Where to find a licensed version of Windows 7 Professional ?
March 19, 2014 12:57 PM   Subscribe

In pushing Windows 8, Microsoft is making it very difficult to find Windows 7: does anyone know a vendor for a legitimate "boxed' version of Windows 7 Professional 32-bit for a single PC? Details inside...

Greetings All!

Some months back, I asked the Green about the virtues of converting a system running Windows XP Professional to Windows 7 or Windows 8; the link is here.

The responses were enormously helpful, and I thank you all again.

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which concerns hardware compatibility, I have decided to go with Windows 7 Professional.

The problem is, it is very, very hard to find. PCConnection offers an "OEM" version, which I am informed would not allow re-installation of the OS if the machine crashed somewhere down the line.

Walmart (!) sells -- and I purchased -- Windows 7 Pro in a "system builder" pack; ironically, it was the representative at PCConnection who found, recommended and directed me to this version.

Fedex delivered it today, and the box is labeled "OEM System Builder Pack" and states:

"Intended for system builders ONLY"


"If the individual software license if for a desktop operating system ..., it also must be preinstalled on the hard drive of the fully assembled computer system, using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK)."

The link to this OPK download page at Microsoft no longer works. I have not found online chat around this "OPK" issue that seems to address a "retail" situation with any reliability. Some comments claim the OPK is unnecessary, and that the system builder pack DVD should boot up, run and install just fine. Others claim that this "solution" does not work. There also seems to be some confusion around the product key.

I have not opened the package yet as I suspect that this version, which is seemingly directed at IT departments and other professionals doing bulk installations on new PCs, may not allow for a normal single machine installation.

Hence my question to the Green: Is this system builder pack essentially equivalent to the retail boxed version one once could buy, and if not, where might I find a legitimate retail version of Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, complete with product key and license?

Or, maybe I join CorporateAmerica in what appears to be a giant game of chicken and carry on with XP? (The risk management implications here are interesting but for another discussion...)

(I think I feel my old distaste for Microsoft resurrecting....)

Thanks again!
posted by cool breeze to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by davcoo at 1:11 PM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: The OEM/System Builder software will work forever, including reinstalls, as long as the motherboard is not changed. It lacks any typical customer support options (because it's discounted with the understanding that it will be installed by experts, or people like me who have convinced ourselves and the world we know what we're doing), and it can't be used to upgrade from an existing OS (because then it wouldn't be on a new computer).

They have apparently ended this sort of option for Windows 8, which is good for users. Also, I think the motherboard connection is basically fair; changing the motherboard of any reasonable age usually necessitates replacement of a number of other dependent components, such as RAM and CPU, sometimes power supply. Even more than the way a new engine adds life to the car, a new motherboard and its dependents is such a substantial change as to represent a change of computer. Motherboard and dependents would probably also represent a substantial chunk of change of which the expense of a new OS would be only a smallish percentage on top.

I think you can do fine with what you have. It definitely will install, but you can't run to MS if things go wrong. But that's okay, you have the Green! :^)
posted by Sunburnt at 1:19 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can install OEM Windows 7 on a single PC as many times as you want - even if the motherboard dies for some reason, you can retain your license as long as you get another motherboard from the same manufacturer.

See the question "Q. Can a PC with an OEM Windows operating system have its motherboard upgraded and keep the same license? What if it was replaced because it was defective?" here.
posted by UncleBoomee at 1:19 PM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

The OEM license should probably be fine, as long as you don't mind fiddling at an annoying automated 800 number if you have changed hardware. I've bounced my OEM copy of w7 home across two or three different motherboards, a Mac mini, and a few different virtual machines over the years.
posted by wotsac at 2:16 PM on March 19, 2014

Microcenter (There's one in Westchester) and Amazon (I don't think I need to link them) both sell OEM versions of Win 7 Pro. I know this because I just rebuilt / replaced a PC last weekend, and while my local Microcenter was out, I could have ordered it online through them.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:20 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

The system builder version is indeed the OEM version, and as far as I could tell recently it is the only version of windows 7 that you can buy from regular sources. While there is a lot of verbiage and uncertainty w.r.t. what the _rules_ for an OEM license are supposed to be, I had no problem at a technical level installing OEM windows 7 on a single computer recently in the way one normally would.

If you're affiliated with a university or large company there might be one other possibility: Via my employer (a university), I would have been able to purchase a work-at-home upgrade non-OEM license for windows 7 (but I needed a new install so that didn't work). I don't know exactly how they are still selling those but suspect that they may simply have stockpiled them via some sort of site license deal. They also still have a site license that allows new installs & upgrades of non-OEM windows 7 on work machines.
posted by advil at 2:37 PM on March 19, 2014

Response by poster: As usual, you guys are great!

Why this did not pop up the other day I do not know, but this afternoon I managed to find a retailer in Denver, CO who had the Windows 7 Professional 32 /64 full retail package in stock, and ordered one. It's a bit more money, but at least I'll have maximum flexibility.

From what I have read about Windows 7 installations, the Custom option that pops up when the setup process detects another operating system is thought to do a good job of keeping track of old hardware settings and what-not. Not wanting to turn this upgrade / renovation into a circus -- as much as I like a circus on occasion -- I decided to play it safe since I could, at the ninth hour, find a full package replete with software keys and a license.

And, yes, you can call me chicken.

As always, many thanks for your well thought out advice and suggestions!
posted by cool breeze at 2:52 PM on March 19, 2014

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