Changes to the Windows 7 install process

windows7version

In the past couple of (very exciting) days, I’ve seen a lot of people confused about the Windows 7 setup process, and worst of all, spreading misinformation about version selection during the setup process. Since a lot of people are installing 7 early with good intentions to activate when their product key arrives in October, it’s probably worthwhile to install the same version you’ve preordered.

With that in mind, I want to help set the record straight on the new Windows 7 setup workflow. That is, by default, original copies of Windows 7 does NOT allow you to choose a version during install. Having said that, one can easily workaround the problem if they choose to.

installiconThe source of the confusion seems to have stemmed from people’s knowledge of how Windows Vista’s setup process worked. Although in many areas Vista and 7 are similar, this is one area they differ. Unlike Windows Vista, the Windows 7 setup process does not immediately prompt the user for a product-key.

Instead, users are only asked to enter a product key in final stages of Windows 7 setup – during the out-of-box-experience (OOBE). Previously whereas a product-key would have helped determine the version to install, this is no longer the case and the installer has to assume otherwise.

Up and until RTM, the ISO image files of Windows 7 that Microsoft distributed (and third-parties distributed) are labeled with a version. For the most part, this has been “Ultimate”. Even though the install image “install.wim” in Windows 7 still contains four versions, one version is automatically installed determined by a file called “ei.cfg” in the “sources” directory on the install disk.

To get around this limitation, simply deleting the “ei.cfg” file will allow you to choose a version to install (illustrated above).

P.S. Although this simple hack does allow you to switch between versions of Windows 7 to install, it does not allow you to install other variants of Windows 7 like Windows 7 E or Windows 7 N. You will have to download a new ISO image for that.

23 insightful thoughts

  1. Hmmmmmmmm to download and install now, or wait until August 6th for official iso.
    Now or later, now or later… what SHALL I do?

  2. @akanealw:

    Two part answer: It is not possible to “upgrade” to a lesser version (eg: Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Proffesional). And officiely no upgrade scenario from the RC is officialy supported but can be done by following intructions on E7 blog. But the first part of the answer is till valid going trough those steps.

    So: no, it is not.

  3. Sure you can delete ei.cfg and pick any OS to install. But are the activation keys limited to each particular SKU? Will Microsoft’s server be able to tell the difference between a Home Premium key and a Professional Key?

  4. So is it true that the reason behind this change is that too many people were installing the wrong version only to find that their key didn’t work?

    It seems unfair to punish the rest of us by requiring that the ISO be modified to get back the old functionality…

  5. The ability to do a clean install with upgrade media was not a loophole in Vista. MS was perfectly aware of it and it is still present in Windows 7. You can still start the install with the upgrade media and decide not to enter a key and then from that install choose to install again which will move the first install into the Windows.old folder. Then input your key your bought from the preorder. Hence giving you a clean activatible install of whatever version of Windows 7 you bought.

  6. Can someone tell me how to delete the ei.cfg file. I tried to open the .iso file with MagicIso and it shows me the file, allows me to delete and allows me to save the .iso. But when I try to install I get an error “cannot find file install.wim”……what am I doing wrong? I would so appreciate any help!!!!

    I also tried opening the iso with 7zip but I cannot see but a readme.txt file and a boot folder.

  7. well you need to mount it using something like nero burning rom. or maybe your iso is missing files perhaps?

  8. on the install disk ?? Disk with a ‘K’ is a magnetic disk, either Hard drive or floppy.

    Disc ‘with a ‘c’ is an optical disc and is the name given by the inventor ‘Philips’
    So please learn the difference and get it right. It is not that difficult.
    Otherwise you know one third of stuff all.

  9. Never mind guys……just figured it out. In order to delete the ei.cfg I had to use a program called vlite. It is a program used mostly for slipstreamming the SPacks to Vista……I also had to install WAIK (Windows Automated Installation Kit) to be able to use vlite. (I had to use these becuase I was editing from a Vista Computer if I would have been editing the file from an XP Computer I would have had to use nlite and WAIK for XP).

    These programs allow you to extract the files to the desktop, modify them or add to them as needed and then rebuild the install.wim with your changes and the iso file.

    I was opening the iso file with daemon tools or with magicIso….deleting the ei.cfg but never rebuilding the install.wim…..this is why i was getting the error about not finding the install.wim.

    There probably is another easier way….. I guess…. to create the modified install DISC ..(just to not anger Shelby) …no pun intended…just kidding…

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