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Windows 7, Windows 8.1 & Windows 10 ISO Download – MS Official Links (Product Key not included)

Just like we did some weeks ago with MS Office we share here a list of official URLs to download the ISO images of the most recent versions of Windows OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

Don’t worry, this is not warez or pirate software: all of these URLs come from the official Microsoft installation tools or are a link to download the tool itself. This also means that if you want to activate the software after installing it you still need to purchase a valid Product Key (not included) from the Microsoft Store or from any official reseller.

If you want to download the ISO images for the latest versions of Microsoft Office (Office 2010, Office 2013, Office 2016 and Office 365) you can also check this post.

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How to retrieve the Windows 10 Product Key from BIOS / UEFI / Windows Registry

Do you remember the good old times when PC manufacturers used to apply those fancy stickers to the back of your laptop or desktop PC depicting your Windows Product Key? If you’re a system administrator you probably already know that these times are gone since Windows 8. Now almost every PC with a pre-installed copy of a Windows OS doesn’t show any physical info or evidence of its product key, nor it features a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker on its back, battery bay or any other place.

The product key is now embedded into the computer BIOS or UEFI, and it can only be accessed there: this also means that we don’t need to type it anymore, because it’s automatically fetched by the OS during the install phase. This can be really good at times, because you won’t ever need to remember or protect it – the system will do the hard work for you. However, it can become a huge problem if you ever need to type it, which is something that can always happen in some edge-case scenarious such as: relevant hardware upgrades, damaged/erased BIOS, OS upgrades, reinstall using a different ISO image and so on.

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How to go into Safe Mode in Windows 10 without having to log in

Among the many changes introduced with Windows 10 there is one that nearly no one is happy about: the missing F8 key (or SHIFT+F8) we could press to activate the boot selection screen, where we could choose between various startup settings – including Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Command Prompt, Safe Mode with Networking and so on. Well, as a matter of fact they didn’t disable it… it’s just that the system boot leaves very little time to acknowledge that F8 keypress, to the point that – if you do have a SSD drive and an half-decent CPU – you have nearly no chances to do that.

This is a shame, because Safe Mode is still the only way we had to fix a number of startup issues which could occur before the login phase, thus locking us out from Windows 10. Luckily enough, there are a couple methods we can still use to get into Safe Mode: let’s see how.

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Enable NTFS or Win32 long paths policy to remove the 255-260 characters limit in Windows 10

Introduction

If you’re a Windows developer, system administrator or seasoned user, there’s  good chance you’re fully aware of the 255-260 character limit of filesystem paths. However, in case you never heard about it, here’s a small recap of the issue:

In the Windows API (with some exceptions discussed in the following paragraphs), the maximum length for a path is MAX_PATH, which is defined as 260 characters. A local path is structured in the following order: drive letter, colon, backslash, name components separated by backslashes, and a terminating null character. For example, the maximum path on drive D is “D:\some 256-character path string<NUL>” where “<NUL>” represents the invisible terminating null character for the current system codepage. (The characters < > are used here for visual clarity and cannot be part of a valid path string.) [extract from this MSDN official guide].

If you’re a standard user, chances are you won’t get bothered by this limitation: who needs these long paths anyway? However, if you happen to be a developer working with linux-native package managers such as NPM, you will be struck by that issue sooner or later. That’s because there are many popular script-based libraries which make an intensive use of folder-nesting: AngularJS, Angular2, React and SystemJS, just to throw out some good examples. If you use them with Visual Studio 2015, which will adds their solution/project folder structure to the loop, the chance of hitting that limit will be even higher.

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How to open DDS raster image files with Windows 10

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, chances are that you recently downloaded a DDS image file and you don’t know how to open it.

DDS files represent the raster image format used by Microsoft DirectX to store textures and environments. These files can store compressed and uncompressed pixel formats. They are sometimes used for storing Windows desktop backgrounds or wallpapers, as well as for texturing video game unit models. The format was introduced with DirectX 7.0. In DirectX 8.0, the support for volume textures was added. Originally designed for DirectX, it can also be utilized in OpenGL as well via the GLSL (OpenGL Shading Language) ARB texture compression extension. With Direct3D 10, the file format was extended to allow an array of textures to also be included, as well as support for new Direct3D 10.x and 11 texture formats.

DDS files are frequently used in videogames: a good example is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, also known as CSGO or CS:GO, which uses DDS files for the maps shown within the HUD in-game radar.

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