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The office of a coworker's wife was getting rid of their old computers and I picked up an HP dual core desktop for $25.

It came with Windows 7 on it. I would like install Linux Mint as a dual boot.

The problem is, as it was explained to me, is that a PC can only have 4 primary partitions. HP installed Windows 7 across all 4 primary partitions. I don't have the the Windows 7 disk and my friend told me Microsoft will not honor the old license.

Is it possible for me to easily save Windows 7 on that box, perhaps moving it to just one partition?

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I tried answering what I think your goal was (but not the question in your title). If I got that goal wrong then can you please clarify how windows is installed on four partitions? Usually it just uses one of two for the OS. The rest is data and can be moved without problems. –  Hennes Mar 24 '13 at 22:10
    
I would recommend you simply boot from a Win7 DVD (see source link below), wipe the HDD and reinstall Windows and then Linux. If Windows fails to activate then you'll obviously need to supply a new valid key. –  Karan Mar 25 '13 at 5:39

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a PC can only have 4 primary partitions

Primary is a keyword here.

If you partition a disk (not a PC, a disk) with the MBR scheme then you can have up to four primary partitions. Or you can use up to three primary and an extended partition (and a dozen more partitions if you desire in the extended part).

If the PC is modern enough then it will also recognise the GPT partition scheme, which allows significantly more than four partitions.

I don't have the the Windows 7 disk

An installation DVD or an ISO image is easily obtained. That is not a problem.

and my friend told me Microsoft will not honour the old license.

But this is.

Getting windows reinstalled it not hard. Getting it legally might be. You say the PC already has windows 7 on it, which means that either:

  1. The license on it is granted to the office. They probably removed the PC from the inventory, are no longer paying license fees and you are not allowed to use the current installation any more. This is likely for very large offices where program and OS usage is tallied quarterly and then forwarded to Microsoft.
  2. Or you have a legal version and I see no reason not to recover the license key and do a clean installation.

Having said that: Always reinstall a computer which you get from an outside source.

This might not be that important to you if you just want to use it as an MP3 player without network connection or something similar which requires no safe setup. But if you ever do internet banking or on-line shopping you want a known clean system. That means a full wipe and reinstallation (after recovering the key).

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Instead of recovering the key and then reactivating the OS, you also could simply backup the token, that way you could reactivate all the time without hitting any limit forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/… –  Martheen Cahya Paulo Mar 24 '13 at 23:00
    
Is there software for Windows that I can download, that will tell you what the deal is with the PC, the partitions and what can be done with it. My goal is to split the disc 50/50 between windows and linux, if the windows installation can be saved. –  user787832 Mar 24 '13 at 23:37
    
"Is there software for Windows that I can download," You will have to be more specific. Software to do what? Without that information the answers can vary from one of the links I already posted to disk resize tools such as gpart. ( gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php ) –  Hennes Mar 24 '13 at 23:41

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