Windows 7 FAQ - Last Modified 03/03/2012

Not open for further replies.


1. I have 32 bit Windows (XP or Vista) and want to upgrade to 64 bit Windows 7. Can I do this?
A: This is fundamentally not possible. Due to the difference in architecture between 32 and 64 bit Windows kernels, you cannot upgrade a 32 bit version of Windows to a 64 bit version. You will need to back up your data, wipe out your hard drive and do a clean install of Windows.


2. Windows 7 keeps blue screening on me! What can I do to stop it?
A: The error code ultimately determines what specific course of action to take when resolving a blue screen of death. Before attempting to dive in to the root cause of the STOP error, the two things one should attempt first are:
1. Update all of the major drivers on your system. Video, Sound, Network, and chipset are the 4 major devices and typically the most common source of several commonly occurring blue screens. Check the websites of your video card, motherboard and (if necessary) sound card manufacturers to obtain the most up to date drivers for Windows 7. If the manufacturer does not yet offer drivers built specifically for Windows 7, in most cases, the Windows Vista drivers will work in their place.
2. Run a diagnostic on your computer’s RAM to ensure it is still functioning properly. One very good diagnostic tool to use is MemTest86+. If your RAM is found to be faulty, replace as needed.


3. I have a program running under an older version of Windows and I don't know if it will work under Windows 7. Is there some place I can check to see if it will work properly?
A: Yes. If you are wondering whether a particular application will work under Windows 7, please visit the following website:

Windows 7 Compatibility

If your search term does not appear in the results list, do a search here on the forum to see if anyone else has asked about the same product.

Additionally, you can download and install the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. This tool should highlight any potential software and hardware incompatibilities in your system before making the switch.



Windows 7 OEM versions

According to Microsoft, roughly 90% of all copies of Windows are purchased with new PCs, preinstalled by Original Equipment Manufacturers that build the PC and sell Windows as part of the package. That will certainly be true with Windows 7.

OEM (major PC manufacturer) This is, by far, the cheapest way to purchase Windows 7. The top 20 or so PC makers (sometimes called “royalty OEMs”) collectively sell millions of PCs per month with Windows already installed on them. When you start up that PC for the first time, you accept two license agreements, one with the manufacturer and one with Microsoft. Here’s what you need to know about this type of license agreement:

Your Windows license agreement is between you and the PC maker, not between you and Microsoft.
The OEM uses special imaging tools to install Windows on PCs they manufacture. When you first turn on the PC, you accept a license agreement with the OEM and with Microsoft.
The PC maker is required to provide support for Windows. Except for security issues, Microsoft will not provide free support for any issues you have with Windows purchased from an OEM.
Your copy of Windows is locked to the PC on which you purchased it. You cannot transfer that license to another PC.
You can upgrade any components or peripherals on your PC and keep your license intact. You can replace the motherboard with an identical model or an equivalent model from the OEM if it fails. However, if you personally replace or upgrade the motherboard, your OEM Windows license is null and void.
Windows activation is typically not required when Windows is preinstalled by a royalty OEM. Instead, these copies are pre-activated at the factory. Your copy of Windows will be automatically reactivated if you reinstall it using the media or recovery partition from the PC maker, it will not require activation.
At the time you purchase an OEM copy of Windows 7 to be preinstalled on a new PC, you must choose either 32-bit or 64-bit Windows. Your agreement with the OEM determines whether you can switch to a different version; some PC makers support only a single version with specific PC models and will not allow you to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit (or vice versa) after purchase.

