Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
Where do I download Windows 7 (legally from Microsoft)?

I have a friend who has gotten a serious virus infection and needs her computer rebuilt. However, the computer did not come with any re-installation disks from the OEM and she doesn't have any good backups.

I have a TechNet subscription, but I understand that the OEM product key attached to her computer should not work with the Retail or Volume License images I can get from TechNet.

Is there anywhere I can legally download a copy of Windows 7 that will work with an OEM key, directly from Microsoft? I'd rather avoid having to work with the OEM's technical support and possibly have to pay for them to ship a disc that (IMHO) the system should have come with in the first place.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Canadian Luke, Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, TFM, 8088, Journeyman Geek Nov 21 '12 at 12:04

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Have you had a look at Where do I download Windows 7 (legally from Microsoft)? – Sathya Nov 21 '12 at 4:16
@Sathya I may be missing something, but aren't those all Retail or VL ISOs? I need OEM (System Builder) ISOs. – Iszi Nov 21 '12 at 4:17
@Iszi I don't think it should matter? – Sathya Nov 21 '12 at 4:20
@Sathya Perhaps that's the solution, then - use a Retail or VL image with the OEM key. If you can confirm that my presumption is wrong, and this is possible, please post it as an answer. I prefer confirmation from first-hand knowledge or experience though - references I've found thus far on the Internet seem to have conflicting information. (The most detailed and probably reliable answer I've seen is from PCWorld - they say it's technically possible but also technically a license violation.) – Iszi Nov 21 '12 at 4:26
To add to the confusion Ars Technica addresses the same issue, but says it is legal. – Iszi Nov 21 '12 at 4:39
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, it is possible to use other Windows 7 Media, as long as the version type is the same (i.e. Windows 7 Home Premium OEM on a Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade disk). Microsoft does not care anymore what disk you use, as long as you choose the correct edition, and have a proper key.

I know first hand, as I am a system builder, and haven't used an OEM disk in a couple years (including for Vista).

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the information. Can you comment on the legality of this? The Internet seems to have conflicting information. Some say that, while it is technically possible to perform installation & activation like this, it is a license violation. Others say it's not. If you can give a bit more details than just a yes/no regarding the legal issue, that would be appreciated. – Iszi Nov 21 '12 at 4:46
The license that appears is simply a EULA.TXT file that loads; I can edit that file, reburn the DVD and install with the new "license". The legality is with the key you purchased (or was given). If you have an OEM key, it is legal to use whatever media you want, as long as it's installed on the original piece of hardware it comes with. Microsoft won't care though, as their activation center has told me, as long as it's the valid key – Canadian Luke Nov 21 '12 at 4:50
I've used a generic OEM media to re-install Win7 Pro. The product key off the COA sticker would not activate Windows. A message displayed about 20 alphanumerics and said to call a 1-800 number. An automated system answered the phone, accepted the alphanumerics and then gave me a new product key that did work. "disc that (IMHO) the system should have come with in the first place" -- for several year now, the big PC manufacturers only provide a "recovery partition" on the PC's HDD, and it is up to the new owner to use a special app to burn CDs and/or DVDs for re-installation on a new HDD. – sawdust Nov 21 '12 at 7:49
Just to make this a bit more future proof: This information is correct for win 7 (which is what the OP asked). With windows 8 it has changed. Ref: Systembuilder & – Hennes Nov 21 '12 at 10:43

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.