Several years ago Microsoft provided Windows 7 operating system ISO file downloads easily through a site called Digital River. Legitimate, clean copies of all versions of Windows 7.
Then they stopped.
Why is this a problem?
I refurbish a lot of older desktops and laptops; often to give them away. Those systems usually have a legal OEM (original equipment manufacturer) license. OEM licenses are unique in that they are lower cost licenses provided to system vendors (Dell, HP, etc.) that are tied to the hardware (i.e. they can only be used on the box that they came pre-installed on).
OEM Licenses then are a real blessing, low cost Windows OS for the masses… However if you lose your system disk (or if the OS on your manufacturers media is pre-service pack 1 making it a pain in the rear once installed) and need to get a copy to reinstall on your computer things are no longer as easy as they used to be. Microsoft shut down Digital River and if you want to get install media you now have to enter a license key and have it checked before you can download. Fine… but not fine… if you enter an OEM key you get a really helpful message to contact the manufacturer… Great, if you call Dell, HP, Gateway, etc. they will often tell you that you are out of luck or, at best, charge you some ridiculous fee to ship you an install disk.
Let me reiterate that if you have an OEM key and are using it on the original system with which the key came then you have a legal right to use the operating system. You just need to find install media which is now a royal pain.
Thankfully a kind soul grabbed all of the original Digital River and Technet (another now deprecated option for getting install media) Windows 7 ISO files and provides them via Bittorrent. Torrent files can be found here:
After you install Windows using the media you download from the above you will need to activate it with your OEM key. Automatic activation over the internet will fail but you have the option to phone Microsoft up (this is in the activate wizard) and exchange some really long strings of numbers and activate that way. It works every time, as long as the OEM key is legit.
As a result I was able to get two systems refurbished with new hard drives recently and they are on their way to places that will make very good use of them.
As a side note – I don’t condone software piracy. Everything above is legal (AFAIK). Windows, for all its flaws, is an impressive piece of software and the company that creates it (for all their flaws) should be paid for it. That said, I am also not a fan of DRM and other methods of making legitimately owned/purchased content a pain in the rear to access and use. Please Microsoft, just bring back easy access to legally owned software. In the interim, thank you to the person that created the above repository.