Question about making your own Widows Disk?


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Microsoft Community Contributor

I was thinking about all of the people who post and complain about not getting a Windows 7 disk with their computer.
I just answered one yesterday from someone who wanted to hack the restore partition and remove all the bloatware because they didn't have a disk to do a clean install of Windows 7 and clean up their computer.

I installed Windows 7 from a disk made from a downloaded .ISO file when I beta tested Windows 7.

Is there any reason that people who didn't get a Windows Disk with their computer and have a Legitimate serial number can't download an .ISO file from Digital River and create their own Windows 7 disk.

And if they do will it have all the functions of a Microsoft disk, i.e. all the system restore features etc.

If there is no reason not to do this I will type up an outline of the process with links etc.
I'll add it to my info sheet of things I insert into posts here.


Joe S

Excellent Member
It really sucks not having an original disk since that means you can't slipstream and create an up to date one. I think you would have to look into BIOS info and files that the manufacturer added for automatic validation with MS. There may be a problem there. One of the files for XP was wpa.dbl and wpadbl.backup I think. I think there were some other work arounds for XP. You might start looking over at the MSFN forums MSFN Forums - Where people go to know and look around there and start with the Vlite section. When I get feeling a bit better I'll see what I can find. I just got out of hospital Thur and back to ER yesterday. I've got blood clots in both lungs so I'm pretty beat for heavy thinking.


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Microsoft Community Contributor
Hi again.

Funny I would think it wouldn't be hard to find an answer to this, but it is.

Here's what I've found so far.

You can't use a Dell or other brand of OEM disk on another brand of computer, it checks to see if you have a Dell etc, but you can use a Microsoft disk on any brand of computer.

I know that getting the ISO file is no problem anyone can download it from the approved Microsoft source with no limitations, you don't have to cheat to get it, it's available to anyone.

They are all generic, just like a Widows DVD. They have no serial number attached so any legitimate serial number will work with any disk and they will install on any computer that is already registered with Microsoft.

If you had a disk and lost it you can use anyone's.

The serial number on the sticker on the bottom of your computer may not be the Windows Serial number, but if you run a program like Key Finder it will display the real Microsoft number. Anyone who doesn't have a disk should probably do this and print it out along with the one on your computer to be sure they know what their number really is.

What I can't quite figure out is whether Microsoft will allow that registration number from an OEM install when you get to the point of registering it.
I don't see why not it's your computer and your serial number even if it was installed at the factory.

As far as I can see the answer in most cases it's yes, as long as you are trying to install the same version of Windows that you have.
You may or may not need to call them to get it authenticated.

If you are doing a repair install with Windows already installed it probably won't ask for your serial number at all.

Anyone have more information on what constitutes a legitimate serial number, that can be used with a Microsoft install disk?

If anyone has real world experience I welcome any information on this.


Joe S

Excellent Member
I think you have to be careful a retail disk won't work with an OEM code and visa versa. They don't make things simple. MS should make a clean ISO download available to anybody with a legit key. It sucks all the bloatware they stick on PCs and the HP I bought you had to get AV I didn't want either Norton or McAfee. I chose the Norton but dumped it before the expiration. I got tired of repairing it constantly.


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Microsoft Community Contributor
Yeah, I was glad the my computer came with a real Windows 7 disk and nothing on it except the OS.

It was already set up and registered to me.

All I had to do was turn it on and install the software I wanted, and my own Antivirus.

I don't get this whole thing about making it hard for people to manage their own computer.

If it's true that a OEM number won't work with a Retail disk then I guess there is no easy way to create an install disk that anyone could use.
I suppose that the manufacturers only pay a small part of what you or I pay for a copy of Windows and the powers that be don't want us to have a disk unless we pay the full shot, but it doesn't make a lot of sense.

We bought the operating system with the computer, why do they care in what form we have it available for reinstall?

The problem is that most people don't create a set of restore disks so when their computer goes bottoms up they can only go back to the factory setting and start all over again, bloatware and all.


Joe S

Excellent Member
The alternative to creating disks is to get at least one external HD and make disk images. I think MS likes it difficult but all you have to do for an ISO is go to a torrent site and hope there isn't any extra in it. You should be able to go to MS enter your code and be able to download the ISO you need. It should be simple for them to add your key to it so it isn't usable on a different box.


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Microsoft Community Contributor
You can get the ISO direct from Microsoft's approved site, Digital River, you don't even have to log in there.
That's why I don't see why they won't let anyone use it, who already has a legitimate copy of the same Windows on their computer.

t's just a matter of what serial numbers they will take.
And I haven't found a site that spells it out clearly.

Some say that OEM serial numbers will work at least some of them.
Some say use KeyFinder to find the real key and Microsoft will except that.

I know that when I had my Dell XPS it had an OEM disk with a different serial number then the one that showed in Windows.
When I re-installed I used the one that Windows showed and it Worked.

I just don't know what's true and I don't know any way to test it out.
Unless I have a computer with an OEM version of Windows that I can reinstall the OS on.


