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Windows 7: What's the difference between various Windows disks?

16 Mar 2017   #1

windows 7 professional 32 bit and windows 7 home 64 bit and windows xp sp 2
What's the difference between various Windows disks?

Can someone explain the difference between Windows retail version (to install on a new HDD), an OEM version (would it install on a new HDD in a new computer), a recovery disk, a repair disk? I think I covered them all.

I'm trying to find a Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit disk to put on a new hard drive in a new HP Elite desktop. I know there is a risk that it would be a pirated copy and I hope I am lucky enough to avoid that happening. I really want a brand new disk. Kicking myself for not buying my own disk even though my previous computer, an HP Pavilion laptop, came with Windows 7 Home Premium installed.

Thank you.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Mar 2017   #2

W7 home premium 32bit/W7HP 64bit/w10 tp insider ring

Hi Kellian,
there is in reality only 1 "disk".
just different versions
basic,starter,home,home Premium, Pro,Ultimate and Enterprise, just that some have more features than others
They can ALL be installed on any HDD/SSD.

The 3 major types are OEM, System Builder and Retail,
Re-installation discs are supplied by the OEM's, Dell etc.

For what you want it will have to be either System Builder or Retail,
it will be a "brand" new disc, that comes with an activation (product) key ON the packaging.
(NO packaging = counterfiet)

Your side of the pond, and because W7 has passed its sell-by date, i think you'll only be able to get PRO.
Some of your compatriots will be able to give you the details of a reputable retailer.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Mar 2017   #3

windows 7 professional 32 bit and windows 7 home 64 bit and windows xp sp 2

Thank you, Roy. I realized after I'd submitted my question that I'd left out "upgrade" disks. My desktop came (at my request) with no OS installed. It only has what HP calls "FreeDOS" on it so that I can install my own operating system. I don't know what an upgrade disk is and whether I can use one to install Windows 7 on my new HDD in the new HP desktop. Eventually I'll switch to Windows 10 but not now.

Thank you for the advice about the packaging! I see disks offered that are in a paper sleeve but not in the green cardboard that the sleeve is supposed to be in. Does it have to be in a box to be the right version or can it be in the green cardboard "envelope" for lack of a better word

Also, about 12 years ago I had an xp laptop (also an HP) and when the HDD crashed I was able to install Windows XP again from a disk Microsoft had sent me that had service pack I or II (forget which) on it. So then I realized that any disk that said it had a service pack on it meant that it also had a full copy of Windows on it. I guess this is still true?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

17 Mar 2017   #4
Mellon Head

Win 7 Pro x64/Win 10 Pro x64 dual boot


Assuming that you are in the states, this would be what you are looking for:

Windows 7 Professional SP1

It's the Windows 7 Pro OEM version, It comes in a paper sleeve, but it's legit (meaning guaranteed valid license) and will install onto any hard disk. It also includes Service Pack 1. The only hitch with this version is that it is locked to the computer that it is installed on. It's not a problem unless you try to move the license to another computer. That's not allowed. Unfortunately, OEM versions are pretty much all that are available anymore.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Mar 2017   #5

windows 7 professional 32 bit and windows 7 home 64 bit and windows xp sp 2

I discovered I actually have a Windows 7 Pro upgrade disk left from when I upgraded another laptop from Vista to Windows 7 Pro. Vista was OEM, installed by HP before I got the old laptop. Would I be able to use that disk on the new desktop HP that has no operating system on it? Or any Windows 7 upgrade disk that I buy somewhere?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Mar 2017   #6

W7 home premium 32bit/W7HP 64bit/w10 tp insider ring

Hi Kelliann,

Upgrade disc won't work.
It only adds certain files to the existing (Vista) system.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Mar 2017   #7

Windows 7/64 HPremium.

Hi Kellieann

Expensive, but this is Amazon: Operating Systems - Microsoft Windows 7: Software

They know what they have, and how much some of us still want it. I would not be surprised if Amazon had not bought up lots of Win7 stock when 8 and 10 first came out.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Mar 2017   #8

Windows 10 Education 64 bit

All disks have all versions by the way. The 32 bit disk can install Starter to Ultimate and the 64 bit disk everything except Starter. The ei.cfg file sets what is installed. Remove it and you will get a menu that lets you pick which version you want to install. Edit it with the correct values and it will install another version.
Windows 7 Universal Installation Disc - Create

Retail DVD's will accept Retail and OEM keys. My MSDN ISO's will and to the best of my knowledge they are identical to Retail DVD's.

Some factory OEM DVD's will be customized to do the factory OEM-SLP activation. Those DVD's will have an $OEM$ folder in the sources folder. Remove that folder and they revert to being just the same as a Retail DVD.

Have a look at this, Clean Install with a Upgrade Windows 7 Version maybe you can use your upgrade disk?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Mar 2017   #9

Windows 10 Education 64 bit

Recovery disks or disk sets offered by the OEM, more often than not just restore an image of the factory install. It erases everything and puts your PC back to the OOBE. Out Of the Box Experience. Just like it was the first time you turned it on.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 Mar 2017   #10

Windows 7 Home Premium bit

Are there any versions which only need the product key on the package? That is to say not having to (online or phone) activate after installation. (Like XP corporate versions)

My System SpecsSystem Spec

 What's the difference between various Windows disks?

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