When Microsoft was developing Windows 7, many of us in the IT field hoped that there would only be one version of the operating system, compared to the mess that was Windows Vista (Windows Vista Starter, Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, Windows Vista Ultimate).
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. But Microsoft did meet us halfway: aside from netbooks which run Windows 7 Starter, most Americans will be using Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate. And, thanks to a simple hack, you can easily create a “universal DVD” which can install any version of Windows 7 on a computer:
All you need to do is delete a single file – ei.cfg – from any Windows 7 installation CD.
The easiest way to do this is to use an ISO tool like PowerISO to make an image of the installation DVD, then delete the ei.cfg file from the “sources” directory of the image, then burn the edited image file to a blank DVD. When you install Windows 7 on a computer using the edited disc, you will be prompted with the screen above to choose which version of the operating system you want to install.
Note that this hack will not let you get a free upgrade: your license key is tied to the particular version of Windows 7 you’re licensed for, so if you try to install Ultimate using a Home Premium key, you’ll get an error message. So this hack is really for support people who have to install a variety of versions of Windows 7 on people’s computers.
Also, 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 come on separate discs, so you’d need to repeat the process if you need both versions. It would be really cool if you could create a “Ultimate Universal DVD” that had both x86 and x64 versions on it… but that’s above my pay grade.