Reader Chris needs to reinstall Windows 7 Home Basic on his laptop. Just one problem: he lost his recovery discs.
A more common problem is when you need to reinstall Windows and you
never had recovery discs to begin with. Few manufacturers provide them
anymore, and many new PCs don’t have optical drives even if they did.
Thankfully, there’s a way around this. All you need is a Windows ISO
file (basically the entire Windows operating system in a single
container) and the free Ei.cfg Removal Utility. The latter deletes a key file inside the former, thus allowing you to install any version of Windows.
Let me explain that a bit further. Windows 7 and 8 installation discs
are version-specific; they’re designed to match up with your product
key. That’s why you can’t use, say, a Windows 7 Home Premium product key
to install Windows 7 Professional, even if you have a disc for the
Likewise, even if Chris somehow laid hands on a Windows 7 Home
Premium disc, his Home Basic license key wouldn’t work. That’s where
Ei.cfg Removal Utility comes in: It effectively creates a “universal”
Windows ISO, one that will install whatever version matches your product
From a high-level perspective, the process would work like this:
Borrow a friend’s install DVD, copy the ISO file from it to your hard
drive, then run Ei.cfg. When it’s done doing its thing, use the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to put that tweaked ISO on a flash drive.
Now, just boot from that flash drive and choose the version of
Windows you want to install. Enter your license key and you’re good to
go. (Don’t bother trying to sneak an upgrade; remember, your key will
work only with the version of Windows that came with your PC. In Chris’
case, that’s Windows 7 Home Basic.)
Can’t find an install disc or don’t have an optical drive? There are “official” Windows 7 SP1 ISO downloads available from the Windows 7 Forums.