It doesn’t really matter what version of Windows you have, the best way to get your system working at its full speed and as issue free as possible is with a clean install of the operating system. Many small things can go wrong with your system over time which eventually will degrade performance and cause stability issues. Even with Windows 10, it’s recommended to clean install after upgrading so you are not transferring any problems from your old Windows install onto your new one.
It’s relatively easy to get hold of a Windows 10 ISO image, burn it to DVD or write to USB and do a clean install. However, it’s more difficult to source official install media for older operating systems like Windows 7. Of course, there are many unofficial sources like torrent sites but most of the well best seeded files will have been cracked, tampered with or altered in some way. That makes it more difficult to verify safety and stability. Using a trusted source is always the preferable option.
The best way to guarantee you are getting a clean and untouched Windows ISO image is going directly to the source, which is Microsoft themselves. It used to be easy to download Windows 7 ISO images until they were all removed from Digital River after sales of Windows 7 were discontinued in 2014. Microsoft doesn’t even want ordinary consumers to download a Windows 10 ISO direct anymore and instead pushes you to use the Media Creation Tool. Thankfully there are ways around these obstacles and it’s possible to download Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 ISO images directly from Microsoft’s own servers, whether it’s through an officially recommended method or a workaround. Here we show you several ways to download the ISO you need so Windows can be installed cleanly and safely.
Things to know about Windows ISO images and Reinstalling
- Your Windows license only allows you to reinstall the edition of Windows that you have a license for. If you have Windows 7 Home Premium, for example, you must install that same operating system again.
- You can switch between 32-bit and 64-bit as long as the Windows edition is the same. For example, you can replace Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit with Home Premium 64-bit.
- You do need a legal Windows license or the new install will be in trial mode. Windows 7 users will have a product key sticker. Windows 8.1 or 10 users will either have a separate key if Windows was purchased as a standalone product or the key will be embedded in the system BIOS. It will be read automatically on reinstall if your computer is from a manufacturer such as Dell or Lenovo etc. If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free the license is tied to the computer hardware and will reactivate automatically on reinstall without entering a key.
- If you are using Windows 7 with a computer purchased from a manufacturer and cannot read the product key on the sticker, it’s still possible to reinstall and activate without it. Read our article on backing up and restoring the Windows 7 license for help on what to do.
Download a Windows 10 ISO With the Media Creation Tool
There are a couple of ways in which you can download a Windows 10 ISO. One is the Microsoft Media Creation Tool which allows you to download a Windows ISO file, upgrade to Windows directly or download the installation files onto a flash drive so you can install from USB.
1. Download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool and run it. Accept the license agreement, select “create installation media for another PC” and click Next.
2. The language, version and architecture type will be chosen that best matches the operating system you are running the tool on. To change these untick the recommended options box and chose what you want from the drop down menus. Click Next when done.
The “Windows 10” option in the Edition menu will include Home and Pro versions, so if you also choose Both in the Architecture menu you’ll get an all in one ISO image with 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Home and Pro on the same disk.
3. Select “ISO file” to download an ISO image file and click Next. You’ll then be asked to supply a save location and filename. The files will then start to download.
Once complete you can open the DVD burner directly or click Finish and create the install media later. An all in one image with both 32-bit and 64-bit editions included will not fit on a single layer DVDR and you’ll have to use either a USB flash drive or dual layer DVDR. Once downloaded, you can burn the image to DVD, write it to USB or store the file for later use.
Download Windows 8.1 With the Media Creation Tool
There’s still a lot of users around that have Windows 8.1 installed and they might want to keep hold of it and not upgrade to Windows 10. After all, Windows 8.1 is supported until 2023. Windows 8.1 also has its own Media Creation Tool although this one has fewer options than the Windows 10 version.
1. Download the Windows 8.1 Media Creation Tool and run it. The first window offers the language, edition and architecture download options. Select from the drop down menus and click Next.
This tool offers Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Pro as separate downloads as well as 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The N versions are mainly intended for European markets and have media related features missing like Windows Media Player.
2. Choose “ISO file” and click Next. A file requester will ask for the save location and filename, after supplying that the download will begin.
The ISO images for windows 8.1 are from late 2014 and include the major autumn update.
Download a Windows 7 ISO From The Disc Images Page
The last official Windows 7 ISO is from 2011 which includes Service Pack 1 and a minor hotfix that fixes an install bug. There will be tons of updates after installation so creating an integrated ISO is also worth considering. The one official method left available requires you to enter your Windows 7 product key before downloading the image file.
1. Visit the Windows 7 Disc Images page at Microsoft.
2. Enter your 25 character product key into the box and click Verify. If the key is accepted you will be able to download a Windows 7 ISO that corresponds to the license key you entered. Select the required language and a 32-bit or 64-bit version then download the file.
Important Note: This page has a massive problem because it only accepts retail license keys which you get only when purchasing a full boxed copy of Windows 7. If your computer is pre-built from a manufacturer such as Dell or HP your key will be of the OEM type which cannot be used. The same also applies to volume licenses and system builder OEM versions. This restriction excludes most Windows 7 users from downloading an ISO image from the only official source available.
Third Party Methods To Download Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 From Microsoft
Ever since Microsoft removed Windows ISOs from Digital River it’s been more difficult to find a clean and untouched image. Thankfully, there are ways in which you can get to the ISOs on Microsoft’s own servers using other means. Here a selection of easy ways to do it.
