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Microsoft provides official (clean) ISO of W7 flavours -


So, basically, burn respective .iso to a USB key, boot from it, install, enter the key from the sticker on the bottom of the laptop - done. Caveats are (a) limited choice of languages (b) lack of some brand-specific drivers, but if you run English version on a common laptop, it's very straight forward.

These won't work with OEM keys supplied by the manufacturer. You would need to acquire your own key (enterprise, retail, etc.).

That is incorrect, at least for most retail OEM keys anyway.

I noticed that starting with Vista, the distinction between OEM vs Non-OEM key seems to have been reduced. This makes life easier when there is no recovery partition or the hard-drive is hosed. Whereas with XP, you did have to use an OEM version for the key to work.

I have not had any issue validating windows using the above versions of Win 7, as well as a few vista cds that I believe are retail, as long as there is an OEM sticker on the laptop. Every so often I have to call in and do the automated telephone activation, but they are valid CD Keys and I think that is probably tied to how often the key was activated.

Having said that, at least with Vista, the disc the manufacturer gives you is often locked to a specific laptop/bios/board.

>Every so often I have to call in and do the automated telephone activation

reason number 1001 why I hate windows

It takes exactly 30 seconds and it is fully automated. Punch in a string of numbers, hear back the activation code. No personal information, no humans involved. I too was dreading doing over the phone activation, but it was remarkably nice experience.

sure, they make it easy as possible, but it's not optional. And I like to change the hardware in my desktop, which makes it a pain.

>No personal information //

So, not your phone number, or the match of the given code with your computer's IP and usage when you go online?

They worked with three different OEM keys I had just fine, all from different manufacturers.

(b) is the big catch that will kick anyone. You want the hardware to work as designed, you have to start with the manufacturer install and work your way down.

Never had any problems with Lenovo, Sony, Acer or HP laptops. I'm sure there are some non-mainstream laptop manufacturers that don't maintain their support sites well, but that's be more of an exception than a rule.

You can easily download the drivers from the manufacturer's website but I understand that even doing that may be too complex for some users.

keep in mind that some (most) manufacturers don't seem to give any craps about the users either, and provide shoddy bloatware drivers that are difficult to hunt down, take forever to install, often don't work with older or newer OS/hardware, etc.

and then there might be a specific patch or workaround that's been applied by the oem that keeps the computer from exploding, but they sold it anyway because you can blow yourself up as much as you like AFTER voiding the warranty.

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