Windows 7 .iso - how do I get a legit download?
May 31, 2015 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Recovery partition doesn't work, and the machine didn't come with install discs (apparently this is a thing?). I have a valid product key and a semi-working OEM Windows installation, but can't seem to find a legit copy of the system software online, just sketchy .info sites.

I spent all day trying to get my father-in-law's Windows 7 machine back into shape, but can't seem to reinstall the operating system. With a Mac I have created bootable USB drives from the discs or downloaded the OS with my Apple ID, but it doesn't seem like either of those are options. Am I stuck buying a whole new copy of the OS?

I can't believe that Microsoft makes it this difficult for legitimate users to reinstall.
posted by wnissen to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by jaymzjulian at 9:28 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

IIRC that link above won't work for OEM product keys (I had the same issue a few months back and just gave up and put Ubuntu on my laptop instead.) They end up telling you to go through your computer's manufacturer instead.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:02 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

This page has links to all Win7 iso's listed on Digital River - a legitimate, Microsoft authorised distribution site. I've downloaded from Digital River many times with no worries.

Bugger, they've taken down the Digital River downloads. Memail me, and I'll see if I can get my Universal install .iso up somewhere for you.
posted by quinndexter at 11:18 PM on May 31, 2015

Recovery partition doesn't work, and the machine didn't come with install discs (apparently this is a thing?)

Since you are talking about a recovery partition I'm guessing it's a laptop - in which case you can probably get recovery DVDs from the manufacturer (they might charge you though), I just did this for an old Thinkpad where I had to replace a dead hard drive.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:27 AM on June 1, 2015

Officially, going through the manufacturer to get a restore CD/DVD is the only truly legit way to go.

I, however, have had success with torrents of ISOs -- search for the manufacturer and version, and you might likely find a useful one. If it's the right version for your PC and you have a valid license code, then it isn't pirate software.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:47 AM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: quinndexter, that's very generous of you. I'm going to try the ACER Store Recovery Media link first, which will sell me a thumb drive of the software I've already paid for, at the low, low price of $20. I guess this is all a gambit to make sure that all the crapware and drivers for dodgy hardware get put back where they're supposed to be? Grrr....
posted by wnissen at 6:21 AM on June 1, 2015

Could you not just ask a friend to borrow their disk? Windows 7 isn't exactly rare, surely someone you know has a copy
posted by missmagenta at 7:03 AM on June 1, 2015

Here is a mirror of the old Digital River content. You should find a torrent of the iso you need there.
posted by ssg at 7:35 AM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Specifically, you will probably want either en_windows_7_home_premium_with_sp1_x86_dvd_u_676701.iso (32 bit Windows 7, SHA1 sum 6071b4553fcf0ea53d589a846b5ae76743dd68fc) or en_windows_7_home_premium_with_sp1_x64_dvd_u_676549.iso (64 bit Windows 7, SHA1 sum 6c9058389c1e2e5122b7c933275f963edf1c07b9). You might not be able to get those from any more, but if you Google the SHA1 sum along with the word "torrent" you will undoubtedly find plenty of other torrent sites that offer them.

After downloading your ISO of choice, check its SHA1 sum using something like HashMyFiles; if it matches the listed SHA1 sum, you can be completely sure that what you've downloaded is bit-identical with what MS originally published.

Before burning your ISO to disc, make a copy of it and modify that with both the ei.cfg and cversion.ini removal utilities from Winisoutils. This will give you the opportunity to tell Setup to use a Windows 7 flavour (Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate) that matches the one your laptop is licensed for, make Setup able to accept an OEM product key for that, and enabling the in-place upgrade setup option that works much the same way as a Repair Install used to on Windows XP.

If your existing Windows 7 installation is still somewhat usable, run ProduKey on it to extract the OEM product key it was installed with before doing the reinstall. You could of course just use the product key from the sticker on the computer case, but that would need activating online; the one you extract using ProduKey will be the one the laptop manufacturer used originally, which will be a system-locked preinstallation (SLP) key that doesn't require activation.

If you're going to blow away the existing installation rather than try to repair it, make sure you've got all the drivers you need, saved on a USB stick. You should be able to download all of those from the laptop manufacturer's support site.
posted by flabdablet at 8:59 AM on June 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

Have you already tried this?
posted by ostranenie at 12:21 PM on June 1, 2015

The "shady BitTorrent site ... ISOs that may be filled with malware" scare is pure superstition, provided you check the SHA1 sum of whatever you download from wherever. If it matches the well-known SHA1 sum of an official MS release, you can be absolutely assured that what you have downloaded is bit-identical with that MS release.

There is still no feasible way to mount a preimage attack against SHA1, and shady BitTorrent sites cannot infect what you download from them via some form of homeopathic dilution.
posted by flabdablet at 6:02 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

flabdablet's advice of checking the hash/checksum is exactly right, and I should have suggested you do exactly that (check the hash), even with any .iso I'd provide (ei.cfg modified). And flabdalets mention of cversion.ini might have just solved a problem of my own... Thankyou for the Ask! (offer stands).
posted by quinndexter at 7:47 AM on June 2, 2015

What does the _u_ in the filenames at denote? I can't for the life of me figure that out, and for many versions of Windows there are files with and without the _u_ listed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:21 PM on June 25, 2015

The _u_ versions are later releases, and include a few (one?) updates that the non-_u_ versions would pick up automatically from Windows Update after installation.
posted by flabdablet at 6:29 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

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