News, tips, advice, support for Windows, Office, PCs & more. Tech help. No bull. We're community supported by donations from our Plus Members, and proud of it
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • The safest way to get a new copy of the Windows 7 bits

    Posted on November 15th, 2016 at 10:46 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    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 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, By all appearances, you get the real software, from Microsoft, by going to the TechBench site, 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?

    If that helped, take a second to support AskWoody on Patreon

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

    This topic contains 65 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Conor O’Rourke 1 year, 11 months ago.

    • Author
    • #22719 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      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: Wh
      [See the full post at: The safest way to get a new copy of the Windows 7 bits]

    • #22720 Reply

      Conor O’Rourke

      The catch comes once you try to reinstall W7. On something like a Dell, the sticker COA won’t work (didn’t for me) as it’s an OEM install that is locked to the BIOS somehow.

      I have original W7Pro Dell DVDs that I got with the (business) laptops. Which is why I originally bought Dell instead of Acer actually – as a business we have a bit more leverage there. It’s completely despicable that OEMs often don’t provide media to home users – when I worked for GW2000 back in the day (1996), media was part of the deal. Heck, it was used often enough!

      One way around the media issue back in the day was to ring up immediately after purchase and say “my computer says No Operating System found”. What do I do? Often they would send you out media 🙂

      It should be noted that with W10 Pro you have downgrade rights to W7. How to exercise that right with no DVD is a mystery.

    • #22721 Reply


      I used the Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool a few months ago to get copies of Win7 Home and Pro, Win10 Home and Pro, and Office 2007 (to back up my Office install CDs which I am always misplacing).

      Everything seemed to work fine and I installed Win7 Home as a trial version on an old Thinkpad T41 from way back in 2003, just to see if it would work (short answer: in my opinion, it worked better than WinXP, with the exception that you don’t get fancy aero desktop doodads if that’s important to you).

      I have no real plans for the ISOs except to have copies in case they become difficult to find in the future. Regarding future use and valid product keys, does anyone have an opinion on websites like [redacted]
      Are those really valid keys that will allow you to activate ISOs like those found at the Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool website?

    • #22722 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Afraid I can’t link to sites that may support illegal activities – and handing out keys to Microsoft products is illegal.

      Are they real keys? Yeah, probably. You should ask yourself if you want to support the criminal enterprise (even if it’s a kid) that generates and sells them.

      If all else fails, you can buy a copy of Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit System Builder OEM DVD 1 Pack – Frustration-Free Packaging from Amazon for $82. (That’s an affiliate link.)

    • #22723 Reply


      This question concerns people who, like me, are running Windows on a Mac via Bootcamp. The only way I was able to get a copy of Win 7 Pro for my most recent 64 bit install, was to go to eBay.

      A potential problem going this route is that you’ll wind up with a BIOS linked copy such as those supplied with HP or Dell computers – information which the seller did not see fit to post with the ad. I wound up spending more than the lowest price I could find, just to be sure that what I did purchase, would actually work, properly and legally.

    • #22724 Reply


      Hey Woody,

      This isn’t related to the topic above nor do I know how to contact you specifically on certain inquiries or whatnot but I hope you take a look at the November Preview of Monthly Quality Rollup and the Preview of Quality Rollup for .NET Framework. I just received those 2 updates today in WU but haven’t installed them yet and was wondering what you thoughts are on it. Well I know I won’t be installing them since they’re tester versions for the full Monthly next month but I think you did a post on the previous one.

      Strange thing is the Previews near the end of the month are improvement/fixes for the current Monthly rollup but they never state those additions in the Monthly patch notes as they only show security patch notes. Nov. Monthly only shows security updates while the preview shows a whole range of other things it improved/fixed that are not related to the notes mentioned in Nov.

      KB3197869 137.6MB
      KB3196686 7.6MB (no info for it atm)

    • #22725 Reply


      I did this last year so i would have a backup of the iso and i got it from microsoft by entering my product key. I used a little vbs script to pull the product key out of the registry to see that it matched the sticker on my case. Mine isn’t a branded pc but a sort of custom build from an independent retailer and the valid iso i received is an oem version not retail, which makes sense i suppose since oem licenses are cheaper. The problem i have of course is if i change the motherboard the key will no longer be valid. I then used the windows 7 usb dvd download tool to create a bootable memory stick with the iso – (that link comes from the FAQ page for downloading the iso).

