Do you use a Microsoft Windows operating system (eg Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10) but you’ve lost the installation DVD? Or maybe your computer came with Windows pre-installed and you never had the DVD? This may have never presented a problem before, but if something goes wrong with your computer you may need that disk to fix it. And I’m sure you realise just how expensive Windows software can be.
Fortunately Windows installation media can be downloaded for free. And I’m not talking about “pirate” software from a dodgy torrent uploaded by someone in Uzbekistan. No, you can download Windows operating system DVD images – Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 – from Microsoft’s website, for free, zero, nada, and it’s not a crack, a “hack” or a hijack!
Of course we’re talking about Microsoft here, which means you ain’t really getting something for nothing. You can download the installation disk image, and it even comes with the disk-burning software to put it on a DVD or USB stick – but to install the operating system you need to already have a product key/license for the computer you wish to install it on. But hey, this is pretty good nonetheless. I know people who have bought a new Windows DVD because their computer got screwed up and they needed to re-install the operating system. If we’d known about this at the time we could have saved our friends a pretty penny (as new Windows DVDs cost many pretty pennies!).
So, here are the links to the download pages – Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. Remember, to re-install your OS you will need to know your product key – so find out what it is now, don’t wait until your computer is screwed up! There’s a guide at this link that describes how to discover your product key (a 25-character alphanumeric code that looks like this -> PRODUCT KEY: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX). It can be as simple as copying the code from a sticker on the bottom of the laptop, or as involved as writing and executing a powershell script. My preferred method is the command prompt method:
- open up a command promp with administrative privileges (done by right-clicking the cmd icon and choosing “Run as administrator”
- paste in this command wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey
- you’ll get the product key in a response that looks like this:
However, although all this is perfectly legal and even encouraged by Microsoft, you must remain aware and beware the nasty proprietary software pushers! PC reseller and recycling advocate Eric Lundgren was sent to prison for 15 months for copying and selling these DVDs. Officially his crime was “conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and criminal copyright infringement”.
The tech-ignorant judge, and the patently-disingenuous prosecution and Microsoft-supplied “expert” witness, made out that he was selling pirated software even though the software is available legally on Microsoft’s own website.
Afterwards Microsoft and the court said this was about infringement of copyright because Lundgren had printed Microsoft logos on his DVDs. But if that was the issue, why didn’t they prosecute him for this charge?
What it boiled down to, was this: these disk images can be downloaded free of charge. But Microsoft also make money on the side by selling these disks to resellers for $25. This can’t make Microsoft a huge amount of money. But there are resellers who can’t be bothered to download and burn the disks themselves so they buy these ridiculously expensive disks and pass the cost on to their customers. Lundgren saw a way to make himself some cash as well as encourage reuse of old computers. But (in my opinion) Microsoft saw this as leveraging their own petty-cash-on-the-side racket and went after him in court, painting him as a pirate and counterfeiter, with the aid of a dishonest prostitute I mean prosecutor, and a judge who is at best pig-ignorant and at worst also in Microsoft’s pocket. (In my opinion.)
Anyway. Although this free download service may save you some money, make sure it doesn’t save you too much money. Or Microsoft and its paid-for lackeys in the legal profession might come after you. After all we can’t be allowed to threaten Microsoft’s bottom line can we? There are far too many vested interests there.