For years, Microsoft allowed us to download Windows 7 ISOs through their content delivery partner, Digital River. On February 2015, the company decided to take those links down. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to download Windows 7 ISOs, legally and for free, either by using Torrents or a free app that provides links straight from Microsoft.
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Table of Contents
- Why do we need to download Windows 7
- The clean ways to download a Windows 7 ISO
- How can I trust that the Windows 7 ISO is clean?
- How to download Windows 7 straight from Microsoft
- What's next: Creating a Windows 7 DVD / USB and Installing Windows 7
- Are you interested in downloading other versions of Windows?
Why do we need to download Windows 7
Many of us bought our copy of Windows 7 pre-installed with a new desktop or laptop PC. More often than not, though, the box didn't contain a full Windows 7 DVD.
Usually, we would get a "recovery disk" or a recovery partition, to reinstate the operating system to its default settings. But this would also restore all the third-party bloatware and crapware the manufacturers include. Remember Superfish?
The ability to download Windows 7 ISOs is essential for anyone who wants a clean Windows installation for their PC. It is also handy if we misplaced, lost, or destroyed our original disk.
How is it legal to download a Windows 7 ISO?
When we buy a copy of Windows 7, we don't get a special installation DVD. Every DVD of a particular version - e.g. Windows 7 Home Premium x864 or Windows 7 Professional x64 - is identical to all the others.
What we buy is the unique 25-character product key. We will find it as a sticker on the retail Windows 7 DVD case. Or, with pre-installed Windows, stuck underneath our laptop and on the side of the PC tower.
With this product key, we can install Windows 7 using any disk of the corresponding version. No matter where we got the Installation DVD, we will end up with legally activated Windows 7 on our PC.
We can even download Windows 7 as an ISO from the shadiest torrent site. As long as we are using our genuine product key, the Windows installation will be 100% legal.
Where can I find the Windows 7 product key?
If our Windows 7 PC didn't have Windows preinstalled and doesn't have a sticker, we can use special applications to get the Windows 7 product key.
Some apps will even work in cases where we can't boot into Windows, as long as the hard drive is functional.
Just check out our guide on how to find the Windows product key.
Microsoft giveth, Microsoft taketh away
Even though it would work, downloading Windows 7 from questionable sources is never a good idea. For all we know, the ISO could contain a host of malware: rootkits, trojans, keyloggers; you name it.
That's why it was a big deal that Microsoft allowed us to download Windows 7 as an ISO through Digital River. We could download Windows 7 and be sure that the ISO was clean and untampered.
And then, in early February 2015, Microsoft decided to take down the Digital River ISOs, for good. Sure, they have set up the Microsoft Software Recovery website, the "official" way to download Windows 7.
However, to download Windows 7 through this site, we need the product key of a store-bought, retail version of Windows.
In case we have a desktop or laptop computer with pre-installed Windows 7, we own an OEM Windows 7 License. And Microsoft's website, for reasons unknown, won't let us download Windows 7 ISOs with a valid OEM product key.
So, as OEM owners, what are we supposed to do? Steal a disk? Beg friends and strangers for a Windows 7 DVD?
According to Microsoft, we should order a physical replacement disk, wait a couple of weeks for the delivery, and pay the shipping and handling fees. Not exactly an ideal solution.
The clean ways to download a Windows 7 ISO
The good news is that whatever goes up on the Internet, never really goes away - for better or for worse.
The German mirror http://mirror.corenoc.de/ has done an exceptional job gathering the Digital River ISOs and uploading them as torrent files. They have all the different English versions and even a few in other languages.
Download Windows 7 Torrent
To download Windows 7 using a torrent file, we will need a torrent client. In the example, we will be using the popular torrent client qBittorrent.
With a torrent client installed, we only need to download our preferred version's torrent file:
- Windows 7 Home Premium x86 (32bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: 0afa9359c62dc7b320205d3863c60385
SHA-1 Hash: 6071b4553fcf0ea53d589a846b5ae76743dd68fc
- Windows 7 Home Premium x64 (64bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: da319b5826162829c436306bebea7f0f
SHA-1 Hash: 6c9058389c1e2e5122b7c933275f963edf1c07b9
- Windows 7 Starter x86 (32bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: c23c9cecee7e3093acfe00faab7091b5
SHA-1 Hash: e1653b111c4c6fd75b1be8f9b4c9bcbb0b39b209
- Windows 7 Professional x64 (64bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: ed15956fe33c13642a6d2cb2c7aa9749
SHA-1 Hash: 0bcfc54019ea175b1ee51f6d2b207a3d14dd2b58
- Windows 7 Professional x86 (32bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: 0bff99c8310ba12a9136e3d23606f3d4
SHA-1 Hash: d89937df3a9bc2ec1a1486195fd308cd3dade928
- Windows 7 Ultimate x64 (64bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: c9f7ecb768acb82daacf5030e14b271e
SHA-1 Hash: 36ae90defbad9d9539e649b193ae573b77a71c83
- Windows 7 Ultimate x86 (32bit) SP1
MD5 Checksum: 2572274e6b0acf4ed1b502b175f2c2db
SHA-1 Hash: 65fce0f445d9bf7e78e43f17e441e08c63722657
The torrent file is just a few kilobytes in size, and it will download immediately.
