Question Windows 7 forever

TimHendersonFL

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I have a Dell laptop with Windows 7. It's working. I would like to set it aside but use it from time to time, knowing that someday the hard disk will fail. When it fails, I'd like to be prepared to put a new hard disk in it, recover / restore, and go back to using it from time to time.

  1. I don't have any Windows 7 media.
  2. My Product Key is OEM. That means downloading the ISO from Microsoft won't work because they do not accept OEM product keys.
What I am used to doing - for many years - is making copies of files and folders I wanted to keep. Lately I've used FreeFileSync for this and just about everything I care about is backed up to an external hard disk.

When the last Win 7 laptop crashed I just bought another used Win 7 laptop, did Windows Update, installed programs again, restored my files, and all was good. That's not going to work in the future because Win 7 support has ended. I believe I am on my own and need to figure out a way to get back to normal after this hard disk fails.

Should I use a disk cloning product? Perhaps one with Win PE included? If so, which one would you recommend?

Should I use Windows Backup and Restore? If so, how?

THANKS for tackling this.
 

USAFRet

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"need to figure out a way to get back to normal after this hard disk fails. "

Backups.
Specifically, Images. Not a full clone.
A Full Image, followed by a series of Incremental or Differential.
This allows you to recover from any specific day within your backup timeline.

Read here, and ask questions after you've read it.
 

Barty1884

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I mean, you could clone the drive as is today - then you'll always have your install as of today - but routine backups should be a given here.

Beyond that, you could always clean install W7 in future, on the same (or new) drive.

ISOs of Windows 7 media exist, although without a retail key, you cannot download directly from MS (as you've addressed) and anywhere other than MS directly is a minefield. Random files obtained are possibly/likely to be compromised in some way.

I have a W7 Home Premium CD sitting in a drawer, I'll likely never need it, but never hurts to have on hand.

Physical retail copies are easy enough to come by. You could purchase one from eBay for a couple of insert currency. I would actually suggest checking with your local computer repair store. Chances are they have a bunch in the back from over the years - every Windows key back then came with a disk (other than prebuilts and laptops, of course).
 

TimHendersonFL

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I mean, you could clone the drive as is today - then you'll always have your install as of today - but routine backups should be a given here.
This is actually very attractive to me. I DO want the disk "frozen in time".

I have programs on it that will not run in Win 10. I may need to use those to get something done that I can't do on my Win 10 box or Raspberry Pi 4b or Chromebook or ... well, surely this makes sense?

Any incremental backups would consist of copying changed files off it. No problem there - I'll just use FreeFileSync or Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V to an external hard disk or flash drive.

So ... Paragon? Something based on Linux? What do you recommend?
 

USAFRet

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This is actually very attractive to me. I DO want the disk "frozen in time".

I have programs on it that will not run in Win 10. I may need to use those to get something done that I can't do on my Win 10 box or Raspberry Pi 4b or Chromebook or ... well, surely this makes sense?

Any incremental backups would consist of copying changed files off it. No problem there - I'll just use FreeFileSync or Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V to an external hard disk or flash drive.

So ... Paragon? Something based on Linux? What do you recommend?
With an Imaging tool such as macrium, you can have both.
A copy as 'Now', and a rolling series of backups for the future.

That is what I do with all my systems.
A Day 1 Image of the bare OS.
A Day 2 Image of the OS and my basic load of applications.
And then a rolling series of Full+Incremental images, to use in case the BadThing happens.


Incremental images in Macrium can be mounted as a drive letter. Retrieve what you need, from the day you need it.
"Oh, I need the copy of that photo/resume/whatever as it was on last Saturday". No problem.
 

USAFRet

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Dec 2018 one of my SSD's died.
960GB Sandisk, 605GB data on it.
Poof, dead.
A secondary drive, but no matter.

Images stored in my NAS box across the room. Or could have been across town...

Slot in a new drive, click click in Macrium, 2 hours later, all 605GB recovered, exactly as it was at 4AM that morning when it ran its nightly Incremental backup.

A single clone would have been a single snapshot of that original Day 1, 3 years earlier when I installed it.

A clone is what you use when changing drives right now. An Image is what you store for safekeeping, to use later.
 

TimHendersonFL

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Are you using Macrium on Windows 7?

I had a trial copy installed some time ago and had a problem with it. I couldn't see a way to restore in case of a disk failure but I think the problem was I had to have a paid copy. This is part of my problem - I thought a lot of this through --- 2 years ago --- and lost my notes. Now that you mention Macrium ... I should take another look. I think the "restore to a new disk" feature worked using Windows PE, and that only came with the paid version.
 

USAFRet

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Are you using Macrium on Windows 7?

I had a trial copy installed some time ago and had a problem with it. I couldn't see a way to restore in case of a disk failure but I think the problem was I had to have a paid copy. This is part of my problem - I thought a lot of this through --- 2 years ago --- and lost my notes. Now that you mention Macrium ... I should take another look. I think the "restore to a new disk" feature worked using Windows PE, and that only came with the paid version.
I did previously.
Currently on Win 10.

"restore to a new disk" ?
That is absolutely a feature that works in the Free version.
 

TimHendersonFL

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Which programs, specifically?
I specialize in maintaining custom written software that runs on obsolete platforms.

For example I used to have a Compaq "Lunchbox" computer I kept so I could run certain DOS programs. I had Clipper Summer 87 on there, dBase III, Blinker, and could tweak the code and recompile if I needed to.

Now my Windows XP projects are aging. I brought them forward to Win 7, added features, and kept adding projects. Developing desktop apps on Win 7 was a breeze. After 10 came out I tweaked them to run well on Win 10. However, the development system is based on a version of Visual Studio that will not install on Win 10.