Joe S

Excellent Member
The ones that detect the make of system most likely won't work on a VM. My old Dell XP about 2002 is relatively clean and does work on VM. During install it asks if you want to install Dell features Sometime after that they altered the disk so it only worked with their PCs then went to recovery partition.

Mike, and group,

I have never owned a factory made PC (the only exception being my Acer One Netbook) so I've never had the problem of not being able to recover from a CRASH.
Even with my little Acer Netbook, I brought it home, went through the install/setup process, then installed my email, internet connection, Firefox, and a few little apps I can't seem to live without and then I made a Ghost backup of the entire C: drive, to an external HD.
I would have made it to a DVD ('s) but a netbook doesn't have a DVD burner. Eh?

So now, if my netbook HD takes a dump, I just install a new drive, restore my Ghost backup and I'm right back in business again.
I have Ghost 11.5 on a DOS bootable Flash Drive, for use on my netbook or any other PC.

Generally speaking, a complete backup of your C: drive, is better than an Install DVD any old day.
And you don't have to worry anything about lic. keys, activation, and all that #&$*. :tongue3:
And, a Restore can take just a few minutes, where an entire install takes a lot longer.

Just a thought, from an ......

Old Timer :cool:

If it was the Install Media that you purchase, every PC you purchase would come with the Install Media. It's the license that you are purchasing. The way I see it, the install media can be obtained however you wish. It is using an activation key that you did not purchase that is wrong. Looking at it from a stand point of installing Windows 7 as a 30 day trial, validates using Windows 7 install media before actually having a key. I see nothing wrong in downloading and installing Windows 7, if entering a valid key later is the goal.

Every OEM install of Windows 7 has key sticker somewhere on the case. Placing the OEM sticker on the case is part of the licensing agreement for using an OEM install. It is my believe that this OEM sticker give the PC makers the right not to hand out install media. Install media can be downloaded and the OEM sticker can be used to activate a fresh install. After all there is no difference in Windows 7 from Retail to OEM, other than the license which will bind the OEM install to the hardware which it was activated for.


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Microsoft Community Contributor

So if that's true there can be a universal Windows 7 install disk that will work on any computer that has a legitimate Serial Number.

I know the best bet is just to have your computer backed up, I have mine backed up on two different external hard drives using two different backup programs.
I also have all my data backed up uncompressed to a third external drive.

But I keep running into people who don't have any install media and haven't backed up their computer.
My sister in law just today for instance.

I logged into her computer using Linux and copied all her data to a thumb drive, which I then put on a DVD so she can add it to her new computer when she gets it.
But I have no idea how to save the one she has, it just plain won't boot to anything no safe mode no recovery partition and she has no XP CD.
I think her hard drive is failing.

It did boot to the Linux disk with no problem.

If the thing had a recovery partition it isn't visible now.

I gave her a couple of suggestions as to what she can get to replace it.
The thing is junk anyway.

But at least all her music, files and photos are saved.


So if that's true there can be a universal Windows 7 install disk that will work on any computer that has a legitimate Serial Number.
I do have such a disk for every 64 bit edition and another for every 32 bit edition. This however requires editing the install media and removing a file that tells the DVD which edition to install. After removing the file, Windows will then ask which edition you want installed.

I dare not say anymore until I know, it will not be against forum policy to edit Windows install disk. You still need an activation code so its not as if you are pirating Windows. And you still need to install the correct edition for the activation code that you have.

I'm not positive, but non SP1 codes may require non SP1 installs in order to activate. I have not had a chance to verify a SP1 install and a non SP1 key for activation.

I saw one Win-7 install disk that has every version of W7 on it. Only the Lic Key designates what version would be (Legally) installed.
KILL (Keep it Legal Leo!)

1st make sure the bios is trying to boot from that hard drive. If that's OK, then remove the drive and slave it off of a working PC.
Use Chkdsk (put drive letter here) /r /f on the working PC to scan and fix the errant drive.
I've used this technique to repair a NON-Bootable hard drive, more times than I can count and 99% of the time it works.
There is also a neat trick, to do a Repair Install.

It's seldom that a modern hard drive actually Crashes (physically damaged).
It's usually just errors in the boot sector or some such that renders the drive un-bootable.

A failing CMOS battery (usually on older PC's) can cause all sorts of system wide errors.
When working on any PC, a quick check of the CMOS battery, with a digital volt meter, can
fix or prevent all sorts of problems.

Any CR-2032 battery that does not show at least 3.0vdc, should be replaced.
I replace so many of those little batteries, that I've started buying them six at a time.
The Duracell twin pack is the best buy I've found.

Cheers Mate!
Old Timer :cool:


Essential Member
Microsoft Community Contributor

You are probably right about fixing the hard drive in her computer, but it's time for a new one anyway.
It is't that the computer wasn't seeing the hard drive but it gave a error that Windows files were missing or corrupted and she doesn't have a Windows disk to fix it.
It was a Dell Laptop about 6 years old, but I couldn't find a recovery partition.

