North American customers who purchase certain Hewlett-Packard PCs can sign up starting today for free upgrades to Windows Vista once the new operating system becomes available on January 30.
In addition, HP will offer customers support during the Vista installation process if they qualify for a free upgrade, the company said. Customers can register for upgrades at this Web site.
To be eligible for free upgrades starting today, customers must purchase (or have purchased) between October 26, 2006, and March 15, 2007, a new HP Pavilion, Compaq Presario, or HP Digital Entertainment Center PC bearing the "Microsoft Windows Vista Capable" designation. Purchases must come direct from HP or from select retailers, and customers can upgrade only to the version of Windows Vista that corresponds to the version of Windows XP installed on their PC, HP said.
(Read PC World's opinion of Microsoft's Express Upgrade program.)
Microsoft announced in March that it was working with hardware vendors to ensure that customers would know which PCs were capable of running or were optimized for Windows Vista. Microsoft had planned to have Vista available on PCs in time for the holiday shopping season now in progress, but delays pushed the OS's release back to January.
In October, after months of early press reports about the plan, Microsoft and its hardware partners announced that they would offer coupons for discounted or free Vista upgrades to customers who had already purchased Vista-ready PCs. Analyses of the plan at that time revealed hidden costs associated with the upgrades--costs that varied from one PC vendor to the next.
How HP's Program Will Work
HP's upgrade plan appears to be free to customers as long as they purchase an eligible PC and have access to HP technical support if they need it during the installation process. According to the vendor, customers who sign up for the free Vista upgrade will receive a kit containing the OS upgrade DVD once it is available, along with an additional DVD from HP that holds the drivers they will need to complete the installation process. The DVD also has a guide spelling out the correct upgrade procedure, HP said.
The company plans to make the necessary Vista drivers available on its HP Support Web site, too, so that customers who need them can download them. HP will upgrade that Web page as necessary so that customers will always have access to the most current versions of drivers for the OS.
Customer support for Vista is also available as part of HP Total Care, a service-and-support program that offers a variety of plans for its consumer products, the company said. Aside from the usual technical support, HP is establishing free online classes to help people install and use Vista, along with one-on-one classes with technical support agents.