      If anyone has links to the hashes so i could just double check it’s genuine then i’d be most grateful.

    • #22726 Reply

      Terry Pickleson

      How do downgrade rights work? Say I have Windows 10. And I have a Windows 7 disc. How do I downgrade? Would I need a 7 key or would I be allowed to use the Windows 10 key to downgrade? I don’t know how it works.

      One more question. Windows 7 bits? What does “bits” mean in this context?

    • #22727 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Easiest way is to just google the hash. If it’s good, it’ll pop up many times, in prominent locations.

      Can you point me to the FAQ page for downloading the ISO?

    • #22728 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Unless you have an immediate reason to test something, stay away from the Previews.

      (And you can always email me, woody@, but I seem to be checking the web site here more frequently than I check my mail!)

    • #22729 Reply


      I just got it off the main download page for the iso –

      Why microsoft can’t provide a simple link to the hashes on that page i will never fathom. Don’t they know some people care about this stuff?

    • #22730 Reply


      File hashes are also available from Microsoft at You don’t need to be an MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscriber to use this site.

    • #22731 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      AHA! I didn’t realize that you could get at the SHA1 hashes without an MSDN account.

    • #22732 Reply

      Vols and Jezuz

      Just reinstalled Win7 on my laptop after replacing the failing HDD with a lovely SSD. I thought I was good to go, with my personally stripped-down Win7 x64 Ultimate image. Lo and behold, I had forgotten that my laptop was Win7 x65 Home Premium because it hasn’t been functional for so long.

      Putting my key into the official site, Microsoft laughs in my face, on account of my pathetic OEM key, the same key that’s printed on a very official looking MS label under my battery.

      To my utter belief, MS has removed all other official image repositories.

      I found the ‘Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Download Tool’ after a surprisingly persistent bit of googling. After overcoming my apprehension about the software due to the vaguely malware-y feel of the download site, I realize, to my horror and contempt: Requirements–Internet Explorer 11. I have never had any flavor of IE installed on my beautiful W7 desktop image, and firmly resolve to keep it that way.

      Alas, after much gnashing of fingernails and biting of teeth, I was presented my holy grail, from the grimy, mysterious, seldom-explored depths of Google search results pages 6+.

      Some people might not like that it’s torrent based, but my copy of Win7 saturated my 60Mbps connection within a matter of seconds, and was done almost as fast as I could find independent verification of the MD5/SHA-1 hashes. And it checked out 100% and worked like a charm.

    • #22733 Reply


      Yeah, i’ve been there before but it doesn’t seem to list any oem editions of windows 7. I assume most people will be using a pre-installed oem copy.

    • #22734 Reply

      John W

      Hey Woody, I’ve been searching all day for some links to authentic hashes for the Windows 7 Pro OEM .iso link to the Microsoft source you provided on the other thread. I think it’s good, but I wanted to cross-check it just to be sure. So plan B, go direct to MS 😀

      I found some instructions that will let you download any Windows iso straight from the Microsoft Windows 10 download page.

      1. Go here first and find the option “value” for the iso that you need:

      2. You will need the value from step #1, then go here and scroll down to the section “Download a Windows 7 or 8.1 ISO Without JavaScript”:

      3. This is the site with the downloads from step #2. Just use the method in step #2 to get the one you need:

      Works great – direct from Microsoft! No special app or hacking required, just a little browser inspect HTML element action 🙂

      My new file hash matches the one from your link exactly. Excellent!!!

    • #22735 Reply


      Clicking on some of the links on its home page causes the site to ask you to sign into a Microsoft account. But the “Search”, “Browse Products A-Z”, and “Product Categories” parts work without asking you to sign into a Microsoft account.

    • #22736 Reply

      AskWoody Plus


    • #22737 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Interesting. I bet that’s the method from

    • #22738 Reply


      Woody, about that. In the other post, you gave the link to Win 7 Pro SP1 x64bit, I downloaded from your link. The SHA1 I googled didn’t return much. A page and half of google results, mostly non-english.

    • #22739 Reply


      I’m repeating Terry Pickleson’s question, since no one seemed to answer it: What in the context of this discussion are Windows 7 “bits”?

