Easily install Windows 7 on an old laptop

Windows 10 sucks, and so does Windows 8, so sometimes I get asked by friends or family to install Windows 7 on a machine.

I guess this is a pretty weird thing to be writing about, but why not, someone may find it useful at some point, please let me know if you do!

Determine if it’s going to work

First, check if the machine has drivers available for Windows 7. You can usually find all available drivers via the manufacturers website. Sony and HP have fairly usable and reliable systems for finding the correct dirvers. Download all drivers and keep them on a an external drive, so you can load them in later.

It’s also a good idea to take a copy of all your current drivers at this point. They’ll be located in your C:\Windows\System32 in Drivers, DriverStore and sometimes DRVSTORE. Be sure to copy these carefully, to an external drive.

Prepare you install

You can get a windows 7 iso file from the official windows site, or quite a few other sources. Once you have the iso, you’ll need either a DVD or an external drive to burn the iso to, in order to make a bootable image. Windows will then let you launch from this drive and start a fresh windows install.

I used PowerISO to make a bootable DVD, another alternative is imgburn.

Install

Once your bootable image is burned, you’ll need to launch BIOS on the machine you’ll be installing to. Usually this can be done by pressing one/any of the following keys right after turning on the computer: ESC / F2 / F10 / F11 / F12

At BIOS, some newer computers will need legacy boot enabling, see Method 1 at this link.

To boot from a DVD, you will be looking for BOOT settings in BIOS somewhere, then either directly booting from the CD/DVD drive there, or by changing the BOOT order to try the CD/DVD drive before the primary hard-drive. This process is similar if you are using a hard-drive or usb-drive, just look for the drive letter your device has been assigned and boot from that.

Once the DVD/Hard-drive does boot, it should be fairly straight forward. Choose the partition you want to install on, it’s usually best to just overwrite the primary partition.

Activate

Finally, to activate Windows, you’ll need a key. You can either buy one of these pretty cheap on amazon or ebay, or find other means. Usually I get a key from Lizenzking, they’re cheap and you get your key via email real quick.

Drivers

At this point, you should get the drivers you downloaded earlier and install them all on your new OS. This can be a long process if there’s a lot of drivers, but you should start seeing functionality return to your hardware each driver you install.

That’t it! You should now have Windows 7 running, assuming everything went to plan. As a bonus, you should be your friends and families personal on-hand IT technician! 😅