• The safest way to get a new copy of the Windows 7 bits

    We’ve been off on a tangent on a different thread. Time to bubble it up to the top. (Man, will I be glad when we get the Lounge working.)

    Question: What’s the best way to get a fresh copy of Windows 7. You have a genuine copy and want to re-install. Where do you get the bits?

    Up until May, 2014, you could download the retail bits from an MS distributor known as Digital River. In an InfoWorld column, I talked about the way that source disappeared.

    Microsoft has the official download site, but it only works if you feed it a valid product key – and there’s the rub. Microsoft defines the product key thusly:

    From an authorized retailer. The product key should be on a label or card inside the box that Windows came in.

    A new PC running Windows. The product key will be pre–installed on your PC, included with the packaging the PC came in, or included on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the PC.

    But I’ve heard from many, many people that the keys they’ve retrieved (typically from Belarc Advisor) don’t work, even keys from a 100% “genuine” Win7 installation. I’ve also heard that “retail” keys – the ones inside a box that you bought with Win7 inside – work in all cases.

    I’m not 100% sure that sticker-stuck COA keys work in all cases, and would love to hear from someone who’s had problems.

    So here’s the first question: Which product keys work?

    Microsoft used to have the bits on its TechBench site, but that site was taken down in late July 2016. Lots and lots of mirrors of that site are available, but you have to be careful. Far better if Microsoft just put the clean bits up for download.

    For folks who can’t get the bits downloaded from the official download site, many of you (including, originally, PKCano) recommend using the tool posted by Jan Krohn on HeiDoc.net called the Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool. It’s a stand-alone download tool (not installed) that provides links to Microsoft’s TechBench site,  https://software-download.microsoft.com. By all appearances, you get the real software, from Microsoft, by going to the TechBench site, software-download.microsoft.com. Yes, that’s a site that was silenced months ago.

    Jan’s an interesting character – more about him later – but suffice it to say that every copy of Win7 I’ve downloaded from his site has checked out with various “official” copies of the bits.

    Once you get the download, you should run an SHA1 check on it – I use NirSoft’s freeware HashMyFiles. Just be careful that you don’t click on any scumware links on his site. Once you’ve calculated the SHA1 hash, Google it to see if it matches up with known-good copies.

    Sooooo… how do you get good copies of Win7?