Legitimate retail Windows 7 Ultimate?
November 1, 2014 1:09 PM   Subscribe

This is a long shot, but where can I buy a legitimate full retail version of Windows 7 Ultimate? Everything on eBay is counterfeit. Even an extremely genuine-looking COA in a sealed box leads to counterfeit DVDs (peel-off stickers) that can only be identified in-person (yes, I ran into that), and a "working" activation code is most likely a stolen MSDN time-limited developer code. Any ideas? My last resort would be an OEM disc, since those are still being sold through legit channels, but those are essentially single-use per machine.
posted by Ky to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why not buy from Amazon or another legitimate online source? Is the problem the cost ($150+) or the licensing (limited to 1 install)?
posted by sninctown at 1:36 PM on November 1, 2014

Response by poster: Amazon itself doesn't sell it. What you're mostly seeing are the 3rd party "marketplace" sellers that sometimes go through Amazon for fulfillment, but that hardly guarantees a legit copy. I've seen Amazon fulfill easily spotted counterfeit media before (movies, etc.), because they don't check these things, and people are fooled when they press the Prime filter and see that Amazon ships it.

The issue with the OEM version is that installation is tied to a single resale machine, which makes long-term upgrading a challenge for people who use custom systems like myself. A retail version can be moved to a new machine.
posted by Ky at 1:49 PM on November 1, 2014

If by chance you could make do with the "upgrade" version, I have a legitimate retail box set of that. (Because of the issues you're describing with the scammy sellers, I can't tell whether that's actually helpful.)
posted by teremala at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here you go:

New Egg
posted by tman99 at 2:01 PM on November 1, 2014

Also here it is sold and shipped by Amazon:

posted by tman99 at 2:09 PM on November 1, 2014

Response by poster: @teremala: Thanks for the offer; I'll look into whether WinXP can be upgraded using that (I believe the Win7 upgrade path was designed for Vista), but are you still using it on a current system? I'm not sure how the activation can be made clean and clear, besides asking Microsoft.

@tman99: Thanks, but both are the OEM box. I'd go for a legit 64-bit OEM Win7U since that's still available through legit channels like Newegg/Amazon, but am waiting to see if there are other avenues I might be missing for a retail copy. Like...maybe a big corporation with a volume source and they're getting rid of stock, or something.
posted by Ky at 2:12 PM on November 1, 2014

If you have a lesser version of Win 7 already on your computer, you can use the "Window Anytime Upgrade" gizmo in the control panel. I went from Win7 Home to Win7 Pro that way, and Win7 Ultimate was also offered.

The update is nearly instant (a few minutes of downloading at most).
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:18 PM on November 1, 2014

No, it's not currently being used. I bought it in 2009 for a laptop that got smashed in a fall while I was awaiting the shipment. I should have just returned the discs but kept thinking I'd finish the repair project. Alas, not so much, and eventually I got a new laptop with its own copy pre-installed. The box is open but I really cannot remember ever having had any other use for it; unfortunately it doesn't seem like there's any way to check besides trying.

The back says that if you have XP, "...you will will need to back up your files and settings, perform a clean install and then re-install your existing files, settings, and programs".
posted by teremala at 2:31 PM on November 1, 2014

Response by poster: @Chocolate Pickle: Thanks, that's something to consider in keeping my options open with Windows 7 versions, but I'd still need a retail instead of OEM copy if I'm moving to a new machine (or upgrading a bunch of components). My current PC has OEM Win7Home and could go that route, but I'm guessing the Anytime Upgrade license would still be ultimately bound to the OEM machine.

@teremala: Thanks again for the info. Your Win7U upgrade box would be great for someone with already an Windows XP system, but I discovered that we don't have a retail Windows XP box (it's XP Upgrade); and I wouldn't be able to use a chain-upgrade path for my own use because I use SSDs for OS/software now, and Windows XP doesn't recognize those drives. Bah, oh well. I'll keep looking. :)
posted by Ky at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2014

Not positive this will work, but how about downloading Win7U from DigitalRiver (the digital distribution company that MS hired for the Win7 release, see here for links) and install it. You'll have 30 days to activate, and I would think.. without knowing for sure... that it would offer you a way to pay for it direct to MS.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Microsoft has just stopped selling OEM installs of windows home editions (which includes ultimate). Retail sales stopped a year ago now. So you're basically searching the dregs of any left over copies in the channel a year later, which as you say, is hard to find amongst the counterfeit copies. OEM copies are also going to get pretty rare soon.

If you're not specifically tied to Ultimate edition (i.e. must have bitlocker & directaccess) you can buy a retail copy of windows 8.1 pro and exercise the downgrade rights to windows 7 pro. That involves installing a copy of windows 7 pro without a key, and then using telephone activation - you tell them you're downgrading from windows 8, given them the 8 key, and you'll get the usual long activation code to activate that install with. Repeat as necessary next time you change enough hardware or transfer to a new pc.

Another option is to use windows 8.1 pro with a start menu replacement - I personally like startisback - so you get the performance improvements of windows 8, and excise metro pretty much entirely.

