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In Control Panel > Region & Language > Install/Uninstall languages > Install display languages, I have the choice between launching Windows Update and selecting "display language files" from computer.

I want to use the second option but have no idea what language files look like or where they are. I suppose I can find them on my Windows 7 DVD (I need to install Arabic specifically), but where exactly ?

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Short answer: the language files are not on the DVD, you need to use Windows Update.

The first thing to mention is that it is only possible to change the display language in Ultimate or Enterprise.

I've had a look at my Windows 7 (Home Premium, but they all have the same files I understand) DVD, and it only seems to contain 'en-US' is available.

You can confirm the languages available on your DVD by checking the following file: Disc\sources\lang.ini

The contents of my file is:

[Available UI Languages]
en-US = 3

[Fallback Languages]
en-US = en-us

You can also look for language files by browsing disc\sources\install.wim in a program like 7-zip. Under the Windows folder, the only language folder visible to me is 'en-US'. I compare this to my actual Windows folder, where I have installed Japanese and German language packs, and there I can also see 'ja-JP' and 'de-DE' folders.

So I think the answer is: you can't install language packs from a retail DVD. Googling shows that Microsoft have produced a DVD with all the language packs on for MSDN subscribers, but it's not available for general download.

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Language Interface Packs (LIPs) that translate only the most widely used dialog boxes, menu items, and help content can be installed on any edition of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and are available here.

The more thorough (as in, more of the UI and help content translated) Multilingual User Interface (MUI) packs are available only for the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and can be downloaded via Windows Update.

As this MS article about the Evolution of MUI Support across Windows Versions states:

Windows Vista and Beyond

The Windows Vista packaging and installation design are MUI-based and all localizable data are packaged in language-specific packs, and each language pack can be deployed in different scenarios. For example, although the retail DVDs for Windows Vista contain single-language versions, users of the Ultimate edition can download additional MUI language packs and can switch UI language from the Regional and Language Options control panel.

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