I gave my Windows XP disks away with the computers that they went with, it would have been smart to have made a copy of one.
I did download an ISO and make a disk a while back but it won't boot, even though I used Image Burn to make is, which has always worked before.

And I haven't gotten back to trying to make one that works.

My original goal here was to see if there was a way to make a Windows install disk that anyone who doesn't have install media but does have a Windows serial number for their computer could use. I'd then add the instructions on how to do that to my stock answers list.

Now that all the computer companies are so cheap, and people never get around to making an install disk until it's too late it would be a helpful option.

I'm grateful that my computer came with manufactures disks for everything in it, from the Video Card to the Motherboard and including a real Windows disk.



I just set up a new PC, then make a Ghost backup of the C: partition and store that in a safe place.
In the initial setup, XP, minus the Crapola that the PC makers stuff in the HD, will fit on a single DVD,
with Ghost, running in HIGH compression mode.

For years, after getting XP, I regularly backed it up, every week, to a single DVD, using Ghost 2003,
with HIGH Compression. Ghost even put itself on the DVD, making it bootable. There's nothing more
handy than having a single Bootable DVD that will completely restore your C: drive, already set up
just the way you want it.

Do you realize that some of the software put on new computers today is "Spyware" ???


I do the same as OldTimer, only I use DiscWizard (Powered by Acronis).

Most of the Restore Partition that I have seen, were created using Ghost.

Just a few short years ago, I had a customer that was going to order a new Toshiba laptop, from Wal-Mart.
I told him I'd set it up for him and to not even unbox it when it came in.
Well, so much for good intentions.

He not only unboxed the new laptop, but plugged it in and started the setup, then got confused and turned it OFF.

When I got there to do the install, the little PC was in an endless boot-loop.

Fortunately, Toshiba had sent a Recovery CD with the computer.
It took me over an hour to run the CD and get back to where I should have been when I walked in the door.
If only some people would learn to do what they're told.

The big surprise came when the restore started and I saw that it was Ghost that was doing the restore.
I've used it since 1997 and I won't use anything else. Why should WORKS!



Essential Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
A friend brought her old Dell Laptop over last week, and I noticed that the recovery partition on that was done with Ghost too.
I've used Ghost for years and it's never let me down, not the easiest to work with, I wish they would let me design the interface but it gets the job done.

When I first started using Ghost, somewhere around 1997 (when it first came out) it was only a DOS program that fit nicely on a single 3.5" floppy disk.
I lost track of it for a few years and then was re-introduced to it in version 2002.
I learned very quickly to put '' on my Ghost boot disk and run it from the Autoexec.bat file.
Ghost is so much easier to run (in DOS) if I can use my mouse. Just a few mouse clicks and the job is done. can only work with a PS2 mouse, so I put my USB, MS digital mouse on one of those little
green USB to PS2 adapters and plugged it into the PS2 mouse port on the mobo. It works great in
both Windows and Ghost.

I've assisted users all over the world in setting up their own Ghost backup systems and they love it,
for its simplicity and its effectiveness.

Ghost 2003, build 796 works great for XP, but fails to do a restore to a bootable condition for Vista/Win-7.
I found that Ghost 11.5 will indeed back up and restore Windows Vista and 7 and still works in DOS,
albeit too large for a floppy disk. It does work great from a CD or Flash Drive. Ghost 11.5 looks and runs
exactly like Ghost 2003, so there's no learning curve when upgrading to 11.5 from 2003.

There is one whole forum dedicated to various versions of Ghost. This link should work.
Radified Community Forums - Index

In all fairness, I much admit that I've also experimented with Acronis True Image and found that it indeed
does work, albeit somewhat more complicated with all the GUI. I used the installed program to make the
recovery CD and then always ran the program from there, basically in DOS. Once you have the recovery
disk, you can delete the program from the hard drive (in Windows).

Just a thought.....



Essential Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
I've always run Ghost (I can't remember what the first version I had was) from the recovery CD or DVD.
I also have a Widows Boot Disk for my new computer in case Ghost fails.

What I've found really helpful on other computers that my recovery disks won't work with is a Ubuntu disk.
I have't found anything yet that won't boot from it (I'm only talking about 5 or 6 different computers) but it allowed me to retrieve all the data off of my sister in Laws computer and move it to a thumb drive and then to a DVD.

She felt a lot better knowing that all her photos, music files, documents, etc, were safe and sound.
The reason I made is originally was in case all my backups were to fail at the same time. You never know!!! LOL

But I've found it really useful, getting in to down computers.
On my computer it connects to the internet and everything, on her's it couldn't handle the wireless connection.
It probably would if I knew how it worked or had plugged it into the cable.

Anyway it's a simple solution to saving those can't lose file before you do a clean install on a totally out of it Windows install.

Which gets us back to the original post, if I had had a Windows XP disk I could have tried to repair her computer.
I did try and replace the file that it said was corrupted Hal.32 in the System32 folder but it didn't help, it still wouldn't boot.


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