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This article is not a step-by-step instruction, but it intends as a guide to simplify your googling. Please also be aware that reinstallation takes hours, especially with slow hard drives.

Step 1: Data Backup and Preparation

Back up your data.

Collect a list of application software to be installed in the new system.

Download drivers for your computer configuration, since the new system may not have internet access before drivers are in place.

Step 2: Obtain a Product Key for the Exact OS Product

Depending on how the key is distributed, you have these options:

* Retail purchase:

Check your DVD package or confirmation email.

* OEM purchase:

Check your DVD package.

* OEM licensed along with originial computer purchase:

The key may have been incorporated into the BIOS firmware, so you do not need the exact key string. The OS installer takes care of it automatically. If you insist on getting this key string, there is a label sticker for Win7, and there are third party tools for Win8, for example, Magical Jelly Bean, NirSoft ProduKey, or RW Everything.

The product key only associates with the specified OS, which breaks down into the following.

* version (Vista/7/8/8.1)

* edition (Core/Pro/Enterprise, or Home/Professional/Ultimate/Enterprise)

* architecture (x86/x64)

* distribution (retail/OEM)

Once activated, the key is bound to the computer hardware, so in case you upgraded too many crucial components at once, you may have to use phone activation.

Step 3: Obtain the Installation DVD Media

The installation media refers to the image file *.iso, the image burned on DVD, or the image written on USB stick. Please pay attention to the version, edition, and architecture to match your product key.

* Retail purchase:

You may receive the DVD. Or you can download the iso or make a bootable USB stick. Check out this guide: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgr... . There is also a similar thing for Win7.

* OEM purchase:

You may receive the DVD.

* OEM licensed along with originial computer purchase:

You cannot get this installation media from Microsoft, since Microsoft sold it to the computer manufacturer according to their OEM license. But you still have chances to get it a) from the manufacturer customer support, b) by borrowing it from a friend, c) by asking a MSDN or DreamSpark subscriber to download it, or d) searching the file name on internet or torrent.

If you used the last option, you need to verify hash code by HashCalc or a similar tool. For example,

File Name: en_windows_8_x64_dvd_915440.iso

SHA1: 1CE53AD5F60419CF04A715CF3233F247E48BEEC4

Step 4: Boot From the Installation Media to Copy Files

Normally, you would throw in the DVD, tell the BIOS to boot from it, and follow instructions. Along the way, select “Customized” mode to reinstall a new copy. After that, you may delete all partitions and select the un-allocated space for fresh installation. Note that this wipes out the hard drive, so be sure to back up your data.

If you do not have a DVD drive, you may convert from iso image to USB stick by Rufus (or dd command in linux) or any similar tool, and boot from the USB stick.

If your boot option is protected by UEFI, you can either try entering normal BIOS mode, or make a UEFI bootable drive.

If you want to install on virtual machine, an iso would be sufficient.

If you want to bulk install or install to a USB drive, use the NT6_Fast_Installer or WinToUSB tool, which are based on WAIK.

If you need USB 3.0 driver on Win7, search for a generic USB 3.0 driver and the dism tool. The new driver needs to be applied to both boot.wim for WinPE and install.wim for the actual system. In fact, any third-party driver should apply to both those files.

Step 5: Proceed With Subsequent Steps

After copying files, the computer should automatically reboot. This time it boots from hard drive, applying hardware and driver configurations.

After hardware configuration, the computer should automatically reboot again. This time it prepares the desktop for first use.

Soon afterwards, you will be able to use your new operating system, and you can install the latest drivers, install application software, and restore your data.

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