With most past versions of Windows, you could upgrade easily. You would simply insert the new CD-ROM disk into an operational Windows system and follow the on-screen instructions. Past upgrades usually preserved all your data and all the installed programs. You could be in business with the upgraded operating system within minutes.
In fact, upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 will remain about the same as usual. However, anyone upgrading from Windows XP or earlier versions of Windows will find the upgrade path to Windows 7 to be quite different.
With Windows 7, XP users will need to select one of two options:
- You can do a Clean Install, in which you wipe the hard drive clean and install a virgin copy of Windows 7, then reinstall your software and copy your data back to the drive.
- You can do a Custom Install, in which your older setup is copied to a folder called WINDOWS.OLD. This will include your program files, though you won't be able to run your software from there. It will also include data files, but you shouldn't rely on this as your sole backup strategy prior to upgrading.
• Make an inventory of the software you'll want to reinstall on Windows 7 after the upgrade. This may be a good time to do some housecleaning. Identify the programs you really need and plan to keep.
• Before upgrading, download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor at www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx. This will scan your PC and point out compatibility issues with hardware and software. You may have software that won't run on Windows 7, and you'll need to upgrade to a newer version of that program or obtain a patch, if available.
• Obtain any software patches and device drivers you'll need and save them to a CD or a jump drive or some other place. Don't save them to the hard drive of the PC that is about to be upgraded since that drive is going to be erased!
• Research and identify the security software you'll want to install. Don't expect the antivirus or antispyware programs you bought two years ago to work on Windows 7. Microsoft has a list of compatible security titles at www.microsoft.com/windows/antivirus-partners/windows-7.aspx.
• Make a backup of all your documents, music, videos and photos, to an external drive. Then test that backup to make sure it is good.
• Check the system requirements for Windows 7 to see if your PC is powerful enough. Although Microsoft says 1 gigabyte of RAM memory will work with the 32-bit version, most of those who have been testing the pre-release Windows 7 version report that two gigabytes is a more realistic minimum. Yes, one gigabyte will work but it will be so slow that you'll cry out for more memory. In fact, if you are a power user who keeps multiple windows open all the time, plan on obtaining four gigabytes of RAM. The 64-bit version of Windows 7 requires a minimum of two gigabytes of RAM memory and, again, you will really want more than that.
• Once you have the Windows 7 DVD disk, you can start the installer from within XP. It will do additional compatibility checks, then reboot the system to begin the installation. You probably want to select Custom Install, since that process does preserve a secondary copy of your data files.
• When the installation is complete, install the latest Windows 7 drivers, then the antivirus software you've selected, and let it update its malware definitions.
• Manually run Windows Update to check for any patches and fixes.
• Re-install all the programs that you want to keep.
A bit of advance planning now will reduce future problems.