New ways to get free Windows-installation media

Fred Langa

Sooner or later, you’ll need to repair, refresh, or reinstall Windows — a task that will require your original Windows installation/setup files.

But most new PCs no longer come with classic Windows setup discs; the vital recovery files are typically stored on the hard drive — where they are vulnerable to loss or damage.

Some PC manufacturers include a small utility on their new machines that lets you create setup/installation discs. But these factory images often put back the adware, co-marketed software, branded tools, and other crapware that originally came with the systems.

Fortunately, there’s now a better option. Because of changes in the way Microsoft distributes Windows setup files, all Windows 8 and Windows 7 users — and some Vista users — can now download copies of the full, free, official, 100 percent legitimate Windows install/setup files.

These “virgin” Windows setups are free of OEM add-on software. Moreover, their installation files can be burned to DVDs or copied to flash drives, which can then be used to repair or refresh a Windows system — or, if needed, do a total, from-scratch reinstall of Windows on an empty hard drive.

Windows setup medium doesn’t replace making regular backup images of your system — it is, however, a vital component of your PC-maintenance toolkit.

Microsoft’s new source for Windows ISOs

IT professionals can acquire ISOs via a pricey (around U.S. $700 and up) MSDN subscription, which includes downloads for Windows and other MS software such as Office and Windows Server. And in the past, everyone else could download Windows ISO images via a relatively low-cost TechNet subscription or from online services such as Digital River (site). Anyone with a legitimate Windows product key could use these ISOs to create a full, complete Windows setup.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2015-03-12:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.