    • #22740 Reply


      Out of curiosity I installed the Belarc Adviser, it gave me the same Key that my other key finder showed (expected). Identical to the COA sticker, and mine is a Dell T3500, so it’s an OEM install. It doesn’t work on the “Official Download Site”.

      PS – This guy
      offers some really intersting info regarding the “BIOS based activation mechanism… OEM System Locked Preinstallation.”
      And interestingly, he lists the matching SHA1 for the file linked in your prior thread.

      Additionally, he offers a method to activate OEM systems with Activation Backup and Recovery Program. It’s worth a read, it helped me wrap my head around a few things.

    • #22741 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Good stuff! Thanks.

    • #22742 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Windows 7 “bits” are the programs that comprise Windows 7.

    • #22743 Reply

      AskWoody Plus


      Are you saying you use the Windows and Office Download Tool?

    • #22744 Reply

      John W

      I assume that “bits” in the context of computer science 101 means exactly that.

      In the context of this discussion I assume that it means that the authentic Microsoft source Windows 7 “bits” have not been messed with by hackers or pirates.

      That is a real possibility that requires one to be careful of the legitimate source of any executable binary file. Checking the hash is one way to authenticate that you have obtained a genuine original file.

    • #22745 Reply


      Originally no. I wasn’t aware of it until I read the other post, wherein you offered a direct link to Win7_Pro_SP1_English_COEM_x64 which I used to download the first time.
      When I checked the SHA1 for that file I couldn’t verify it’s reliability. The problem with googling the SHA1 for the COEM_x64 file was the relatively few results.
      But I came across the site I linked in my comment downstream that provided verification of a matching SHA1.
      Subsequently, I did try the download tool, DL’d the same file you offered, and came up with the exact same SHA1. All good.

    • #22746 Reply


      OK, thanks.

    • #22747 Reply

      AskWoody Plus


    • #22748 Reply


      I bought my download from a place in Florida. Place called Keydownloader. Well it’s one of those questionable places but I thought for $35 for a license and download site, I figure why not try it. Actually it worked flawlessly, and frankly other than having to perform a Microsoft key verification reset which I was told might happen. It registered as a valid Microsoft key. The real problem is getting Win 7 updated these days, as Woody points out. Certain updates need to be installed to streamline the process and prevent update from just churning for hours. My only caution with Windows 7 is don’t install it on anything newer that Hazwell CPU’s on a notebook. My SkyLake notebook lost a lot of battery performance trying to run Win 7 even with Intel drivers. I think Win 7 does not fully support some power management features in SkyLake. But then again, neither does Linux for the most part either. Honestly, when I need a new notebook again, it won’t run Windows.

    • #22749 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      I wonder if that company is legit?

      Their Whois record says is registered to Your Shop Online LLC in Pompano Beach FL. The site was registered on Nov 13, 2015. Looks reasonable. Of course, I’d recommend buying from Amazon or Newegg, but still… you’d think Microsoft would’ve taken them down if there was a problem.

    • #22750 Reply

      Canadian Tech

      There is a lot of confusion about Win7 install DVDs and product keys.

      First of all, install DVDs:
      As long as you have a legitimate install DVD, no matter the brand name on it, as long as the edition (home, pro, etc.) and bitness (32 or 64) matches your legitimate usable product key, the DVD is fine to use.

      Second of all, product keys:
      You must have a usable product key to complete the install but that does not occur until AFTER the install. The problem is it is almost impossible to determine whether the product key you have will be usable in the re-install.

      In almost every home user of a Windows PC’s home is a big box full of wires, manuals, devices and DVDs, some dating back to Win98. In just about every one of them, you will find a legitimate Win7 install disk. So, if you work at it, you can almost always find a friend who has one. They are completely legitimate and usable.

      Install DVDs have no particular ownership issues. Only concern needs to be is,is what is on the DVD actually legitimate.

      For a lot of laptops, the OEM has included drivers for the peculiar hardware on its models. Not having that DVD can prove troublesome, but if you keep at it, you can almost always find the drivers you need.

      In some computers (I know many Dells for sure), when you do the Win7 re-install, even with a new hard drive, the system will be activated automatically and will not even ask for a product key, again as long as the edition and bitness matches the original install.

