How to get a free legal copy of a Windows 7 installation disk

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Windows 7 imageIf you have a Windows 7 system and ever need a full installation disk for some repair function, you are likely to be out of luck. Nowadays, most PCs only come with a restore or recovery partition or sometimes a restore disk. However, neither of these provides a full installation but only returns a system to the same setup that it was in when you bought it. This is often not what you are looking for. Here is how to get a legitimate free copy of an ISO file for a Windows 7 full installation disk from the download service that Microsoft uses for online Windows 7 purchases. Note that while the disk file is free you still need a valid product key to activate any installation.

Microsoft itself does not provide Windows 7 downloads for the general public but the company uses DigitalRiver for online downloads.  Download links for all popular English language versions of Windows 7 can be found on this page. These are  large ISO files containing a number of GB so be prepared for a long download.  Once downloaded, the ISO can be burnt to a DVD or placed on a USB. These versions are updated to SP1.

Although these are full Windows installation files, be aware that they may not contain all the drivers necessary for your particular system.  According to what I read at Microsoft sites, these disks are the same as those sold online by the Microsoft store and installations can be activated with a valid product key that you already have.  I have activated copies on virtual machines and everything worked. 

For repair purposes, a product key is not necessary and one of these disks is a worthwhile addition to your emergency disks along with the one described in this previous tip

And there you have it - something to help make it easier to maintain your Windows 7 system.

Update: Microsoft has now taken down the Digital River links for Windows 7 downloads. An alternative is given at this link Download Windows 7 Disc Images (ISO Files).

 

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

Microsoft seems to be playing games with the Digital River download links for Windows 7 SP1 ISO files.They are back up. This is the second time Microsoft has disabled the links and then restored them. How long the links will continue to work this time, I don't know.

I bookmarked this page, and today I came to download the image [Win 7 ultimate 64], only to find that the download links are no longer active.

That's true, the download links are no longer working.. returns a 404.
The links are broken because the software distribution deal that Microsoft had with Digital River expired this month and the latter's download page no longer exists (bummer, right?). All these downloads have been transferred to the MS Store, meaning most of them are no longer available for free unless you provide a "proof of purchase" of such products.
That is really a bummer.

Vic's download links appear to be working again.

Hello, okay so... I installed a new hard drive then I downloaded the windows 7 home premium 64bit from the link provided, burn it to a disk but when I put it in and start up, it comes up with "operating system not found"

Is because of the new hard drive or could it be something else?

Did you change the boot order in the BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD drive first?

yeah, although i cant access my BIOS i can only access my system utility, is there a certain way you burn the iso image to the cd?

thank you v.laurie for that article. i was wondering and still am, can a windows home premium product key be used to activate windows ultimate or vice versa? please reply.

No

Hello I was wondering I had a copy of window 7 premium that I bought with my
Samsung laptop ...my hard drive crashed and I decided to buy a
intel nuc DN2820FYKH now I lost my copy of windows 7 but I found the box and have the product key will this copy of windows 7 premium work with my nuc and product key

If you have an OEM license, it is only valid for the original equipment.

i used a norton antivirus to scan my hp laptop, after which i reboot it. it boot up to where my password is required and after inputing my password its showing blank.pls help me i use windows 7 operating system

I have a Gateway LT4009u computer and no problems until last night. When I went to turn the computer back on the screen comes up black with the words: not original copy Operating System. What does this mean? I cannot locate the Windows 7 installation disc which I was told would be needed. I do not remember if it came with one or not. I am not into the tech end of computers, but am trying to install window 7 or windows xp operating system of bootable pan drive.but i have no complete installation.why this problem?Please send me information anyone for this problem.
Thank you

I have a Gateway SX2803 computer and no problems until last night. When I went to turn the computer back on the screen comes up black with the words: Missing Operating System. What does this mean? I cannot locate the Windows 7 installation disc which I was told would be needed. I do not remember if it came with one or not. I am not into the tech end of computers, but am trying to get info on the problem I have. Thanks, for any help you can give me, yonkers.

I just want to get rid of the windows 8 that Microsoft FORCED me to get. I think i deserve windows 7 for free for the bull that windows 8 has put me through.

I hope people realise that the **OS SOFTWARE** is free, yes....

B U T

you have to have a **valid licence** that came with the PC when you originally bought it with win7 installed...

It is the LICENCE that costs the money.... :/

To use this Win7 disk is it necessary to delete and format the C: drive or do you just load and do the setup?

For repair functions, you just use the disk and follow instructions.

Yes. Microsoft still sells the XP disks for $29.00. If your machine was running on XP SP3 with all the latest updates, remember to ask for an updated disk or you will be given XP SP2 since the links to the XP2 pathces have been closed.
Good luck.

Thank you Vic. Understood. I do make regular full disk images and I have created a full set of recovery disks and a system repair disk.

Hello Vic

I'm still unclear as to what you are saying. Your article seems to promote the Digital River Windows 7 full installation disk, particularly to people such as myself and of course many others, who have purchased their operating system pre-loaded by the pc manufacturer. As you rightly say, the purchaser merely gets a restore or recovery partition and can create his own restore disk(s).

The manufacturer creates his own unique product code, which will only restore the product to its pre-sale condition and in all probability cannot be used to activate any other version of Windows 7.

You mention that the Digital River installation still needs a 'valid' product key to activate it and there seems to be doubt that the pc manufacturer's unique key can be used. So, if one has to purchase a valid 'retail' product key, this appears to defeat the object of getting the free installation disk in the first place.

I hope I'm not sounding difficult; just genuinely confused. I would dearly love to be able to use the Digital River disk.

There is nothing to keep you from using the download as a repair disk. As I have said, I intended the tip to be used for repair purposes. Repair functions do not require a product key. If your system is so badly damaged that it needs a full re-installation and activation, then this quote from the tip applies: "According to what I read at Microsoft sites, these disks are the same as those sold online by the Microsoft store and installations can be activated with a valid product key that you already have." There are apparently examples of people using an OEM product key that worked. Whether this will be the case for all OEM systems, I don't know. If you have a fully functioning system now, be sure to make a full disk image before trouble hits and you won't have to worry. See this link: http://windows7tips.com/windows-7-backup.html or this link http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-drive-imaging-program.htm
As suggested by Vic, after making a repair disc, and also an image of the system, using the above links, maybe you can try installing Windows from the DVD to see if the key works. I think it should. Only way to find out is giving it a try. But, please make sure that before you do that, you make an image, and back it up properly to an external drive, or somewhere safe. Also backup your data. And take care not to overwrite, or delete the recovery partition of the laptop. All these precautions are necessary in case you cannot install Windows, and you will have to revert back. PS : To reply to a comment, and to make your reply appear below the comment you reply to, please make use of the "reply" button, shown at bottom of the comment you want to reply to. I hope I was able to write that properly :D.

Regarding product keys from manufacturers, I received the following advice from HP:"the product key on your desktop (sticker) is the genuine one that will be required to activate pre installed Windows. This product key is not used to activate any other software and you will not be able to use the same to activate the Digital River full boot disk.

However, when I asked Microsoft Community (microsoftanswers@microsoft.com)which product key would I use to activate the Digital River operating system, they replied "The one on the sticker attached to your machine. Learn more:
http://techingiteasy.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/how-to-activate-windows-7-..."

So, conflicting views on how to activate the Digital River Windows 7 full installation.

Anybody able to clarify this situation?

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