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Top Story, August 20, 2009 Top-scoring articles
Use any version of Windows 7 free for 120 days in the past 12
By Woody Leonhard
months
Windows Live shares your
There's an easy way to stretch Windows 7's 30-day free-trial period Messenger contacts 4.37
to 120 days so you can determine whether Microsoft's new
operating system meets your needs. Gizmo rounds up top free
imaging apps 4.36
Even better — if you know the secret — you can try out any version of Hotmail's social networking
Win7, from Ultimate to the lowly Basic, using a single install disc. busts your privacy 4.32
Use any version of
It's fair to say that by now hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of copies of Windows
Windows 7 free for 120
7 sit on DVDs and hard drives all over the world. You might have downloaded a copy of
days 4.26
Win7 from the official sites: Microsoft Developer Network, TechNet, or Software
Advantage. Perhaps you hooked up your machine to a torrent or a newsgroup site to Clean-install Windows 7
download the new OS. Or maybe you snagged a copy from your tech-savvy sister-in-law. from the upgrade disc 4.26
The 120-day Microsoft
Whichever channel you use, if you don't already have a copy of Windows 7, you can easily security suite test drive 4.24
put your paws on the installation bits and burn your own install DVD. Just be sure what
you downloaded is the real, shipping version of Windows 7. One way to confirm this is to Sun, Apple, Microsoft install
use a set of checksum verification instructions found on Softpedia. chaff with patches 4.24
The ultimate software deal
Getting a copy of Windows 7 is the easy part. The rub — and the place where Microsoft has strings attached 4.22
makes its money — is the Win7 activation key. You're expected to pay for the key, no
Free MS Security
matter how you obtained the software. Essentials are worth trying
4.22
Microsoft allows anyone to install and use any version of Windows 7 for 30 days without
having to enter an activation key. There are no strings attached, and the operating Rescue Windows with a
system's performance is not degraded or defaced during the trial. bootable flash drive 4.2
Install Windows 7 many
Fortunately for us, the 30-day grace period can be extended up to three additional times times from one USB drive
— to a total of 120 days — using a Microsoft-supplied utility called the Software License 4.18
Manager (slmgr). This tool conveniently ships with Windows 7.
Success in digging
malware from my own back
How to use slmgr to extend the free-trial period of Windows Vista was first reported by
yard 4.18
WS editorial director Brian Livingston on Feb. 15, 2007. Because Windows 7 includes
slightly different versions than Vista, the procedure has some new wrinkles. Listen up. Windows GDI+ update
prevents Web-image
How to extend Win7's trial to a full four months attacks 4.16
Free software sheds light
In a nutshell: If you install Windows 7 and don't enter an installation key, the 30-day on PC activity 4.15
activation clock starts. To see how many days you have left, click Start, right-click
Computer, and choose Properties. At the bottom of the dialog under Windows Activation, Gmail flaw shows value of
you'll see the number of days left in your trial period. strong passwords 4.15
What to do when a program
installation fails 4.15

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Use any version of Windows 7 free for 120 days Page 2 of 5

When that number gets perilously close to zero, you can extend the free period another 30 Tighten your Facebook
days via the following steps: privacy settings 4.14
iTunes account theft strikes
■ Step 1: Click Start, All Programs, Accessories. Right-click Command Prompt and close to home 4.13
choose Run As Administrator. Enter your administrator password.
ATL flaw makes IE
■ Step 2: Type the following command and press Enter: vulnerable to attack 4.13
MS patch causes BSOD if
slmgr -rearm PC has Alureon malware
4.13
Note the space after slmgr and the hyphen in front of rearm.
Microsoft releases a taxing
■ Step 3: Restart Windows 7. week of patches 4.13
Delete files that Windows
Once the OS restarts, the Properties dialog described above will indicate that Windows 7's labels 'undeletable' 4.13
activation grace period has been reset to a full 30 days.
Should you move to 64-bit
Windows 7? 4.13
You can run the -rearm trick a total of three times. If you perform a -rearm at the end of
each 30-day period, you end up with 120 days of full, unfettered Windows 7 use without Windows, solid-state disks,
having to supply an activation key in the interim. and 'trim' 4.13
How much security
How to install Win7 Ultimate now, pay less later software do you really
need? 4.12
When the activation grace period runs out — whether it's in 30 or 120 days or somewhere
in between — you need to feed Windows 7 an activation key. That's when many Windows ISPs block some outgoing
7 customers will find themselves in trouble. e-mail unexpectedly 4.11
How to pick and optimize
Let me clarify up front that the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of Windows take the same your home router 4.11
keys. A key that works for 32-bit Windows 7 Home Premium also works for 64-bit Add Windows 7 PCs to
Windows 7 Home Premium. However, different keys are required for Ultimate vs. Pro vs. Vista and XP networks
Home Premium. 4.1