Please note that the MD5 Checksums and SHA-1 Hashes refer to the Windows 7 ISO, not the torrent file.
How to use the torrent file
With a correctly installed Torrent client, we just need to double-click on the torrent file, which will start the application and will ask us where to download the ISO file.
Depending on our internet speed, and the available seeders, the ISO file should download in a few minutes.
How can I trust that the Windows 7 ISO is clean?
As we mentioned earlier, downloading Windows 7 from questionable sources is never a good idea. So, since a random German mirror site isn't exactly a reputable source, how can we be 100% confident that these ISOs are clean and safe?
Fortunately, Microsoft can help with that. You see, these ISOs are the same ISOs we could download if we had an MSDN subscription. And Microsoft provides the SHA-1 checksum for the ISOs downloaded by MSDN subscribers.
We just need to visit this page, where we will find the relevant information for all the Windows 7 ISOs.
We just need to look for the version we downloaded using the torrent file, and click on "Details". For the example, we will be using Windows 7 Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (x64).
- Ignore the Product Keys and Download buttons; they won't work without a 1000$+ MSDN subscription -
We know that we have the correct version from the ISO filename.
To confirm that the ISO we downloaded is 100% clean, we just need to compare Microsoft's SHA-1 checksum with the ISO file's checksum.
For this, we will use the free MD5 & SHA Checksum Utility.
This app requires the .NET Framework 3.5, and Windows will prompt to install it if we don't have it already.
Apart from the .NET framework, the app is portable, and it doesn't require an installation. We just run it, click on browse, and select the Windows 7 ISO.
Make sure to select the Windows 7 ISO and not the torrent you used to download the ISO.
Depending on our CPU speed, calculating the checksums will take a couple of minutes.
On the MSDN page, we select the SHA1 checksum and copy it.
We paste it on the Verify Hash with Generated Hash field on the app and click on Verify.
The "SHA-1 Hash matched" message means that these Windows 7 ISOs are 100% identical to Microsoft's ISOs, and not a single byte is different.
How to download Windows 7 straight from Microsoft
Torrents are an excellent way to download large files, but they are not for everyone. If you don't have a torrent client and are not keen on installing one, there is an alternative way to download Windows 7 straight from Microsoft.
What's best, this way will allow us not only to download Windows 7, but also Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and several versions of Microsoft Office.
The Windows ISO Downloader from Heidoc.net
Firstly, we need to download the latest version of the Windows ISO Downloader from Heidoc.net. As of this writing, the version is 4.36, updated on May 12th, 2017.
The app is about 1MB and it will download instantly.
How to use the Windows ISO downloader
The Windows ISO Downloader is a portable app, that does not require an installation. We just open the app, and we are good to go.
The app is particularly easy to use, even for completely novice users. Firstly, we select the version of Windows or Office on the upper right-hand corner...
Then, from the main window, we select the edition that matches our product key. For most users with preinstalled Windows 7, the correct version is Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 COEM, or Windows 7 Professional SP1 COEM.
After we hit the "Confirm" button, we get to choose the Windows 7 language. Our product key will work on any language available.
Once we confirm the language, we get the option of downloading either the 32-bit or the 64-bit version of Windows.
These buttons and the subsequent links will only work for 24 hours from the time of creation.
You should note that the download happens straight from Microsoft's servers.
On a fast ADSL or VDSL connection, the download will take approximately 20 minutes.
If we want to use a different browser or a download accelerator, we can get the download links from the "Copy link" buttons on the right.
We can then paste the link to the browser or app of our choice.
What's next: Creating a Windows 7 DVD / USB and Installing Windows 7
On our next guide, you can see how to write the Windows 7 ISO on a DVD or a USB, to use it for a Windows installation or reinstallation.
Also, if you need help installing Windows 7, check out our detailed guide:
Install Windows 7 from USB or DVD as a beginner.
Are you interested in downloading other versions of Windows?
Windows 7 is a fairly old operating system. If you are interested in downloading a later version of Windows, check out our guides:
- Download Windows 8.1 ISOs, Legally & Free from Microsoft
- How To Create a Windows Virtual Machine in Linux and Windows
- How To Slipstream Drivers And Updates In A Custom Windows ISO
- How To Repair Windows 7, 8.1, 10 Without Format And Data Loss
- Windows Activation - How it Works and How it Breaks
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