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My Toshiba laptop came preinstalled Windows-7 (64 bit) version purchased in July 2010. No setup disk came with the laptop, but there is a "Toshiba recovery media creator" utility. Now, I want to format my laptop, and here I have few queries regarding this:

[1] What is the better option for formatting my drive? Should I use the Toshiba media-creator or install a clean version of Windows-7 from an ISO download (am I allowed to do that? If so, what is a good site to download?) There is a "sticker-certificate" on the bottom of my laptop with a product-key. Will it work with the new install?

[2] Do I have the option of installing a 32-bit version of Windows-7 instead of 64-bit with the above license? The reason is that most applications I use are 32-bit and hence a 32-bit OS is better suited for me. But does the license allow me to do that?

[3] (The tricky part) - Since I have a good 320GB HDD, I want to dual-boot by creating two partitions - with a linux distribution (Ubuntu/openSuse) running on the second partition? Assuming I don't have the option of clean-install, will I be able to create the extra partition for linux using the Toshiba utility?

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Should I use the Toshiba media-creator or install a clean version of Windows-7

If the copy of Windows that came with the laptop doesn't contain very much extra junk, using the Media Creator would be easier. That way all the extra drivers for your laptop will already be installed and ready to go. Otherwise you'll be hunting around the Internet and Toshiba's website for up-to-date drivers and some components may not work optimally until you've installed and configured them. The side effects can range from minor (not being to able to adjust your panel's brightness easily) to severe (several power-saving optimizations are disabled and greatly reduce your battery life).

Windows-7 from an ISO download (am I allowed to do that? If so, what is a good site to download?

Yes. You have a valid license to the software. See this answer to another question for direct download links.

Before reinstalling, I'd recommend finding tools that will backup and restore your Windows (and, if applicable, Office) activation information. It makes reinstalling just a tiny bit easier and more painless. I've used ABR before with Vista, but haven't needed to try the beta version for Windows 7 yet. There may be better alternatives available, but I don't have any personal experience with them. You shouldn't need to do this with OEM tools that reimage a system -- they should be pre-activated. This step is generally only needed if you want to do a clean install.

Do I have the option of installing a 32-bit version of Windows-7 instead of 64-bit with the above license?

You could, but you shouldn't. If your system has 4 or more GB of RAM, you'll need 64-bit Windows just to take advantage of it all. There are very few reasons for anyone to be running 32-bit Windows on a reasonably modern system. 64-bit Windows has no problems running 32-bit software.

Assuming I don't have the option of clean-install, will I be able to create the extra partition for linux using the Toshiba utility?

You'd have a much easier time doing that from the Linux installation. Most Linux installers target switchers and will include a utility to let you resize your existing partitions in the installer. As ChimepImp mentioned though, install Windows first, then Linux. The Windows setup will overwrite the bootloader while most Linux installers will detect the Windows installation and offer dual-booting as a standard option.

Of course, if you do a clean install, you can repartition the drive from the Windows setup and leave unallocated space for a Linux partition too.

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Thanks for the details. These are very helpful. –  Prahlad Yeri Jul 27 '12 at 19:05
    
I added some information on backing up your activation information. It's not necessary, but it makes things easier for clean installs. –  afrazier Jul 27 '12 at 19:44
    
Thanks for the information, but I don't use MS-Office. I use Libre-office instead that suffices my needs. Do I still need to backup activation using ABR –  Prahlad Yeri Jul 27 '12 at 20:11
    
It's not required, it just makes a clean install a little easier. If you don't, you'll need to activate with the key that came with your laptop. –  afrazier Jul 27 '12 at 20:22
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[1]: Use a real Windows 7 disc if you can - the disc you mention from Toshiba probably has Toshiba's shovelware on it, if it actually creates an install disc and not some sort of backup. IIRC, there's no legal way to get a disc image without paying for it, even if you have the license. I don't think we can link to download sites here, but even if we could, it's better to just borrow a disc from someone. If none of your friends have one, you might be able to borrow one from work or school.

[2]: Almost all x32 programs work fine on x64 Windows. For those that don't, there are compatibility options. Install 64-bit Windows, not 32-bit.

[3]: After you take a backup of all the data you want from the current install on your laptop, you should use the Linux live CD to format the drive and partition it. Partition the drive first, then install Windows to the NTFS partition you created, then install Ubuntu, otherwise Windows will overwrite the boot loader and you'll have to fix it before you can boot Ubuntu. There should be docs on this on the Ubuntu site, or ask on the forums there or on the StackExchange Linux site.

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