program before you do an upgrade, but why go though the hassle if you donít have to. If the upgrade you are working with is not smart enough to handle things this way, I recommend you write a nasty letter to the vendor. They should know better.

The upgrade may install right on top of a previous version, but in many cases the newer version of a program will need to uninstall the old one before it can complete the process. You will be told what is happening.

Programmers have gotten much better about writing these install routines, and most will work without difficulty. They have even gotten good about saving your settings and data during this process, but it is always a good idea to back up all your important stuff before starting an upgrade.

You Must Remember This
Now for a word of warning! If you do elect to follow the upgrade route, you need to make sure you keep the install disks or CD for all programs you use as qualifiers for upgrades. Some time down the road you will need to reinstall one of your programs and will need to re-prove that you qualified for the upgrade. If you have already disposed of the old disks or lost them, look around for a used version or a bargain table copy to buy.

Bottom line: Upgrades are good things. When shopping for new software, be sure to investigate what is available and what you qualify for. You can save big bucks and still be on the leading edge of computing, and they are really no more difficult to install. Have fun!

Reprinted from PC Register, March 2003, the Official Journal of the East Tennessee Computer Society. Article reproduction coordinated by Steve Bass, author of PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things about Your Personal Computer, OíReilly Press. http://snurl.com/annoyances