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I have recently purchased a used computer. It has Windows 7 Ultimate (OEM) installed, but didn't come with any recovery discs.

Even though the (private) vendor went to some effort to provide a fresh installation (with a few bits of software added in, such as Malwarebytes), I don't fully trust them, and I understand it's best practice to start from scratch with a reinstall of Windows.

  1. Can I safely reinstall Windows 7 by building a recovery disc from within Windows and running it?
  2. Other than getting the OS up to date with patches and installing some anti-virus software, are there any other important steps that I need to perform?
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Are the downvotes because I'm asking for best practice? Would it be better to ask for what the official Microsoft best practice is (which should have an exact answer)? Feedback please! –  Highly Irregular Jan 30 '12 at 2:38
    
Reworded, hoping that it addresses the problem the downvoters had with the question! –  Highly Irregular Jan 30 '12 at 2:47
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I have no idea why this was downvoted. Too many people I know ask this question to themselves, but are too embarrassed to ask, so they just assume. It says much about the user friendliness of IT staff and the state of security. It has to change unless we want more and more people making questionable IT choices by themselves. –  surfasb Jan 30 '12 at 5:25
    
Using a drive backup software prior to a clean install may help with re-installing some hardware drivers once it is clean installed. –  Moab Jan 30 '12 at 16:39
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Regarding your second question, I worked a lot on creating an extensive best practice, with the "best" order of steps to go through, once Windows is up and running. I hope you will find it useful. How to Setup a System from Scratch? The Best Order for Installing Everything –  Corporate Geek Jan 30 '12 at 18:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Since it didn't came with any installation CD, you will not be able to perform a fresh install I'm afraid. And right now, if you had to reinstall windows due to a serious problem (hard drive fail, major glitch, etc.), you would be out of luck.

Edit: Well looks like I may be wrong, since installation cds are available for download legally: http://superuser.com/a/305434/24256 . You must have the license key, and the question is whether these discs will accept OEM licenses.

You can use Windows Backup to backup your current, complete image (including any installed software) in case something goes wrong in the future. Ideally save this on some other hard drive, such as an external one. Windows Backup will also propose that you to create a recovery disc - this will allow you to start up the system and restore that backup.

For extra security (since you don't have any windows installation CD), it's not a bad idea to keep a bootable Linux installation DVD (such as Ubuntu) somewhere. So if something goes wrong (eg. recovery disc can't restore the backup), you'll at least be able to boot up Linux and access your files and the internet.

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you can download the install media from MS according to this earlier question

This gives you two options - run sfc /scannow to ensure system files are as they should be or reinstall windows with the key - it should be on a sticker in most genuine windows systems or you can run something to recover the key from the system (I have not had much luck with this yet)

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I don't think that's the case for OEM licenses. All the literature I can find says the only place I can get a reinstall disc for an OEM version is from the manufacturer who built the PC. –  Highly Irregular Jan 30 '12 at 3:49
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i've used generic oem install disks with manufacturer specific sticker keys, so that much at least is busted. superuser.com/questions/272141/… this indicates it should work. if you're unsure, backup before you do anything –  Journeyman Geek Jan 30 '12 at 3:53

Do you have a licence key stuck to the machine? It looks like this:

enter image description here

As others have answered, you don't need the disks, but you should have a sticker on the machine that includes a valid windows licence (OEM is fine).

If you don't have a licence (and cant ask the original seller for it), you're out of luck.

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