Which Windows 7 iso Must one use?

I've downloaded almost all of the Windows 7 iso files with the notion of supporting reinstalls that can be Authenticated without any funny business or workarounds.
My orginal understanding was that all one had to do was match up the version such as
Home Premium 32
Professional 32
Ultimate 32
Home Premium 64
Professional 64
Ultimate 64
Then one would use the CD Key that's on the COA or similar.

This has worked fine up to now but now I have a hiccup:
Is it true that one must also match "no Service Pack" or "Service Pack 1" to the original install?  

I'm working on a Windows 7 64 Home Premium system from Dell.  Windows was so badly messed up that the Recovery partition could not be used.  Windows just went into a boot loop after trying an in-Windows Upgrade ("repair").  At that point the Recovery partition couldn't be accessed either.  All that's left to do is a bare DVD install.

Jumping ahead: the system has one CD Key on the COA sticker and one CD key extractable from the registry.

- If I try to install from a Windows 7 64 Home Premium SP1 DVD, it will not accept the COA key.  But, it will accept the extracted key.  So, the install has worked.
- But when I go to Authenticate, neither of the keys work.
So, now I'm going to try reinstalling with a pre-SP1 DVD.  But that seems a little silly and is going to be a lot of work in bringing yet another install up to date after the install.

Any wisdom on this?
LVL 27
Fred MarshallPrincipalAsked:
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willcompCommented:
Ensure you download the OEM version and not the Retail version. Also check to ensure you have the product key correct. It is difficult to differentiate B from 8 and Q from O or 0. A magnifying glass helps a lot.
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willcompCommented:
The extracted key will not validate as you have discovered. That is a "royalty key" tied to Dell hardware. However, the key on the COA should work if you have the correct Windows 7 OEM DVD. It doesn't matter whether you use RTM or SP1 media. The key should work with either one.

You may be interested in this to reduce the number of disks you have to maintain.
http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/windows-and-office/how-to-create-an-all-in-one-windows-7-install-disk/5533/?tag=nl.e023
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
Thanks, I'll try that tool.  In the mean time, I wasn't aware that Win 7 had "correct OEM DVD" versions.  I thought that the Digital River downloads were enough.  That is, they are all the same when installed but need a good CD Key is all.  Not so?  I do have the COA key and that doesn't work either.....
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Darr247Commented:
Digital River has only the Retail versions for download, as far as I know.
The OEM versions are not available with a TechNet/MSDN membership, either.

You can often find Dell/HP/Gateway install DVDs on auction sites, though you need to act fast if they're not part of a new computer package, because even if hardware (i.e. not the whole new computer) is included, microsoft will eventually have the items taken down.
e.g. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=321240491138
I bet that one will be gone within a week (either all copies sold, or the listing taken down).
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
As far as I know, Dell and others have not been delivering DVDs with their computers for some time.... So, the existence of an OEM DVD is interesting.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
willcomp:  I agree about the difficulty of reading them!  And the suggestion for a magnifying glass!
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
I'm beginning to think that the download MD5 was bad on the ones I had tried this time.  I have what appears to be a good one going now.  We'll see.  

How does one compare the MD5 hash of what's been downloaded to something "good".  Where are the good hashes to be found?  i.e. for Win 7?
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Darr247Commented:
> As far as I know, Dell and others have not been
delivering DVDs with their computers for some time
That's not correct. Dell doesn't provide them unless you order them... either when you specify its build parameters on dell.com or while it's still on warranty if you buy it off the shelf from bestbuy, walmart, et al. I paid an extra $9 each for the reinstall media on the last 3 Win7 notebooks I bought from them.
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Darr247Commented:
For one thing, Microsoft manipulates the files on the DVD so the CRC32 hashes of all the ISOs made from microsoft installation CDs and DVDs come up 0x00000000.

The other hashes are built into their ISO to USB tool. If the ISO's hash is not correct, the tool will say it's not a good copy.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
Darr247:  So, if you buy a Dell at a store then no DVD.  Dittio HP.  And, unless the buyer is particularly astute then one is not ordered with the computer in the first place.  Dell doesn't deliver them with the computer as part of the base package.  That's not the same as saying "Dell will  provide them".  The reality is that in most cases they don't.  Thus there are lots of computers out there that don't have these disks available.  Then there's the familiar case where the owner loses them.. :-0
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
willcomp:  and where might one find OEM files to download?
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Darr247Commented:
Unless the manufacturer makes their ISO's available for download (and I don't know of any that do), any OEM ISO files you find on torrent sites and such would not be technically legal to download (besides likely being trojaned). Many people here are registered microsoft partners, so you probably won't be getting links to OEM ISO images on EE.

After installing the version the OEM key is supposed to be good for, use Phone Activation (the numbers are different for different locations), explain what you did and they should give you an activation code that works. Then install the chipset/et cetera drivers in order as spec'd on
http://www.dell.com/support/troubleshooting/us/en/04/KCS/KcsArticles/ArticleView?c=us&l=en&s=gen&docid=268873

Make an image of the drive to restore, using Clonezilla Live (instructions here) or other image software, so if it ever gets bad enough again, you can just restore the image without having to jump through those hoops again.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
I have confirmed with others that a Retail DVD will always work on an empty hard drive - just use the appropriate CD key OEM or ... whatever.

The issue here was dyslexia.  The use of a proofreader for the key was necessary.
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Fred MarshallPrincipalAuthor Commented:
"check to ensure you have the product key correct. It is difficult to differentiate B from 8 and Q from O or 0. A magnifying glass helps a lot."  

A proofreader can be very helpful too!  That's what did it for me in this case - after many, many checks.

Retail Digital River iso with OEM key authenticated online automatically.
You can Google for Clean OEM install of Win 7.
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