If you must have windows 7 ultimate, you can go the OEM route; you are allowed to modify and replace hardware on OEM machines. This includes replacing the motherboard for a repair (which is what usually triggers a reactivation). So somewhat like having the same broom, just with a new handle or head on occasion, you can truthfully answer the question 'how many computers is this copy of windows installed on', and get through telephone activation for future activations. Though you're not technically allowed to move it to an entirely new PC with no hardware at all in common with the old one, despite the check being easy to pass, so don't umm, do that.

Bear in mind windows 7 ultimate was the last in its line. Windows 8, there is no 'home' version of enterprise, and that's not looking like it'll change with 10. So if you do need the features in ultimate specifically - business reasons? - it would be worth talking to your IT department, if you have one, to see if you're covered by a volume licence agreement - they are surprisingly generous about extending software coverage to include home use by staff on their own hardware.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:23 PM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @Sunburnt:
Thanks for the links (surprised they still work)...

Yep, I started a year late. I just wasn't paying attention, dangit!
Thanks for the tips. I didn't know you could downgrade a Windows 8 license. I'm interested in a few of the 7 Ultimate features, but it's not make-or-break when I really think about it. Pro is good too, so I'll widen the net. In doing some research, it appears MS only allows downgrading on an OEM Windows 8 Pro device, and the instructions at PC World look kind of ridiculous.

The number of components that can be changed under an OEM license is a bit unclear, but this MS discussion was useful (looks like MS really loosened up their Win8 OEM license for personal power users, though; too bad some software I use aren't entirely compatible). I'll most likely just plunk for an OEM Win7 install before those totally disappear, and hope the motherboard I choose in the future will have some growing room.
posted by Ky at 7:02 PM on November 1, 2014

In case this is still relevant, if you take a community college course about Win7 they may offer the ability to download it for educational purposes. You know, for the people that need it but don't have it.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:56 PM on November 1, 2014

Best answer: it appears MS only allows downgrading on an OEM Windows 8 Pro device

Oops, you are entirely correct - windows 8 retail has no downgrade rights, only OEM and volume licence versions. Sorry for the bad advice.

In practise, the main difference between OEM and retail windows 7 is that retail will activate online OK multiple times when the hardware changes (I've only ever triggered it with motherboard replacements or a full reinstall); OEM will only online activate the first time, further activations have to be by calling the automated help line for the long code - which I've never had refused. And OEM versions don't come with the entitlement to call microsoft support if you get stuck.

You're allowed to install or replace hardware approved by the original OEM; but when you buy it for yourself, you are your own OEM!

They did loosen things up with windows 8, then promptly tightened it again with 8.1. Lord knows what it'll be like with 10.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:21 AM on November 2, 2014

I've had great success performing clean windows 7 installs with upgrade media. Once or twice I had to go through the phone activation process and I never had to do a double install, but my experience has been with windows 7 home premium upgrades, not ultimate. There's a comment at the bottom of that page indicating that ultimate may not activate using this method any more.
posted by Real.Wolf at 5:20 AM on November 2, 2014

Response by poster: @fiercekitten: That may be a valid idea, but I suspect such classes take place in a computer lab with all necessary materials in place. Or maybe an online course would have such an offer, but I highly doubt they'd offer either Win7Pro/Ult under educational license.

@Real.Wolf: But the PCs upon which you did the clean installs already had other (valid Windows) OSes, right? I briefly considered using a legit retail WinXP -> Win7UltUPG route, but WinXP doesn't natively recognize SATA drives (and I always use SSD as my boot drive), so that sounds like too much trouble for me. Besides which, finding a legit retail upgrade box of Win7 these days is just as hard as retail full...

@ArkhanJG: Thanks for the practical advice. What I can expect with an OEM Win7 disc then is that the motherboard and CPU (for all intents and purposes, because upgrading those separately are the most painful anyway) will be tied to an OEM install, and I could upgrade the other parts in the future--probably graphics card, SSD as prices fall.

They did loosen things up with windows 8, then promptly tightened it again with 8.1. Lord knows what it'll be like with 10.

Oh for crapssake, Microsoft! -_-

So what I've decided to do now is buy two copies of OEM Windows 7 Pro (a tad cheaper than Ultimate, and I can live with it) while they're still available in the wild through legitimate channels, where the combined price is still less than retail Win7Ult I think. Then eke out their lifespan as much as possible in my own machines. I can HOPE Windows 10 is...super duper (Win8 has some things I don't like, not just the start screen, that I don't want on my main PC even though I have a Win8 variant tablet), but I have a collection of old software I would like to keep going, and it just gets harder and harder. I may need to have a separate Windows XP partition at some point, heh.
posted by Ky at 5:39 AM on November 2, 2014

Response by poster: For future reference. If anyone wonders how to identify counterfeit MS stuff (it can be impossible without the physical box in hand, though), this is Microsoft's "how to tell" site:

posted by Ky at 7:36 AM on November 5, 2014

« Older How to spend a bunch of money on my credit card to...   |   Blouses I can wear untucked with suits. Difficulty... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.