I could get a developers Win 10 machine, get the current Visual Studio, and pay to transfer some licenses of VS add-ons I rely on, sure. After I have done all that, I still have clients using Win 7 who are not going to stop using it until the machines it runs on die. I have a low end Win 10 laptop I used to test a revised program after a new build. Win 7 and Win 10 are the only operating systems I support right now. My clients are aware Win 7 will fade, and someday, I won't be able to help them. New feature requests ended with the MS announcement of Support EOL for Win 7. My remaining clients for those legacy projects need to transition to some other program and platform.

I switched to doing new projects in PHP using mySQL. The latest project uses Python. So far, I am loving Python.
 
I have a Dell laptop with Windows 7. It's working. I would like to set it aside but use it from time to time, knowing that someday the hard disk will fail. When it fails, I'd like to be prepared to put a new hard disk in it, recover / restore, and go back to using it from time to time.

  1. I don't have any Windows 7 media.
  2. My Product Key is OEM. That means downloading the ISO from Microsoft won't work because they do not accept OEM product keys.
What I am used to doing - for many years - is making copies of files and folders I wanted to keep. Lately I've used FreeFileSync for this and just about everything I care about is backed up to an external hard disk.

When the last Win 7 laptop crashed I just bought another used Win 7 laptop, did Windows Update, installed programs again, restored my files, and all was good. That's not going to work in the future because Win 7 support has ended. I believe I am on my own and need to figure out a way to get back to normal after this hard disk fails.

Should I use a disk cloning product? Perhaps one with Win PE included? If so, which one would you recommend?

Should I use Windows Backup and Restore? If so, how?

THANKS for tackling this.


normally with windows 7 laptops they would have a CD key labled somewhere on them. i can't remember if the key would be the same OEM key they would use to activate windows 7 automatically with the dell recovery partition or not though
 

TimHendersonFL

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normally with windows 7 laptops they would have a CD key labled somewhere on them.
No CDs or DVDs came with this laptop. The key is stored in the Registry in an encrypted format. I used Belarc Advisor to evaluate the laptop. One of the things it does is decrypt that registry entry and show you the key.

Belarc's report said I had an OEM key.

There is a Microsoft URL where you can put in your retail key and get a download ISO of Windows 7. I tried putting my key in there and it does not work as a retail key.

There is a label stuck to the bottom of the laptop that may have had a key printed on it, originally. The label is nearly unreadable now, in such bad condition that I can't tell if it every had a windows activation key or not.

It's a Dell, so you might think that the key would be tied to the Service Tag. I haven't tried contacting Dell to see if they can tell me what key was used in the original Windows installation. I think each Service Tag is assigned to all machines that share a configuration. I don't think each Service Tag is assigned to one and only one computer.

i can't remember if the key would be the same OEM key they would use to activate windows 7 automatically with the dell recovery partition or not though
I don't have a recovery partition on this hard disk. The laptop is old. The original hard disk died a long time ago.
 

stonecarver

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That is what I do with all my systems.
A Day 1 Image of the bare OS.
A Day 2 Image of the OS and my basic load of applications.
And then a rolling series of Full+Incremental images, to use in case the BadThing happens.
Man your scary!

You took the works right out of my mouth. I guess we do the same to a "T" on how we roll as far as backups. You the Man!
 
No CDs or DVDs came with this laptop. The key is stored in the Registry in an encrypted format. I used Belarc Advisor to evaluate the laptop. One of the things it does is decrypt that registry entry and show you the key.

Belarc's report said I had an OEM key.

There is a Microsoft URL where you can put in your retail key and get a download ISO of Windows 7. I tried putting my key in there and it does not work as a retail key.

There is a label stuck to the bottom of the laptop that may have had a key printed on it, originally. The label is nearly unreadable now, in such bad condition that I can't tell if it every had a windows activation key or not.

It's a Dell, so you might think that the key would be tied to the Service Tag. I haven't tried contacting Dell to see if they can tell me what key was used in the original Windows installation. I think each Service Tag is assigned to all machines that share a configuration. I don't think each Service Tag is assigned to one and only one computer.



I don't have a recovery partition on this hard disk. The laptop is old. The original hard disk died a long time ago.

right, it may have been the time where they supplied optical optical recovery disks with the laptop instead of relying on a partiton
 

michael diemer

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I would try contacting Dell. We had the same situation, no installation disc. We called them and spoke with a guy for awhile, exchanged some information etc. We had a disc delivered literally by noon the next day.
 

TimHendersonFL

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right, it may have been the time where they supplied optical optical recovery disks with the laptop instead of relying on a partiton
The original machine had a recovery partition on the HD. That disk failed. Whoever replaced it just did a single partition, a format C:, and installed their OEM copy of windows. Tada! Ready for sale.

I wouldn't go on and on about this except I know thousands of laptops are out there in the same shape. Resellers bought them by the fleet - laptops retired from service to insurance professionals, sales pros, etc. I used to call them "the $100 laptop". They were everywhere.
 

USAFRet

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The original machine had a recovery partition on the HD. That disk failed. Whoever replaced it just did a single partition, a format C:, and installed their OEM copy of windows. Tada! Ready for sale.

I wouldn't go on and on about this except I know thousands of laptops are out there in the same shape. Resellers bought them by the fleet - laptops retired from service to insurance professionals, sales pros, etc. I used to call them "the $100 laptop". They were everywhere.
This is still going on.
Even worse, the reseller/refurbisher installs a corporate license they got somewhere, probably for free.

System works just fine. Until right at the 6 month point when it couldn't contact the expected license server, and Unactivates itself.
This laptop I'm using right now is one of those.
 

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