Without releasing a single software update or significantly changing the way they handle upgrades, Microsoft, may have just fixed one of the biggest issues facing its Windows ecosystem. Earlier this week the company revealed a single unified website allows users to download versions of its Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating system if they have a valid product key.
Microsoft has yet to announce the new Windows Recovery Tool download site on one of its sites, but a follower of the WinBeta blog noticed the site earlier this week. According to the outlet, both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users can enter their valid product key to download clean versions of their operating system. The download is actually an ISO file that needs to be burned to a DVD or stored on a flash drive before the upgrade can begin.
Since going live, the website has had trouble staying up and stable, but those who have tried getting Windows installation files in WinBeta’s comments report that the tool works just fine for them. Users have to put in the license key on the sticker that came on their Windows device. If a sticker didn’t come on their device than they’ll have to use a tool to find the code that’s embedded in the software on their device.
It’s impossible to underestimate the impact of this new Windows Recover Tool on the lives of Windows users the world over. For years, Microsoft left enabling software backups and creating restore discs up to device makers. In turn, device makers mostly pawned the responsibility off on users. Today, most devices come with a recovery disc tool that buyers need to use to create their own restore disc.
If for some reason their device’s hard drive fails before they create that restore disc, users are stuck paying for a copy directly from their manufacturer. With this new tool, ordering a recovery disc or even creating one, isn’t something users necessarily have to do before there’s a problem. That’s great since most users never create one anyway. It’s important to note that the site doesn’t seem to work for every PC maker.
In recent years Microsoft has taken over more of the responsibilities PC makers were once expected to take care of. Windows 8 and Windows 7 both feature great built-in recovery tools, even though device makers have included their own random offerings for years. It’s worth noting that Microsoft already lets owners of its Surface Pro and Surface tablets download recovery files online in case of an emergency. PC makers were once responsible for including virus protection with their machines. Windows 8 has built-in virus protection and Windows 7 users can add it to their machines for free.
The company seems to have wised up to the reality of their unique situation. When users can’t easily get a new copy of their Windows operating system and get a virus they don’t blame their PC maker, they blame Microsoft. That’s another reason the Signature PC program available at the Microsoft Store is so important. Microsoft removes cruft from every PC it sells in its stores.
That Microsoft gets its user experience in order is key to its future success. One of the reasons users like devices made by Apple is that everything is a managed and cohesive experience. In theory, the closer Microsoft’s moves to that kind of experience the better off Windows will be. The company is hoping to inspire a new generation of Windows users and convince shoppers that it’s not the same Microsoft they might have fled in years past.
Read: What is Windows 10?
This tool is also important because Microsoft wants to make it easier for Windows 7 users to take advantage of its free Windows 10 upgrade promotion. If users know they have a way of getting back to Windows 7, they’re more likely to give Windows 10 a try.
Microsoft expects to launch Windows 10 later this year. When it does, it’ll be free for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to for the first year.