OEM (System Builder) If you buy a new computer from a local PC builder (sometimes called a “white box” PC), you can get an OEM edition of Windows preinstalled. This type of OEM license differs in a few crucial details from the version the big PC makers sell:

As with the royalty OEM versions, your copy of Windows is locked to the PC on which it is installed and cannot be transferred to a PC, nor can the motherboard be upgraded.
Under the terms of its agreement with Microsoft, the OEM must use the Windows OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) to install Windows. When you first turn on the PC, you accept a license agreement with the OEM and with Microsoft. The OEM is required to provide support for your copy of Windows.
Activation of your new PC is required within 30 days. The product key should already have been entered as part of the OPK installation and activation should be automatic and transparent to you.
Although it is possible for an individual to buy a System Builder copy of Windows 7 and install it on a new PC, that scenario is specifically prohibited by the license agreement, which requires that the software be installed using the OPK and then resold to a non-related third party. (As I noted in a September 2008 post, Microsoft once allowed “hobbyists” to use OEM System Builder software to build their own PCs, but the company switched to a hard-line stance on this issue sometime after Vista shipped in early 2007.)
When you purchase a white-box PC from a system builder, the PC maker preinstalls the Windows version you purchased. The package you receive includes reinstallation media and a product key that is similar to a full packaged product but cannot be used for an in-place upgrade. You may or may not receive both 32-bit and 64-bit media. If you receive both types of media, you can switch from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows or vice versa by performing a custom reinstall using your product key.

[Update: As a consumer, you can buy an OEM System Builder copy of Windows from countless online shopping outlets. Technically, you're not supposed to use those copies unless you're building a PC for resale to a third party. But Microsoft's own employees and retail partners, and even its own "decision engine," Bing, aren't so clear on the rules. For a detailed discussion, see Is it OK to use OEM Windows on your own PC? Even Microsoft's not sure.]

Upgrade Versions Windows 7

Let’s assume you have a machine with Windows installed on it. Maybe you bought it preinstalled from a PC maker. Maybe you upgraded a previous version (like XP to Vista or Vista to Windows 7). Maybe you built it yourself with a full retail license. Whatever. Now you want to upgrade. You have two options.

Windows Anytime Upgrade This option is exclusively for people who already have Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, or Professional installed. This might be the case if you get a great deal on a new PC with a specific edition of Windows 7, such as a netbook running Windows 7 Starter or a notebook running Windows 7 Home Premium. You now you actually want a more advanced version, but the PC is preconfigured and can’t be customized. That’s where Windows Anytime Upgrade comes in. You can use this option to replace your edition with the one you really want, with the features you need.

It is very quick (10 minutes or less, typically) and does not require any media. You kick off the process from the System dialog box in Control Panel and then enter a valid key for the edition you want to upgrade to. You can purchase a key online or use a key from any upgrade or full edition of Windows 7. The starting version must be activated before Windows Anytime Upgrade will begin.

When the upgrade completes, you are running the new, higher version.

Retail upgrade Here’s the one that has caused all the recent controversy. A retail upgrade package is sold at a steep discount to a fully licensed retail product. The idea is that you are a repeat customer, and you get a price break because you already paid for a full Windows license earlier. Retail upgrades qualify for free technical support from Microsoft, even if the copy you’re replacing was originally supplied by an OEM.

So who qualifies for a Windows 7 upgrade license? The Windows 7 retail upgrade package says “All editions of Windows XP and Windows Vista qualify you to upgrade.” The same language appears on the listings at the Microsoft Store. Specifically:

Any PC that was purchased with Windows XP or Vista preinstalled (look for the sticker on the side) is qualified. This is true whether the PC came from a large royalty OEM or a system builder. You can install a retail upgrade of Windows 7 on that PC. You cannot, however, use the OEM license from an old PC to upgrade a new PC without Windows installed.
Any retail full copy of Windows XP or Windows Vista can serve as the qualifying license as well. If you have a full retail copy (not an OEM edition) on an old PC, you can uninstall that copy from the old PC and use it as the baseline full license for the new PC.
Older copies of Windows, including Windows 95/98/Me or Windows 2000, do not qualify for upgrading. There was some confusion earlier this summer when a page at the Microsoft Store online briefly stated that Windows 2000 owners could qualify for an upgrade. This appears to have been a mistake.

So, who doesn’t qualify for an upgrade license?

