How to Get a Legally Free Copy of Windows 7

Here’s some good news… you can get a free, legal copy of Windows 7. And it can be done without breaking any laws, or downloading a hacked version from a Russian “file sharing” site.    If you’ve read any reviews of Windows 7, you’ve seen references to its price list, which ranges from $120 for a Home Premium upgrade to $320 for a fully licensed copy of Windows 7 Ultimate. Well, guess what? You don’t have to pay that much. Most people have much better options available, if you know where to look.  Until April 29, 2011, anyone can download Windows 7 for free from Microsoft’s official site and use it for up to 90 days free of charge. The trial period of Win7 Enterprise (the top of the line version) gives you a chance to learn Windows 7 and see how your existing apps perform under it. But at the end of 90 days, the trial version will shut down once every hour. Obviously, this is not a great solution for the long haul.

Windows XP is becoming increasingly obsolete. More and more, new software packages have compatibility issues with Windows XP. Sure, you can tweak Windows XP settings to make incompatible Windows 7 apps run under it, but that’s time-consuming and performance may be compromised. So maybe it’s better to bite the bullet and move up to Windows 7, which offers better performance and security. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to BUY a copy of Windows 7.  If you are a student, there are a few ways to get Windows 7 for free, legally. If you’re not a student, you can still get a legal, licensed copy of Windows 7 for free, at least temporarily. Here are your options for getting Windows 7 for free.   The trial period of Window 7 Enterprise (the top of the line version) gives you a chance to learn Windows 7 and see how your existing apps perform under it. But at the end of 90 days, the trial version will shut down once every hour. Obviously, this is not a great solution for the long haul.

Students May Qualify for Free Windows 7 Through a Microsoft Academic Alliance

But if you are a student, you can get a fully functional copy of Windows 7 that doesn’t have an expiration date. As long as your school is enrolled in the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MDNAA), you can download Windows 7 installation files for free from your school’s servers. Ask your school’s IT department for the login credentials needed to access the MSDNAA Member page, then log in and download what you want. If your school is not yet a member of MSDNAA, ask your administrators to apply for membership. We strongly urge you to resist the temptation to download a cracked (illegally activated) copy of Windows 7 from a peer-to-peer network or “warez” site. It’s illegal, for one thing. But there are other pitfalls to downloading a bootleg copy of Windows 7. Such copies are often deliberatly corrupted and can leave your computer open to hackers or infection with malware.

But if you are a student whose school is enrolled in the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MDNAA), you can download Windows 7 installation files for free from your school’s servers. Here is the procedure:

  • Go to the MSDNAA School Member Search page.
  • Select your school using the pulldown menu options.
  • You will be shown the department and software center from which you can download Windows 7 and other Microsoft products.
  • You will need login credentials supplied by your school’s IT department. Use them to log in and download what you want.

If your school is not yet a member of MSDNAA, ask your administrators to apply for membership.

Here’s one more roundabout way to get a free copy of Windows 7 64-bit. Note that you must be a student at an accredited school, and your computer must support 64-bit computing to make this trick work. Download Windows Server 2008 R2 (Release Candidate 2) from the Dreamspark website. It’s basically a Windows 7 workstation (desktop) edition optimized for running a server. It comes in an ISO image file of 2.8 GB, so have a blank DVD, DVD burning drive, and ISO image burning software such as MagicISO at hand. Burn the ISO image to a bootable DVD and you have a Windows Server 2008 installation disc.

Install Windows Server 2008 using the link in the previous paragraph, then read this ZDNet tutorial for instructions on tweaking it to run as a Windows 7 workstation.

I strongly urge you to resist the temptation to download a cracked (illegally activated) copy of Windows 7 from a peer-to-peer network or “warez” site. It’s illegal, for one thing. But there are other pitfalls to downloading a bootleg copy of Windows 7. Such copies are often deliberatly corrupted and can leave your computer open to hackers or infection with malware.

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