By Woody Leonhard
There’s an easy way to stretch Windows 7’s 30-day free-trial period to 120 days so you can determine whether Microsoft’s new operating system meets your needs.
Even better — if you know the secret — you can try out any version of Win7, from Ultimate to the lowly Basic, using a single install disc.
It’s fair to say that by now hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of copies of Windows 7 sit on DVDs and hard drives all over the world. You might have downloaded a copy of Win7 from the official sites: Microsoft Developer Network, TechNet, or Software Advantage. Perhaps you hooked up your machine to a torrent or a newsgroup site to download the new OS. Or maybe you snagged a copy from your tech-savvy sister-in-law.
Whichever channel you use, if you don’t already have a copy of Windows 7, you can easily put your paws on the installation bits and burn your own install DVD. Just be sure what you downloaded is the real, shipping version of Windows 7. One way to confirm this is to use a set of checksum verification instructions found on Softpedia.
Getting a copy of Windows 7 is the easy part. The rub — and the place where Microsoft makes its money — is the Win7 activation key. You’re expected to pay for the key, no matter how you obtained the software.