(I assume you won't want to install the exceedingly limited Windows Home Basic, which is Freeware outdoes
intended primarily for developing countries. And you won't be installing Windows Home Windows' built-in system
Starter, because you can't buy a key for it. The Starter version is available only when tools 4.1
preinstalled on a new netbook.) My productivity-enhancing
keyboard shortcuts 4.1
Say, for example, you install a free trial of Windows 7 Ultimate. However, when the time
comes to pay the piper, you want to shell out your shekels only for Win7 Home Premium.
(That's the version most individual users will choose, and it's considerably cheaper than
Win7 Ultimate — which isn't worth spending more for, as I see it.)

If you installed a trial of Win7 Ultimate without knowing the secret, you're stuck. The Home
Premium key won't activate an Ultimate PC. Your only option is a complete reinstall of
Windows using the version that matches your bought-and-paid-for key — Home Premium,
in this case.

The best solution is to install in the first place the version you probably want to end up
with. If you expect to pay for Windows 7 Home Premium, you should install Windows 7
Home Premium. The same goes for Windows 7 Professional, which is for use in corporate
domains.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to install either Windows 7 Home Premium or Pro from a
Windows 7 Ultimate CD: simply delete a single file. Hard to believe, but true.

Convert Win7 Ultimate to Pro or Home Premium


Here's the crux of the matter: If you put a DVD containing Win7 Ultimate in your PC and
run the installer — either by booting from the disc or running the setup program from
inside Windows — you end up with Win7 Ultimate. No surprises there.

However, if you first delete a tiny file named ei.cfg before making the installation DVD, the
Win7 installer will give you the choices shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Delete or rename ei.cfg before burning a Windows 7 installation DVD, and
a menu then allows you to select which version to install.

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Use any version of Windows 7 free for 120 days Page 3 of 5

In fact, no matter
which Win7
installation DVD
you have —
Ultimate, Pro, or
Premium — if you
delete the ei.cfg
file from the disc,
you'll be offered
the same choices
and can install
any version of
Windows 7.

At the moment, only a small number of people have received a physical DVD containing
Windows 7 Ultimate. Instead, most current Win7 users downloaded an .iso file, which
includes everything on the Windows 7 Ultimate DVD: boot settings, file-structure details,
etc. You burn the .iso file to a DVD. Then you either boot your PC from the DVD or run the
setup program within an older version of Windows to kick the Win7 installer into gear.

If you have a Windows 7 Ultimate .iso file, it's easy to delete ei.cfg. First, get a 30-day trial
version of the gBurner utility, which is available from the program's download page at
CNET's Download.com. Then install and run gBurner, open the Windows 7 .iso file, and
delete (or rename) \sources\ei.cfg. Piece o' cake, although it can take 20 minutes to save
the altered .iso file.

You can then use either gBurner or Alex Feinman's ISO Recorder program (available from
Alex's site) to burn a version of the .iso file without ei.cfg to DVD.

What if you do have a physical Windows 7 installation DVD, but you don't have an .iso
file? In that case, use either gBurner or ISO Recorder to rip the DVD into an .iso file. Then
follow the instructions above to delete the ei.cfg file and burn a new DVD.

Get the right version of Windows 7 going now and you won't have to reinstall it — or pay
an exorbitant price — later.

(My thanks to all-around good guy Seth Bareiss for his help in researching this topic.)

UPDATE 2009-11-12: In the Nov. 12 Top Story, Woody Leonhard describes how to
clean-install Windows 7 from the upgrade disc and also answers other reader
questions about Windows 7.

Woody Leonhard's latest book, Green Home Computing For Dummies, just hit store shelves. His
encyclopedic Windows 7 All-In-One For Dummies will be available in most bookstores and computer
stores worldwide in October.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2009-08-20:


Top Story Use any version of Windows 7 free for 120 days
Known Issues Add Adobe to the list of update opportunists
Wacky Web Week Annoying tweeters meet their zombie demise
Bonus Everything Windows 7 available at your fingertips
Langalist Plus Delete files that Windows labels 'undeletable'
Best Software New browser combines best of three worlds
Insider Tricks Bolster your security with top-notch free tools
(Show all articles on a single page)

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