Microsoft Windows 7 Finally Legally Downloadable

The Microsoft Windows 7 Professional retail box

Microsoft Windows 7 is now downloadable for free – if you own a legal retail copy. According to a LifeHacker story, Microsoft has at last added a direct download to their website for an ISO of the popular 2009 operating system, after the previous downloads were removed from their digital distribution partner, Digital River, last year. Users will need a valid Microsoft Windows 7 retail key to download the file, which can be then be burned to a blank DVD or used to create a bootable USB flash drive. For the particularly technically-savvy, Windows 7 can also be installed from a virtual machine or virtual drive.

That being said, there are still some major limitations. Microsoft will only unlock the Windows 7 download for a copy purchased independently at retail, which is to say, only keys from copies of Windows purchased in a store, from an authorized website or from the Microsoft website itself, will work. If your copy of Windows 7 came with your PC, otherwise known as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) copy, you’re out of luck; OEM users will be met with an “Unsupported Product” message when attempting to verify their Windows product keys.

As ZDNet notes, this is in curious contrast to the fact that Windows 8.1 users have always been able to download an ISO without a product key. This is likely due to the fact that once you have a copy of Windows 7, it can be installed without a key. Once installed, Windows can be used free and clear for 30 days before locking the user out, at which point it can be reinstalled to reset the 30 day counter. Windows 8.1 requires a key before it will install at all and strongly encourages users to sign in with their Microsoft Account during the installation process, both of which help to combat piracy.

As previously reported in the Inquisitr, Microsoft continues to update its preview of the upcoming Windows 10 operating system, available to those who participate in the Windows Insider Program. Microsoft Windows 10 is slated to be released later this year, and while reviews have generally been positive, it will be interesting to see how many users actually upgrade.

According to a story published by the Inquirer, as of December last year, Windows 7 market share continues to grow. As of the time of writing, Windows 7 still drastically dominates the OS scene at a staggering 55.72 percent with the newer Windows 8 and 8.1 holding less than 14 percent, according to current data from NetMarketShare. Microsoft Windows XP, released in 2001, holds 18.93 percent in spite of both its age and the end of Microsoft support for the operating system as of April 18, 2001.

[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]