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How to hang on to Windows 7 for the long run

Woody Leonhard | Jan. 3, 2017
Not sold on Windows 10? We have the keys to keeping your Win7 system running the way you like it

Group A (apply all of the offered patches) or Group W (don’t ever patch) are the easiest to join, but Group W is vulnerable to all sorts of problems. I don’t recommend Group W. Group A can use Windows Update to get everything they need. It’s harder to join Group B, because it requires manual download and installation of patches.

It’s helpful to figure out whether you want to be in Group A or Group B (or Group W) before getting going.

Step 2. Optionally reinstall Win7 from scratch

Right off the bat, you need to make sure your Win7 system is fit to fly. There's no sense preserving a baseline system in stone (or at least in backup) until the baseline is working right.

For many of you, Windows 7 works fine the way it is. If that describes your situation, skip to Step 3.

For the rest of you, a fresh install of Windows 7 is vital to preserving a fully functional Win7. The best approach I know was published on AskWoody.com, based on a procedure developed by Canadian Tech. There are two significant sticking points:

  • Obtaining “genuine” Windows 7 Service Pack 1 installation files can be difficult.
  • Once you have Win7 SP1, which updates should you install?

Obtaining the real ISOs is a significant concern because there are many pirate copies of Win7 floating around the internet. Until May 2014, you could download the retail bits from an Microsoft distributor known as Digital River. In an InfoWorld column, I talked about the way that source disappeared.

Microsoft has this official download site, but it works only 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 preinstalled 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 people that the keys they’ve retrieved (typically from ProduKey or 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 asked Microsoft how people with demonstrably genuine copies of Win7 can get fresh new Windows 7 SP1 installation files. The response:

For customers who do not have a product key, they will need to contact Microsoft Customer Support Service, where we have alternative options for acquiring the Windows 7 product when they have lost their media.

 

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