Windows questions I should know the answers to but don't
April 6, 2015 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Questions are acquiring a legitimate copy of Windows OS and installing it on a family's computer.

My Dad's just handy enough with a computer to be dangerous. This is a blessing and a curse in someways. I am savvy enough to have built my own computer, and that makes me the defacto tech support person. (It helps that I live closer then my step-brother)

He bought an external hard drive to back up his internal drives. But for some reason he's running into an i/o error using the windows 7 backup tool. I've sent him a list of things to try before I can go over there and work on it myself.

It's been multiple years since Windows was last installed, and they're complaining that it's running slow. (It took Chrome a good 45 seconds to pull up They're not savvy enough to avoid malware, so it's my guess that the system is absolutely lousing with the stuff. For the immediate future I plan to run a malwarebyes scan and clean up what I can.. but I think they'd benefit from a reinstall of windows.

Honestly, my plan is to buy them a cheap SSD and install windows on that. (It'll fly so fast I'll look like a wizard..) It's a 7+ year old Dell running Windows 7. I fully expect that my Dad doesn't have an installation disk. So here comes my questions:

1. Can I transfer the serial code of Windows 7 that's already on the system to the new SSD?
2. If yes to 1, can you just download an installation of Windows 7 from Microsoft?
3. If no to 2, where's the best place to obtain a copy of Windows 7 lower then $100? (Perfectly fine if it's an OEM copy)

bonus question: Is the Windows Backup tool sufficient, or should we be looking at a different kind of backup software? Any suggestions?

I also plan to set them up on some sort of cloud based backup system.
posted by royalsong to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you can just transfer the license key. You can download an installation from Microsoft here. Enter the key already on the computer.

Microsoft is no longer super hardcore about preventing piracy. Since you have a license key I doubt you will run into trouble.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:30 AM on April 6, 2015

The product key may be on a sticker on the machine itself. My Dell laptop had one on the bottom and several desktops I use have a sticker on the side of the tower.

They're not savvy enough to avoid malware
Microsoft does offer free anti-virus software for Windows.
posted by soelo at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check out deezil's Malware Fighting Toolkit for help on reconfiguring the machine in his user profile here. Great instructions.

My machine had a sticker on the bottom as well, so have him check there to see if the product key is just on the machine. If so, make sure he downloads the proper version of Windows (which should also be written on the sticker) because the product key will only work with that version (e.g. Windows 7 Home or whatever).
posted by sockermom at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The link that vogon_poet provides is not likely to work. You'll probably be told: contact your OEM to request a recovery disk. At this point, I'd guess that the easiest thing to do is to get a hash that you can verify the media with (these things are floating around) and torrent the install CD. While you're at it, I'd suggest slipstreaming the OS patches onto your ISO. Because bringing a new install of Windows up to date is a multi-stage, all day process.
posted by wotsac at 9:19 AM on April 6, 2015

Of all of the key recovery programs I've used, Produkey has been the most reliable.
posted by user92371 at 9:50 AM on April 6, 2015

You shouldn't need to buy a new license. The key on the sticker should work, the one that 7 tells you might not. It worked on my mom's 7 year old Dell laptop when I re-installed the OEM 7 on a new SSD last month. The guide here, and other pages linked from there (especially the one about using a UEFI enabled USB stick) were what I used. Just make sure that the BIOS is up to date and instaling from a USB stick is easy. Go here for the download links to the versions of 7. Make sure you get the appropriate one. The OEM key will work with either x86 or x64 of the correct version. You'll still have to run MS Update several times. And install all the other things. But it is totally worth it for the fresh clean install.

Have a second, usable computer with you to download all of the drivers from Dell. Depending upon the model, they may even have a whole re-imaging guide that has the best order of install (they do for many business models).

When I put in an SSD, I pull and leave the old drive as-is and keep it. Unless you are absolutely double certain that every bit of important data is backed up to another device, it is very cheap insurance against data loss or a botched OS install. But I am extra cautious after years of pulling old drives out of dead systems to do data recovery for friends who had every digital photo and business document on that one drive and no where else.
posted by monopas at 10:17 AM on April 6, 2015

Also, I don't bother with full image backups, I just back up data files. Image backups take up lots of space and don't always seem to work, unless you are using a pay for version of a program like Macrium or Acronis and are backing up to an external hard drive. If you are going to pop in a new drive, just drag and drop all of the data files (documents, music, photos etc.) to the external drive instead of trying to do a bulk backup. And have a list of the programs that need reinstalling.

Eset Smart Security is the protection I use and recommend. It isn't free, but it is worth it. 2 people, 4+ computers, 10 years, 0 infections. Kaspersky rates a little higher in testing, but it uses more resources and slows everything down and the end result is the same. MS Security Essentials is ok for the cautious, but not enough for the malware-prone.
posted by monopas at 10:41 AM on April 6, 2015

It's a 7+ year old Dell running Windows 7.

I'm guessing that's why it's running so slow. After 7 years, that's about when you want to look at full replacement. I really doubt a solid state drive will solve the problems with this computer. How much RAM does it have? RAM should have a much bigger impact and is generally the first step in speeding up a slow computer. A solid state drive vs. hard disk drive is not the reason Google is taking 45 seconds to start in Chrome -- that sounds like a RAM problem.

I think your dad needs a new computer. I bought my mom a Dell desktop for $400 when her previous computer was running slow, even after I added more RAM, and it's a world of difference. A new computer wouldn't cost that much more than a solid state drive.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2015

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