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Yes, if you use a Virtual Machine, you can install the version of windows you wish to work with, install the software, and it should work just fine.
You will however need a genuine copy of windows to install in the virtual machine.
You may be able to find an image of the OS you need, or a snapshot of an OS, to load into the VM, it all depends on the type of VM you are going to use
Sometimes you're better off to uninstall the old OS, and then install the upgrade. If you have files to save, store them on removable media, then format the drive, then install the upgrade. During the process, it will ask for the VISTA product key, and the windows 7 product key