My Dell desktop computer comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit because it has 4GB of RAM. The computer is only used to test software and do all sorts of crazy stuff with it such as running malicious files, virus and etc. It is just too dangerous to rely on any antivirus because I am aware of the blackhat tools available to make a malicious file looks as if it is safe. The problem with 64-bit Windows 7 is the incompatibility with some software especially security applications.
I could download the Windows 7 32bit ISO and generate a genuine product key for activation from my Technet account, but I am pretty fed up with the sudden deactivation of Windows 7 and I couldn’t re-activate it even though the key is legitimate. What I would want to do is somehow convert my existing Windows 7 OEM 64bit to 32bit but unfortunately that is just not possible from within the operating system itself. However, there is a working technique of downgrading from 64bit of Windows 7 to 32bit and is pretty straight forward but the process can be a little long.
First you will need to either download the exact same edition of Windows 7 ISO or simply remove the ei.cfg to create a universal edition selector of Windows 7 installation disc. Fortunately we have that covered and you can visit the article to download Windows 7 Service Pack 1 ISO images direct from Microsoft’s official distributor Digital River. While I am going to downgrade Windows 7 to 32bit in this article, you can just as easily go the other way and upgrade from 32bit to 64bit if you have 4GB or more of memory, just make sure to download the correct 64bit ISO image. If you have less than 4GB I would recommend staying with 32bit.
Obviously you need to backup all important data before attempting a reinstall. The best is if you can create a full image backup of your drive so that you can restore it back the way it was in case anything goes wrong. Then backup the existing Windows 7 license to a USB flash drive. Reinstall Windows 7 32-bit and restore the OEM license.
It’s worth pointing out this following method works for OEM activated systems and not installs activated via phone or online. By OEM I mean manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Asus etc. For another way to backup your activation including the phone and online types, have a read of an article about a program called Advanced Tokens Manager.
I have previously posted about ABR (Activation Backup and Restore) which is able to backup and restore the activation from Windows Vista and there is a beta version which works with Windows 7. I have personally tested it and it works like a charm. The important rule is to make sure you restore the Windows 7 OEM activated license on the same edition of Windows 7. For example, my Dell desktop comes with Windows 7 Home Premium, I can only restore it back on Windows 7 Home Premium. If I try to restore a Home Premium license on a Windows 7 Ultimate operating system, the Status and Product ID will show “Not Available” in System. The desktop’s bottom right corner will also show the message “This copy of Windows is not genuine”.
Here is the steps of using ABR to backup and restore Windows 7 OEM license:
2. Run ABRbeta.exe and it will extract the files to a new ABR folder.
3. Run activation_backup.exe from the ABR folder and it will create two new files, backup-cert.xrm-ms and backup-key.txt in the ABR folder. Hit Enter to close ABR. The backed up product key is not the same as the key on your Windows sticker and is an OEM specific one.
4. Backup the ABR folder by copying it to a USB flash drive.
5. Reinstall a clean version of Windows 7. During installation, leave the product key blank when asked to enter product key and uncheck the option where it will auto activate when your computer is online.
6. When Windows 7 has finished installing, plug in USB flash drive and run activation_restore.exe from the ABR folder.
7. Simultaneously press WIN+Pause/Break key to launch the System window. Scroll down and you should see “Windows is activated” with an OEM product ID.
There is nothing illegal about using ABR if you use it to backup and restore the Windows 7 license on the same computer. However if you use it to install and activate on other/multiple computers, then you’re getting into dangerous territory where Microsoft are concerned. Remember, there are 2 conditions to get ABR working:
1. Can only backup from factory activated Windows 7. Won’t work on phone or online activated Windows 7.
2. Can only restore the license on the same Windows 7 edition. You can switch between 32bit and 64bit, but not from Home Premium to Ultimate.