Adguard.net Techbench Download Page
Adguard is a Russian website (not related to the ad blocker) that releases custom ISOs for Windows. They also have a separate page which is a simple frontend allowing you download Windows ISO images from the Microsoft servers. This is an easy and quick way to get access to all Windows downloads at Microsoft without using hacks or separate third party tools.
Simply visit the page and in the drop down menus select the Windows version, then the edition, then finally the language. After a few seconds, the download links will appear to the right with 32-bit and 64-bit versions if both are available. Also displayed are SHA1 checksums for the download so you can check the ISO file integrity once downloaded.
Besides Windows 7, 8.1 and various versions of Windows 10, the Adguard Techbench page also offers ISO downloads for Office 2007 and 2010. The TechBench Dump link at the bottom of the page offers all available ISO download links on a single page. The middle button top left also does the same but shows checksums and has direct links for quicker access.
Techbench Dump is another easy to use way of downloading Windows ISOs, this is based on a Github script. It does the same thing as the Adguard site but with a different layout. With this page, you click on the button for which Windows (or Office) you want to download, select the version (Home, Pro etc) on the following page, then the language on the next page.
Finally, you will come to a page with download buttons for 32-bit and 64-bit editions of the ISO. There’s also a set of direct links so you can quickly redownload the image from Microsoft servers without going through the steps again. Another very clean and efficient method to get the ISOs you need.
Heidoc Windows and Office ISO Download Tool
Heidoc is a website that has been hosting ways to get ISO images from Microsoft for a number of years. They also have a dedicated tool which is able to download not only Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 ISOs but also ISOs for Office 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 (also 2011 for Mac). The tool is kept updated so any potential problems should get fixed quite quickly.
Run the program, select what you want on the right and the main window will show a copy of the Microsoft Windows 10 ISO download page, but with the specific ISO file code injected. Select the edition from the drop down and click Confirm, select the language and click Confirm. Finally, click the button to download the 32-bit or 64-bit version. The Office 2013/2016 downloads are slightly different because they open and download the file in your browser.
Universal Windows Downloader
This little 22KB tool is by nummerok, who like Adguard, is associated with WZT. With it, you can download Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 ISOs, as well as Office 2007 and 2010 images. Sadly, Universal Windows Downloader has not been updated since mid 2016. That means it does not currently include downloads for Windows 10 Anniversary Update or previews/final release of the Creators Update. Everything else, such as Windows 7 or 8.1, is up to date.
All you have to do is find the Windows version you want from the Product drop down and select the language from the other drop down. Then the x64 and x86 download buttons or a single button will become available depending on what version of Windows is selected. Like the other methods here, the file will then download from software-download.microsoft.com.
Note: There’s another Windows ISO downloading tool around that was released in early 2017, called MSDN Downloader. This program looks nice and is quite intuitive with a built in hash checker. The problem is it pulls all of its ISO images from a Russian server and not from Microsoft. The files may or may not be identical to the originals and you are free to use it, but please be aware the files are not coming from Microsoft’s servers.
Verify The SHA1 Checksum of Your Windows ISO
All Windows ISOs are over 2GB in size so it’s wise to check that the download is not corrupt. You can do this by comparing the SHA1 checksum of the downloaded ISO with the checksum from Microsoft. If they don’t match there is a problem with the file. Rather than searching Microsoft’s MSDN pages looking for the correct checksum, it’s easier to use the Adguard download page or its database list (middle button top left).
If you don’t already have a hash checker handy, we have a list of 10 File Integrity checking tools so you can download one of those. Then verify both SHA1 checksums match.
For your convenience, we’ve listed some English language SHA1 checksums for ISOs downloaded from the Windows 10 download page and third party methods above. The Media Creation Tool ISOs for Windows 8.1 and 10 will not be the same though and will not match these checksums.
Windows 7 Starter SP1 32-bit
Windows 7 Home Basic SP1 32-bit
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 32-bit
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
Windows 7 Professional SP1 32-bit
Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 32-bit
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
Windows 8.1 and Pro (Autumn 2014 update) 32-bit
Windows 8.1 and Pro (Autumn 2014 update) 64-bit
Windows 8.1 and Pro (Autumn 2014 update) 32-bit (English International)
Windows 8.1 and Pro (Autumn 2014 update) 64-bit (English International)
Windows 10 Home and Pro (Anniversary update) 32-bit
Windows 10 Home and Pro (Anniversary update) 64-bit
Windows 10 Home and Pro (Anniversary update) 32-bit (English International)
Windows 10 Home and Pro (Anniversary update) 64-bit (English International)
If any the checksum you want isn’t listed, you can still find it using the Adguard database if required.
Unlocking Windows 7 Versions From a Single ISO
Many users will know that each Windows 7 ISO contains all other available versions, except for Enterprise. For instance, the Home Premium ISO also contains Starter, Home Basic, Professional and Ultimate, but they are hidden from view. To unlock the extra versions all you need to do is remove the ei.cfg file from the image.
A simple way to do this is using a small program called the ei.cfg Removal Utility which tells the file system of the disc to ignore the file. This is a handy and quick method because opening the file, deleting it and then resaving the ISO is not required, the process here is near instantaneous. Below is a Home Premium 32-bit install disk with ei.cfg removed.
All you have to do is run the ei.cfg Removal Utility and locate the downloaded Windows 7 ISO, a small window will pop up to say the file is removed, running the tool again will restore the ei.cfg. Using this method means you can save time and bandwidth and get all Windows 7 consumer editions by downloading a single Windows 7 ISO file instead of four or five.
On page 2 we’ll show you how to use the original method to download WInbdows 7, 8.1 and 10 ISOs that the third party options above rely on.