I have a copy of Windows 7 Professional that I have downloaded from the MSDNAA e-academy (thanks to my school). Now, the problem is that these license keys are one-use only.

If I need to reformat or do a factory reset, what is the best way for me to do so, without invalidating my license and screwing me out of an operating system?


I would also like to know some information on the "restore to factory settings" option in Windows 7 recovery center. Does it do exactly as the name implies and starts you off as if you had just done a fresh install? If I had some kind of nasty trojan or virus, would it be able to survive through the factory reset?

The recovery center also has an option for reformatting, though I don't think that it's an actual format - it just backs up your stuff into a Windows.old folder or something like that. Does that require a valid license key?

  • 1
    good question...+1 – studiohack Apr 23 '10 at 23:18
  • Are you talking about MSDNAA? I have not had trouble reinstalling any software or reusing license keys with my MSDNAA software. – M. Dudley Apr 24 '10 at 4:15
  • It is confusing, and yes I do mean MSDNAA. I haven't the slightest idea why it would restrict me, and I know other software I've gotten from them does not have such a restriction. I don't know if it's the specific product I've downloaded, or if the administrator of the program had set it to some limit, or if my key was somehow generated by someone before I had used it and thus was locked to their hardware (not plausible, but...). I just remember not being able to install more than once. – Corey Apr 28 '10 at 1:50

Take a complete image of your hard disc now. When it goes wrong, put the image back.

If you can, repartition the HD to give yourself a separate system and documents partition, so that in future you can reformat the system drive without overwriting your documents.

  • bobince makes a good point. this practice will make your life easier in general. You can also create an installation partition that contains your installation files. – nicorellius Apr 20 '10 at 11:24
  • Making an image would certainly be smart, but what if... the media I stored it on spontaneously combusted, and it happened at the same time as a catastrophic hard drive failure? I'd still have my CD and license but would they then be rendered useless? – Corey Apr 20 '10 at 17:21
  • If you have a “one-use” Windows license (and I have to say I've never heard of such as thing) then it sounds like your CD and license are already useless! As for spontaneous combustion, that's why you keep one copy on optical disc and one on an external HD :-) – bobince Apr 21 '10 at 6:02
  • I know it does sound strange, and I would link you to the relevant information on the MSDN e-academy site (if it didn't require a log-in from my school), but essentially, it says "Each student is limited to ONE copy of each product only," which is standard for software. However, if I try to reformat more than once (I've had the problem before with a copy of XP Pro), it won't validate it since I've already used it once. – Corey Apr 24 '10 at 3:08
  • I wish I could find some relevant information on the situation. Why don't we just assume that you've exceeded the maximum number of uses of your key (in my case, 1), thus meaning reformatting is not an option? That's a little clearer, I suppose. – Corey Apr 24 '10 at 3:12

Best Options: Windows Complete PC Backup or Ghost

This will Create the Disk Image Others have mentioned, wich is indeed your best option.

Windows Complete PC Backup

From: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/backup.aspx
"Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore is most useful for disaster recovery when your PC malfunctions. This feature helps you create complete PC backups, and then in the event of a serious system issue or data loss, Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore can restore your entire PC environment, including the operating system, installed programs, user settings, and data files."

Tutorial Here: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/tutorial145.html


From: http://www.symantec.com/norton/ghost
"Key Benefits:
Creates full system and file backups — Safeguards your system, settings, applications, and files with flexible, comprehensive backup protection.
Restores from system failures — Recovers your system and data even when you can’t restart your computer.
Enables convenient, secure offsite backups — Saves recovery points to an FTP site for easier offsite management and even backs up your data to network-attached storage devices.
Backs up on schedules and events — Lets you decide what is backed up and when so you can customize backups based on how you use your computer."

Tutorial Here: http://www.whatsabyte.com/P1/ghost_image.htm


The license key is one-time use, meaning you can't use it on other computers, but if you need to reinstall it on your existing computer, that should be permissible under the EULA. If you must reinstall, you can reactivate by calling the Microsoft activation hotline, and they will give you the code needed to reactivate.

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