If you want to install Windows 7 in a new virtual machine, you need a full license. A retail upgrade isn’t permitted because there’s no qualifying copy of Windows installed. (The exception is Windows XP Mode, which is included with Windows 7 Professional and higher.)
If you own a Mac and you want to install Windows on it, either in a virtual machine or using Boot Camp, you need a full license.
And if you want to set up a dual-boot system, keeping your current version alongside your new copy of Windows 7, you need a full license. You can evaluate the new OS for up to 30 days before activating it, but if you decide to activate and use the retail upgrade full-time, you have to stop using your old edition.

That last one always surprises people, but it’s right there in the upgrade license terms:

To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade. Upon upgrade, this agreement takes the place of the agreement for the software you upgraded from. After you upgrade, you may no longer use the software you upgraded from.

So, if you want to dual-boot on a system that is currently using a single Windows license, you need to have a full license for your new copy, not a retail upgrade.

As the table on the first page indicates, you can transfer a retail upgrade license to a new PC. This fact confuses some people. Remember that the PC on which you install the upgrade must have a qualifying license first. So if you buy a new PC with an OEM Windows license, you can remove your retail upgrade from the old PC (restoring its original, un-upgraded Windows edition) and install your retail upgrade on the new PC. This is covered in Section 17 of the Windows 7 license:

You may transfer the software and install it on another computer for your use. That computer becomes the licensed computer. You may not do so to share this license between computers.

According to wording on the retail upgrade media, “This [setup] program will search your system to confirm your eligibility for this upgrade.” It is, presumably, looking for evidence of a currently installed version of Windows XP or Vista.

Full and Volume Licensing 7 Versions

The full license product represents the highest price you can pay as a consumer, but it also includes the most generous license. Big customers who are willing to buy in bulk can get full-featured editions of Windows, bundled with support contracts and special benefits, by signing up for Volume License agreements. Here’s how these two products work.

Retail Full Package Product (FPP) This is the most expensive retail product of all and includes the fewest restrictions of any Windows version. You can install it on any PC, new or old. You can boot from the installation media and set up Windows 7 on a PC with a squeaky clean hard drive without having to jump through a single hoop. You can install it on any Mac, in a virtual machine or using Boot Camp. You can install it in a virtual machine in Windows as well. You can even use it as an upgrade for a previous edition (although you pay more for the privilege than you need to).

Two other noteworthy benefits of an FPP copy of Windows are these:

You can uninstall the OS from a computer and transfer it to a new PC, something you can’t do with an OEM copy of Windows. Microsoft briefly considered restricting this option when Vista was almost ready to launch but retreated in the face of a fierce backlash from customers
You get free technical support directly from Microsoft, rather than from the hardware maker.

FPP products are premium-priced, but for some circumstances they make sense. And for customers who are willing to pay that premium to have no license hassles whatsoever, this is the way to go

Enterprise (Volume License) This is the most misunderstood of all Windows versions, in my experience. The most common misconception is that Volume Licenses allow a large company to buy Windows in bulk copies at discounted prices and then install them on any PC in their organization. The reality is very different.

Here are a few essential facts about Volume Licensing:

Volume Licenses are available for a long, long list of products, but for Windows 7, only Professional and Enterprise editions are available.
You can qualify for Volume Licensing with as few as five PCs in an organization.
All Volume Licenses are upgrades. You cannot legally buy a “naked” PC and attach a volume license to it. You must first buy a full license (typically an OEM license with a new PC purchase) and then use the Volume License to upgrade to the VL version you purchased.
Volume License keys were a source of rampant piracy in the Windows XP era. As a result, all Volume License copies of Windows 7 now have to be activated, using either a Multiple Activation Key or a Key Management Service. The big difference with the latter option (which applies to most large VL customers) is that the activation servers are managed locally by the customer and individual employees don’t have to activate using Microsoft’s servers.
According to Microsoft, a Windows Upgrade License purchased through a Volume License program is “tied” to the device to which it is first assigned and may not be reassigned. However, Volume Licensing customers who pay extra for Software Assurance coverage can reassign that coverage (which includes upgrade rights) to an appropriately licensed replacement device. If you find that confusing, join the crowd.

