Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Providing legitimate sources of Window's software can be a problem for computer technicians, especially as fewer manufacturers provide replacement disks to their customers.

I'm semi-retired and work from home, providing remote access support and taking care of some special customers. I am in need of a Vista 32 and 64 OS to reload customers' machines who have a valid serial and registration code, similar to the link you provided recently for Win 7.

In this excerpt from Answercast #6, I discuss the ramifications of the various ways of acquiring Window's operating systems and offer some suggestions for reformatting or upgrading.

Downloading Vista and Win7

Unfortunately, I do not have a link for Windows Vista. The Windows 7 availability was actually something new (and to be honest, quite surprising) that Microsoft did. I believe that it's Windows 7 only.

(At this writing, you can download Windows 7 here.)

What I believe you will need to do is go out and see if you can find, on the secondary market, the appropriate Vista 32- and 64-bit discs for your customers' machines.

Now, the reason I focus on customers' machines is that many of these are OEM discs; discs that were provided by the original computer manufacturer and are slightly customized for those specific machines. So that would be how to start. Try and find those on the secondary market. By secondary market, I mean auction sites like eBay, and Craigslist, whatever... whatever other approaches you might have to finding them.

I honestly don't know (and am not going to try and address) the legalities of all of this. Sometimes, the OEM versions are not supposed to be sellable or are not supposed to be moved to a different machine. I'm focused on getting you working obviously, so that's something you might want to consider as you go down this path.

The other thing, of course, with the secondary market is you run the risk of sellers who are less than completely honest. I would also make sure that you are trying to do business with sellers who have a good reputation.

Operating system software

So that's one approach. Another approach is to look for a Vista retail box.

These will not be customized to specific machines that your customers may have, but you can install it on pretty much anything. Then go back to the computer manufacturer for any specific drivers to enable machine specific features that the retail version didn't recover.

The downside to this is, once again, that we're purchasing a copy of Windows Vista; purchasing a copy of the retail version of Windows Vista in order to be able to do this.

It is possible that the registration codes your people have may not work. Those are typically tied to the version of Windows that they got. By "version," I mean if they got an OEM version from say, Dell, then that's only going to work on a Dell computer (for instance, a Dell OEM copy of Windows Vista). If they got a copy of it retail, then it's only going to work on a retail CD from Vista.

As you can tell, things quickly get kind of complicated when you don't have your original installation discs for the specific machine that you're looking at.

Upgrade the operating system

Another approach (but I don't know if you want to go down this road or not) would be to bite the bullet and start upgrading them to Windows 7.

Again, that's another purchase, but it is available. The retail copy of Windows 7 should work on just about any machine. That is the one you can download and try first to see if it's going to work; then you can purchase an activation code.

So, obviously, there aren't real clean answers to this particular one because the download you're looking for doesn't legally exist. But there are some options that will allow you to find it another way.

Next - How can I fix my computer from going to blue screen?

Article C5160 - April 3, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

2 Comments
Douglas A. Brace
April 3, 2012 5:12 PM

I provide tech support for people on the side so I am also in this situation. My recommendation would be to subscribe to TechNet and use the media and not the registration keys.

I do this all the time with OEM keys. Works like a charm.

Might be difficult to justify the cost of TechNet for only Windows Vista but it is an option.

Arshad Ahmed
April 5, 2012 5:38 AM

If you have purchased OLP(Open License Program) for Windows 7, you can download current and previous versions of windows from Volume license download center.

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