Ask LH: Can I Reinstall Windows With Discs From A Different Machine?

Hey Lifehacker, I have an old Lenovo laptop and an old Toshiba laptop. I need to do a full restore of the laptop that's still working better. Is it OK to use, say, the Lenovo install discs on a Toshiba laptop? Thanks, Restore Point

Laptops picture from Shutterstock

Dear Restore Point,

This might get messy depending on the nature of the install discs, the laptops' inbuilt quirks and whether they use the same edition of Windows. We posed your question to Lenovo's ANZ product manager for ThinkPad, Simon Kent. Here's what he had to say:

Restore discs are customised for each vendor's machine and are not interchangeable. If the customer requires a restore on the Lenovo laptop there may be a hidden partition on the drive that will allow recovery. However, the best recommendation is for them to contact Lenovo Service & Support.

While it's certainly possible, it might be safer to download a new copy and use your existing licence key instead. You can do this for free by paying a visit to Microsoft's Software Recovery Center. This site allows you to create a Windows 7 DVD for installation on a new hard drive. All you need to do is input your product key and select a language; the program will then verify your licence and begin the download.

Lost your licence sticker? No problem: you can run a utility like Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder which will conduct a scan and find the licence key for you. (While you're at it, you can also find the keys for any existing software you'd like to reinstall later.)

If you run into problems, it probably means you're running an OEM version of Windows that Microsoft’s Software Recovery Center doesn't support. To get around this, you'll need to borrow a retail copy of Windows from someone and use your product key when you resinstall. [Note: This isn't an act of piracy, as you're still using a valid licence key that you own.]

Naturally, it's best to use the same edition of Windows as your licence key. If the versions don't match, it's still possible to complete the install, but you'll need to download the Ei.cfg Removal Utility and run it on your ISO. This will let you choose the edition you have a licence key for during the install.

Once you have Windows up and running, it's a simple matter of installing the necessary drivers for your computer and you should be good to go. For instructions on the process, head to our complete Windows system restore guide. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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