Windows 7 Editions

Original post can be found here. Credit to Area51reopened.


5. What is the difference between the OEM (also known as the System Builder Pack), and the Retail version of Windows 7?
A: There are 3 major differences between these 2 items. The physical DVD disks themselves contain exactly the same content.
1. OEM copies of Windows 7 come in either 32, or 64 bit flavors. You must decide which version you want, and make sure you purchase that copy. With a retail copy, you get both 32 and 64 bit Windows 7 DVD’s in the same box.
2. OEM copies cannot be transferred from one PC to another. Once you install an OEM copy of Windows 7 on a PC it must remain with that PC forever, unless upgraded to a newer version of Windows in the future. Retail versions can be moved from PC to PC, but your retail copy of Windows 7 cannot be installed on more than one PC at any given time.
3. OEM copies do not come with any support from Microsoft. If you need to call Microsoft for support with Windows 7, you must pay a fee to do so. Retail copies come with a phone support incident included in the price.


7. I have a 64 bit version of Windows 7 installed, but Windows keeps reporting that only (2.00 - 3.50)GB of my installed ram is usable! I thought this only affected 32 bit versions of Windows?
A: 1. If you're *sure* you're running the 64 bit version of the OS, the two most likely possibilities are as follows.

The first is your motherboard may have a limitation - either by design or by BIOS setting. Check your motherboard's support page to verify your motherboard actually supports 4GB of ram or more. Then check your BIOS for a feature called Memory Remapping. If Memory Remapping options appear in the BIOS at all, make sure it is turned on. If it does not appear, and your motherboard is within 2 years old, chances are pretty good that the OEM that made the board simply left the feature turned on, and left it out of the configuration options.
2. Click the Start orb, and type in msconfig. Right click the msconfig app to run it as Administrator. That brings up the configuration utility. Click the Boot tab, and then click the Advanced Options button. In that window, there is a setting for Maximum Memory - Make sure the checkbox for it is clear (not checked), then reboot your computer.


8. I just installed Windows 7 and I'm missing one (or more) driver(s). Where can I find them?
A: Go into Device Manager and click up the device's Properties then click on the Details tab. Take note of the four characters you see after VEN (for Vendor) and after DEV (for Device) and input them in the relevant boxes at PCIDatabase then follow the information to the relevant site for the drivers. Failing that, check Windows Update, as Microsoft may provide generic drivers for your device. These 2 steps should eliminate 99% of all "missing" drivers from Windows 7.


9. I'm interested in moving to 64 bit Windows 7, but heard that 32 bit applications don't work in it. Is this true?
A: For the most part, this is false. There are rare instances where 32 bit applications won't work in a 64 bit operating system, but most applications have been updated, and there is enough support from Microsoft's side that this is no longer a problem. Be careful not to confuse 32 bit applications, with 32 bit drivers. 32 bit drivers will not operate within a 64 bit operating system.




11. I would like to install Windows 7 to a flash drive (or other removable media) to have a mobile copy of Windows with me wherever I go, but Windows 7 setup won't let me install to the removable disk! Is there any way around this?
A: Unfortunately, no. Windows 7 can only be installed on fixed disks like rotating, magnetic media (the standard hard drive) and solid state disks.


12. I've got Windows 7 Ultimate all set up and have a copy of Windows XP Mode running to support (insert name of application). Since I know Windows 7 Ultimate supports booting from VHD files, could I set up my computer to boot from the VHD file on my hard drive of Windows XP Mode, so I don't have to set up a true dual boot environment?
A: Unfortunately, this does not work due to the old architecture or Windows XP's boot loader. Booting from VHD is only officially supported by Microsoft with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 VHD files. There is a workaround to get Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 VHD files booting in this fashion, but doing so is not officially supported by Microsoft (Or Tom's Hardware).


