Wh...what's this? A piece of open-source software from Microsoft that adds speed and portability to the standard Windows 7 installation process? It almost sounds too good to be true, but it's not! There really is such a utility, and it really has been delivered by the Windows 7 manufacturer itself, and it really is open-source!
I might sound a little too excited about this entire concept, but that's just because this tool--the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool--is actually a great replacement for what is otherwise a semi-complex (and hard to remember) series of console commands. If you think I'm exaggerating just for the sake of fashioning up a fun article to read, you're wrong. I couldn't tell you off-hand how to create a bootable USB drive with a preloaded Windows 7 disc. I usually just turn to this series of steps as a general walkthrough.
While the Microsoft tool isn't perfect, in that it won't automatically rip the contents of your Windows 7 CD and fashion a bootable USB key out of that, it's still an awesome way to automate this entire process using a friendly GUI. But don't think that you can just use this tool to make bootable USB keys of any ol' ISO file sitting around on your hard drive. In fact, you can't even rip the Windows 7 DVD and use the subsequent ISO file as the basis of your bootable USB key. Not without some tweaking, that is...
Anyone who tried to install their upgrade version of Windows 7 to a fresh drive was treated to a cruel wake up call. Not when they installed the OS, not even after they installed all their applications, but when the time came to activate. The deal with upgrade media is simple, an existing, and activated copy of Windows must exist on the hard drive prior to installation, or be prepared to start over. To make matters worse, the activation warning doesn't even give you a phone number to call and appeal you're case. The good news is you’re not dead in the water, that is, as long as you're comfortable making a few simple registry edits.
This guide will give you tips on all the upgrading scenarios, and even teach you how to use your upgrade DVD to perform a clean install on a fresh system with no prior OS. We show you how to turn the tables on the dreaded activation error code 0xC004F061: "The Software Licensing Service determined that this specified product key can only be used for upgrade, not for clean installations."