Many of you will know that when you buy a desktop PC or laptop from a manufacturer such as Dell, HP, Asus etc, as well as getting the pre installed operating system, your system will also come with a sticker on the bottom or side with a Windows product key. This key can be used if you ever need to reinstall a clean Windows from an installation media instead of a preinstalled recovery image or disk. The problem arises that when you want to do this, most purchased systems rarely come bundled with a clean Windows 7 DVD from where you can perform a nice, shiny, bloat free install. Phone up tech support and they will almost certainly charge a fee to send you a disk.
So, you want to put a clean Windows 7 on your machine, you have a legal Windows 7 product key and no way of installing it, which is a bit of an inconvenience to say the least. Obviously, there are ways to ‘source’ an image from various places, but you never know what you’re going to get with them. Thankfully there is a free and legal way to download the images (ISO’s) from Microsoft themselves.
All the Windows 7 images listed below come straight from Digital River which is an official Microsoft download channel and therefore, are completely untouched meaning no viruses, malware, hacks, cracks, loaders or anything else, just the official vanilla DVD’s in ISO form.
No need to worry about Service Pack 1 either, as this is included. These are ‘Media Refresh disks‘ released in May 2011, that along with SP1, also includes Microsoft hotfix KB2534111 which fixed a problem with the standard SP1 disk that would not allow any non ASCII characters when assigning the computer name. The European ‘N’ versions (stripped out media player software) are not included in the list.
A few things to note about these Windows 7 ISO’s:
- You do need a legal Windows 7 key and the install will need to be activated within 30 days. Look for the sticker on the bottom of your laptop or the side / back of your desktop.
- You cannot install a different Windows edition to the one listed on your sticker. ie; If the key is for ‘Home Premium’ you cannot get away with installing ‘Ultimate’.
- You can switch between 32bit and 64bit. ie; If you have ‘Home Premium’ 32bit currently installed, for the new install you can download and use ‘Home Premium’ 64bit using the same product key.
Click on the link you want to download, download managers are supported. The Microsoft SHA1 checksum values have been added to verify the integrity of the download.
Simply download the ISO you’re looking for and burn it with you favourite ISO burning software. Alternatively, right click on the ISO file in Windows 7 and select ‘Burn Disk Image’ or just double click on it.
These disks can very easily be converted into universal installation DVD’s supporting all Windows 7 editions apart from the Enterprise edition. There is only one file that needs to be deleted from the ISO. Open the image in suitable software, then look in the ‘Sources’ folder for the file ‘ei.cfg’. All it does is restrict the choice of Windows editions that can be installed with that particular DVD. Just remove it and resave the image. Or you could try the ei.cfg Removal Uitlity.
Do note that even though you may download a ‘Home Premium’ ISO and remove the ei.cfg file so you can now see ‘Professional’ and ‘Ultimate’ on the same disk, this does not mean you can now install ‘Professional’ or ‘Ultimate’ if you have a ‘Home Premium’ product key.
If you would like a tutorial on how to backup your activation data to restore onto a new install using a program called ‘Activation Backup and Restore’, Raymond wrote about it in THIS article.
Please note: This article is simply about obtaining a clean Windows distro to use with your legitimate product key, nothing else. If you’re looking to activate your Windows 7 install by other than official means, you will find no help here.