Question about Windows Install Disks


[H]ard|DCer of the Month - April 2012
Feb 28, 2011
I was wondering if I could install a different version of windows from the install disk. To elaborate more, I get a lot of friends, family members, and people wanting me to fix their computers that lose the restore disks. I want to know if I can install (windows vista/ windows 7 usually) using my disks using their CD key. I see a lot of windows vista home basic x64, and windows 7 home premium x64. I have vista home premium x64, and windows 7 professional x64. Most of the computers I get asked to fix are completely trashed with spyware/malware/crap/registry errors, and they usually lose the disks. I usually just do a full wipe/ reinstall and get them going relatively fast.

If I remember correctly, one time I installed vista without using the CD key, and it had 4 options for which version to install that I could select. Did I remember that correctly? If so could I choose their version, and then enter their CD key once its done installing for validation?

Any suggestions would help me greatly! Thanks!
Make an ISO of the Windows 7 installation DVD (x86 or x64, doesn't matter). Use a tool like UltraISO or PowerISO or whatever you want (that can modify ISO files) and go into the ISO's contents, into the \sources folder, and find the file called ei.cfg.

Delete that file from the ISO, completely, and save that ISO (you can always make a fresh ISO from the DVD if necessary).

Once you have that modified ISO that's missing the ei.cfg since you just deleted it, that one - if used to do an installation - will present you with the same editions menu as Vista did/does. It'll pop up the menu showing you the editions of Windows 7 you can choose to install at that point.

That's about it.

As for the Product Key thing, there's no guarantee that you'll get it to work. In my experience, the Product Key on a COA sticker (especially on OEM machines) never seems to actually work in the attempts I've tried so I just end up making a custom OEM disc for whatever brand I'm working on. If they have a Compaq that had Windows 7 on it originally, I get my Windows 7 install DVD, make an ISO of it, modify the ISO by removing the ei.cfg file and also by adding the Compaq $OEM$ folder which has all the necessary Compaq OEM files in it and then I use the Microsoft Windows 7 USB DVD tool to move the ISO contents to a USB stick and use that for installing the OS (not having to burn a DVD).

It's a much more complicated process but, I never ever have to bother with putting in the keys, and the installation is always "branded" with the OEM logo, etc when I'm done.
Yep, do what Joe says about the cfg file.

As for reactivation, I would use a tool that backups the product key and ms cert that holds the activation status. When you reinstall the OS, simply choose the edition and skip product key entry. Once you hit the desktop, reload the activation files and reboot.
I will try this when I have time this weekend. My main thing is just getting the OS installed, and validated with their CD key.

Where would I get these vendor specific files if I am unable to validate windows properly? This doesnt seem like its going to help me any if I have edit it every time. I thought the key's were tied to a hardware ID? If it worked that way I dont see why the key wouldn't work, its the same computer, just a different disk.
I have yet to have troubles using the COA sticker key on name brand systems on my install disks. I have done hundreds. So, YMMV. Just make sure it is the right version install for the key you have.
I am a lazy bastard and never made any disks. Just an update, I have successfully used a Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit OEM DVD that I got off of newegg for another computer with the OEM sticker off of an HP PC that came with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. I also used to input a Sony OEM Windows XP Home Edition sticker key into a retail copy of Windows XP Home Edition. Both worked really well using the sticker off the tower, and the XP key changer only took a minute to run which required a simple restart for it to take effect.