13. I am having problems with installing Windows 7 from my DVD. I know I can install it from a flash drive, but don't know how to go about prepping a flash drive to be used this way. Can you explain?
A: Below are 2 methods for creating a bootable flash drive that you can install Windows 7 from. These methods also work for Windows Vista.

Important! Make sure the flash drive you use for this is at least 4GB in size. Anything smaller will not work.


Method 1. Download and install WinToFlash. Insert your Windows DVD into the drive and open WinToFlash. From the Task tab, select "Transfer Windows Vista/2008/7 setup to USB drive" and click Run. The defaults for USB Drive Type, Format type, and File system should all be ok. Change the "Vista Setup Files path" to the drive letter of your DVD (also ignore the fact that it says Vista Setup..., as the utility also works with the Windows 7 DVD). Then pick the drive letter of the USB Flash drive (again, make sure it is at least a 4GB flash drive) you want to make bootable, click Run, and accept the license agreement. WinToFlash will then begin transferring the setup files from the DVD.

Method 2. This method is the same as above, but uses a different program, and requires a couple extra steps to complete. Download and install a copy of UltraISO. Insert your Windows 7 DVD into your DVD drive and use UltraISO to create an ISO image of the disk. Once the image is created, open the image through UltraISO (the contents will appear in the top-right section of the UltraISO window). Click the Bootable menu, and select Write Disk Image. Make sure the Disk Drive drop down menu is pointing to the correct drive and click Write. Once the files are copied, restart your computer and boot from the flash drive. Windows 7 setup should begin loading to start the install process.


Either one of these methods should work, but after running through each one many times, I found that method 2 has a much better chance of producing a bootable drive. Method 2 does take a bit longer to complete though.

If you are unable to boot from your newly set up flash drive, check your BIOS to ensure USB booting is enabled (almost all motherboards manufactured in the last 3-4 years should have this enabled in their BIOS by default). If it is, hit the key on your keyboard to bring up the boot menu (which allows you to pick a specific device to boot from). Some common keys for accessing the boot menu are:


If none of the 3 listed above bring up the menu, consult your motherboard manual to determine which key you need to use to make it appear.


14. I would like to continue using Outlook Express from Windows XP, but I can't find it in Windows 7. Where did it go?
A: Outlook Express is no longer supported and has been removed from Windows entirely. Microsoft's free email client is now known as Windows Live Mail, and must be downloaded separately. Outlook Express is not supported and will not work under Windows 7.


15. I have a program opening maximized on one monitor but I want it to open maximized on the other. I can't figure out how to tell Windows to do this!
A: Windows 7 remembers window locations and maximization settings a specific way. In order to change which screen you want the program to appear on, you must open the program, un-maximize it so it's running in a floating window and then move it to the screen you want to have open on by default. Now close the program and open it up again. It should now open in the same position in which you just closed it. Now maximize the window, and close the program once more. It will now open on that screen, maximized each time until you (either by accident or on purpose) repeat this process.

Note that this process does not apply to things like PC games, as these settings can (for the most part) be controlled from within the game itself.
16. I have a PC with Windows 7 installed, but I've lost my product key and I want to reinstall / move OS to another machine. How can I get my product key back?
A: There are tools that will help you recover the product key from a valid installation of Windows 7.

Some of the relevant tools are
You can also see this thread on SevenForums:

Before you do this, please be sure that you are aware of licensing requirements and are not trying to use a license that cannot be moved to a new machine. If your machine came with Windows pre-loaded, you cannot use the OEM license on a new machine. If the license is an upgrade license, you need a valid retail, not OEM, license on the target machine.

With the exception of multiple-use licenses, a product key cannot be used on a new machine until the product has been removed from the old machine.

17.Where can I download Windows 7?
A: This article on provides links to various Windows 7 distros: . These should be usable to repair or re-install an existing instance of Windows 7, but do not provide a license or activation key.

Please do not ask this or do this if you do not have a proper license to install and run Windows 7 on the machine in question. Tom's discourages piracy.
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads