Owners of Windows 8 (.1) can finally legally obtain a clean installation of their operating system by simply downloading an ISO file from Microsoft. Entering the license key is no longer necessary for the download but only required during installation.
For years consumers faced the problem that they could not do a clean reinstall of their legally purchased Windows license because they didn’t have the installation media e.g when the OS was preinstalled on their computer. Now Microsoft has finally relented, at least for owners of Windows 8 (.1) – which can now simply download the appropriate ISO image and use the license key from the sticker on their computer.
On its website Microsoft has posted a page stating “If you want to install or reinstall Windows 8.1 and don’t have installation media, you can create it from this page. You’ll need to use a PC with a reliable Internet connection and either save the installation files to a USB flash drive or burn an ISO file to a DVD”
By downloading a small application from the Microsoft website it’s possible to start the installation. The application offers installation of Windows 8.1 (“Core”) and Windows 8.1 Pro for both 32 and 64 bit systems. Also the normal and N-version (without Media Player) are available. The downloads are not limited to English, but also available in a variety of other languages such as German, Spanish, Turkish, Russian etc. Once the ISO file is downloaded the applications offers a way to run the installation from an USB stick. The ISO contains Windows 8.1 including Update 1.
To install the ISO you need a valid license key and the setup program now also accept keys for Windows 8.0, tricks with generic keys are no longer required. Microsoft offered a similar option in the past already but owners of a Windows 8 license were unable to download an image despite a valid 8.1 license, because their 8.0 key was not accepted.
For Windows 7 owners nothing changes, Microsoft still does not offer a legal Windows 7 ISO image for download. Technically it’s possible to install Windows 7 from a DVD borrowed from your neighbors or by downloading the image from Digital River (a partner of Microsoft) and activate it with the license that comes with your PC. That will also work flawlessly but it not really legal, partly because that would then constitute an illegal mixing of components of different Microsoft Windows copies which the company prohibits.