      Some years back when digital river was still around, I downloaded a generic Win7 install ISO. It has all editions and bitness covered. That ISO file is very valuable. I also have an MS Office 2010 generic DVD.

    • #22751 Reply

      Dave B.

      “The catch comes once you try to reinstall W7. On something like a Dell, the sticker COA won’t work (didn’t for me) as it’s an OEM install that is locked to the BIOS somehow.”

      The key on the COA should work just fine as long as you’re using the correct installation media, in this case OEM and not a retail DVD. There is no lock to the BIOS with the COA key.

    • #22752 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Good rundown.

      Now… do you happen to know which product keys will unlock the Microsoft Win7 download site?

      If folks can get their bits from that site, everything’s great. If they have to go looking, life’s a bit more complicated. (I have friends with fake Win7 install disks that look exactly like the real thing.)

    • #22753 Reply

      Canadian Tech

      Woody, I have never tried the download site. Never needed to. My collection of install DVDs always do the job. I have done literally hundreds of these re-installs.

      In fact, I do a lot of re-installs just to improve performance. After about 3 years a system slows down and a re-install always produces a huge performance improvement.

      I expect I will be doing a lot more in the future as people want to keep their Win7 machines working.

      So far, even today, I can do the Windows Updates without too much hassle, particularly after using the KB3172605 trick.

    • #22754 Reply

      Dave B.

      You must have a qualifying version of Windows 10, not all are allowed a downgrade. You must also provide your own product key.


    • #22755 Reply


      My experience has been that automatic activation occurs only when you’ve used a vendor-supplied reinstallation dvd. That said, phone activation has always worked for me, but as I remember I had to provide the key from the computer’s coa. My last phone activation was for a downgrade from win10 pro to win7 pro and was entirely ‘robotic’ i.e. there wasn’t a live human being on the other end. That was also successful. In fact, looking back I’ve never had a phone activation be refused. YMMV.

      I’ve also had good luck using the first 2 tools described here to back up the activation bits before reinstalling win7:

      You’ll need .NET 4 for the 2nd of these, and IME it always claims to have failed to restore the activation tokens even though it worked. If you feed these programs to virustotal you’ll end up wringing your hands, but I think they’re pretty widely used. Due diligence is suggested.

    • #22756 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      I’ve been thinking about writing a simple how-to on re-installing Win7, in the post-patchocalypse world. Any pointers?

    • #22757 Reply

      Canadian Tech

      I can provide lots of pointers. I just sent you an email. If you would like the content here in your blog, I can do that too.

    • #22758 Reply


      Step 1: Unplug network cable and any internal WiFi cards. Do not plug either back in until you have been able to turn off Windows Update and Automatic Updates completely. If you want to download some updates from there, turn it on later when you (and not any automatic installers) are fully in charge.

    • #22759 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      That’s GREAT! Lemme mull over how to put this together for InfoWorld consumption….

    • #22760 Reply


      Here’s a neat little trick for superbeginners that have no desire to start fiddling around with USB sticks/DVDs/sideloading drivers/changing boot device in BIOS or UEFI/getting headaches etc to install. This is as simple as it gets
      Install any ISO mounting program, mount the downloaded Windows 7 ISO, install Windows 7. Done.

    • #22761 Reply


      Ah ha! They have the oem hashes on that website. Thanks for that, i can relax now i see mine matches. 🙂

    • #22762 Reply


      Here’s another re-installation twist that deserves a mention. Download the license terms for win7 pro or win7 home premium from here:

      Section 3d Use with Virtualization Technologies plainly says you can resinstall into a virtual machine running on the same hardware. So those who’ve been threatening to move to linux can do so, keeping win7 running in a vm under (say) an ubuntu host. You have to activate by phone, but when I did this years ago it was quick and easy. You still have only 1 windows license, of course.

      Just a thought, not proselytizing (much) and IANAL.

    • #22763 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      The licensing stuff gets really thick, really fast.

      Anything more than the most simple licensing question should go to somebody who knows what they’re doing. My #1 pick is West Miller, @getwired

    • #22764 Reply


      I installed Win 7 Pro 4-bit from an OEM DVD yesterday, and it did not turn automatic updating on for me. This was in a Parallels VM.

