The expected, and prevalent AFAICS, trend for the T904 is for it to ship with Windows 7 on the hardrive, and included Windows 8.1 on the recovery discs. You then choose whether to continue with 7 (and probably should back it up or clone it for future recovery), or "recover" right away to replace it with Windows 8.1. I was initially confused and thought I'd have Windows 7 recovery media, and a Windows 8.1 upgrade installation disc, but reconsidering what I heard about it offering both 7 and 8.1, I guess it actually fits better with what I actually ended up with. What you describe did actually seem to be what SF6 ended up getting on their 4600U custom configured model, Win 8 on HDD from the start, while I have a 4300U pre-configured model that shipped with Win 7 on HDD (is this consistent, I wonder?). Your method lets you migrate whatever you started with, and if you are fine with that then it should work as an alternative to a USB DVD drive.