There’s an easy way to stretch Windows 7′s 30-day free-trial period to 120 days so you can determine whether Microsoft’s new operating system meets your needs.
Even better if you know the secret you can try out any version of Win7, from Ultimate to the lowly Basic, using a single install disc.
It’s fair to say that by now hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of copies of Windows 7 sit on DVDs and hard drives all over the world. You might have downloaded a copy of Win7 from the official sites: Microsoft Developer Network, TechNet, or Software Advantage. Perhaps you hooked up your machine to a torrent or a newsgroup site to download the new OS. Or maybe you snagged a copy from your tech-savvy sister-in-law.
Whichever channel you use, if you don’t already have a copy of Windows 7, you can easily put your paws on the installation bits and burn your own install DVD. Just be sure what you downloaded is the real, shipping version of Windows 7. One way to confirm this is to use a set of checksum verification instructions found on Pctipsbox.
Getting a copy of Windows 7 is the easy part. The rub and the place where Microsoft makes its money is the Win7 activation key. You’re expected to pay for the key, no matter how you obtained the software.
Microsoft allows anyone to install and use any version of Windows 7 for 30 days without having to enter an activation key. There are no strings attached, and the operating system’s performance is not degraded or defaced during the trial.
Fortunately for us, the 30-day grace period can be extended up to three additional times to a total of 120 days using a Microsoft-supplied utility called the Software License Manager (slmgr). This tool conveniently ships with Windows 7.
How to extend Win7′s trial to a full four months
If you install Windows 7 and don’t enter an installation key, the 30-day activation clock starts. To see how many days you have left, click Start, right-click Computer, and choose Properties. At the bottom of the dialog under Windows Activation, you’ll see the number of days left in your trial period.
When that number gets perilously close to zero, you can extend the free period another 30 days via the following steps:
Step 1: Click Start, All Programs, Accessories. Right-click Command Prompt and choose Run As Administrator. Enter your administrator password.
Step 2: Type the following command and press Enter:
Note the space after slmgr and the hyphen in front of rearm.
Step 3: Restart Windows 7.
Once the OS restarts, the Properties dialog described above will indicate that Windows 7′s activation grace period has been reset to a full 30 days.
You can run the -rearm trick a total of three times. If you perform a -rearm at the end of each 30-day period, you end up with 120 days of full, unfettered Windows 7 use without having to supply an activation key in the interim.