    • #22765 Reply

      Conor O’Rourke

      From my experience, it’s not as if you don’t have a lot of time! On Windows 7 SP1, I probably had hours before Windows Update picked up anything. I installed the July 2016 rollup and bam – 2 minutes later and I had a list (a long list but a list nonetheless).

      I later installed MSE and much to my shock, the installer turned Automatic Updates back on. Thanks. Googling that turns up links to one of Woody’s Infoworld articles warning about that precise problem.

    • #22766 Reply


      I used to do the re-install from scratch thing. I posted this on the ‘system images’ thread a few days ago, and it went uncommented-upon by anyone, but it’s a bulletproof system.
      Set up Windows. Make a system image. On Patch Tuesday, re-install that image, run Windows Update, make a new system image. Then you have a full month minimum to spot any problems, and in my case, 7 full years of system images. But the actual age of my installation is much younger, as you can infer.
      You can also try out new programs with no fears.
      I honestly can’t understand any techie using Windows98 tactics like fresh re-installs.

    • #22767 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      It’s a great scorched-earth approach to backing up.

    • #22768 Reply


      If you have to provide a key doesn’t that mean you bought windows and are now installing what you bought? I though downgrade rights meant you had to use a (non-COA) SLP key. (which generally means installing from an OEM disc)

    • #22769 Reply


      As of vista there is no disc distinction between OEM and retail media.

      Now if you install W7 pro but your sticker is home premium it won’t accept it.

      Now if you have “windows 8 with bing” there is no disc, buy a new computer (not windows 10) or install Linux (if secure boot isn’t stuck on).

    • #22770 Reply


      Media Creation Tool often gives garbled (encrypted) ISOs which are unique and can’t be used for some purposes (slipstream, etc..)

      If you have to download an exe to get the ISO it will be a garbled non-standard ISO.

      When done from a Linux computer

      gives a real un-tampered ISO.

      Doesn’t offer windows 7.

      Other than that:
      Find hash (from Microsoft).
      Use torrent.
      Verify hash (mismatch = delete, start over).

    • #22771 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      That’s the way most people do it. But I wonder if the download site is easier… not sure if it’s legit…

    • #22772 Reply

      Terry Pickleson

      I’m still confused on what “bits” are.

    • #22773 Reply

      Canadian Tech

      The MS product key you use must match the edition of Win7 you install. If your sticker has Home Premium, you must install from a Home Premium install disk.

    • #22774 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      It’s slang. “The Windows 7 bits” just means the files you need in order to install Win7.

    • #22775 Reply

      Canadian Tech

      Steven, you may be correct about automatic activation only happening with the vendor supplied DVD. The vast majority of my clients’ computers are Dells and I use Dell disks to do re-installs regardless of the brand name of the computer I am working on.

    • #22776 Reply

      Terry Pickleson

      I see.

    • #22777 Reply

      Canadian Tech

      I am with you Terry. I sure did not know what bits meant in this context either.

    • #22778 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Sorry! My bad. Oh, WAIT. No, I didn’t say that. My slang. That’s what I meant to say….

    • #22779 Reply


      Its sooo obvious, wonder why i always thought
      Files, Programs…history from now…:)

      Sry 4my bad englisch, im german-silver-tongued.

    • #22780 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      Ach! Far better than my mangled College German…

    • #22781 Reply

      rc primak

      I wonder is using NirSoft’s ProduKey will find a better match for the Product Activation Key than Belarc Advisor. This used to be the case a few years ago, but I haven’t tried the whole reinstall procedure for Windows 7 in a few years.

    • #22782 Reply

      AskWoody Plus

      I’m not sure, and it’s a two-edged sword: Will it return a key that unlocks the download from Microsoft and, if not, will it activate?

    • #22783 Reply


      Apropos Product Keys etc.

      My Digital Life article. Maybe too old?

      Differences Between OEM Channel SLP, NONSLP and COA License Product Keys

    • #22784 Reply



      Just checked……Amazon note on Win 7 pkg sez;

      “Currently unavailable.
      We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”

      Sorry ’bout that

    Please follow the -Lounge Rules- no personal attacks, no swearing, and politics/religion are relegated to the Rants forum.

    Reply To: The safest way to get a new copy of the Windows 7 bits

    You can use BBCodes to format your content.
    Your account can't use Advanced BBCodes, they will be stripped before saving.

    Your information: