Installing or Upgrading to Windows 7

win7I have a Microsoft TechNet subscription that gives me access to software before it’s released at stores.  This summer I downloaded Windows 7 and installed it on my Netbook.  After using it for a couple months, I decided that it was more than stable enough to use on both my work desktop and work laptop.  This post outlines the experience of doing a clean install like I did on my desktop and an upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 like I did on my laptop, and what I would have done differently.

I use Norton Ghost 14 to completely backup my laptop and desktop to external hard drives regularly.  If something were to happen to either computer, like a hard drive crashing then I could replace the hard drive and restore from the backup to put my computer back to the exact state that it was in when I made the backup.  I also use the “syncplicity” service to synchronize my work files to a secure online server, so any work I do between the last backup I make and a potential system crash could be downloaded from that online server after a restore.

With that in mind, I purchased a new 1 Terabyte hard drive to do the install on.  I kept my old hard drive around for a while in case I wanted or needed to switch back to Windows XP, which is what my desktop was running previously.  I installed my new hard drive and started the install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.  The install was simple and fast and very similar to an install of Windows Vista.  In fact, once you boot off the install DVD, you just select your language, agree to the license, select the partition to install to and let it install.  You also have the option to partition your hard drive.

I rebooted and named my computer, checked for windows updates and downloaded “Microsoft Security Essentials,” which is Microsoft’s anti-virus/anti-malware program.  I then went to the device manager to see which devices Windows 7 failed to detect and to my surprise, there were no undetected items!  I did need to re-install my printer drivers since I have a multi-purpose printer and the scanning would not work until I downloaded the latest drivers.  Other than that, the install was a success and everything worked right out of the box.  Since the install, my desktop has not had any problems crashing, freezing or rebooting and I tend to leave it on 24×7.

As for the laptop, that was a little trickier.  In the past, I’ve never had much luck doing an upgrade from one Operating System to another; things never seemed as stable or as fast as when I did a clean install.  I decided to see if that was still true with a Vista to Windows 7 upgrade.  I used Ghost to create a fresh image of my computer to an external hard drive in case I wanted to come right back to Vista.

I ran the upgrade advisor and it advised that I didn’t have enough free space on my C drive and that I needed to have a total 20 GB free.   I cleared off a few programs I didn’t use anymore and then started the upgrade.  I was worried that the upgrade seemed to take longer on my laptop than when I did a clean install on my desktop.  After the upgrade completed, I logged in my finger print reader program seemed to be having a problem.  I re-installed it and it seemed to be okay.

I checked my other programs hardware and everything seemed to be fine.  I expected my laptop to run a little less stable and a little less fast, but since upgrading, it has been faster and more stable.  Since I’ve upgraded, my laptop has locked up one time, when I was booting up and logging into windows while at the same time attaching a new (to my laptop at least) cordless USB mouse.  It froze when it was detecting the mouse and because I was in a hurry, I didn’t wait for more than a minute to see if it would correct itself.

The look and feel is very similar to Windows Vista, with several new perks thrown in, like pinning items to your taskbar and fast window size manipulation.  There are also noteworthy changes to the wireless network interface, which essentially makes it faster to connect to wireless networks.  Also, Windows 7 brings enhanced power management features making your netbook/laptop battery last longer.

The feature I’m most impressed with in Windows 7 is XP Mode.  Because I’m using the Ultimate edition of Windows 7, I have a license to run a virtual copy of XP.  This virtual copy of XP is essentially an XP computer inside of my Windows 7 computer.  This is valuable to me because I use a piece of software (Cisco VPN Client) that works only on 32-bit operating systems and I installed the 64-bit version of Windows 7.

On my desktop Windows 7 runs about as fast as XP did and on my laptop, Windows 7 runs significantly faster than Vista did.  Boot up times are faster on both my desktop and laptop.  I had mentioned that I installed Windows 7 on my Netbook; I was surprised to see that even the aero features work on my Netbook!  As far as doing things differently, I would have upgraded my desktop and laptop sooner since using them both is a better experience than using them with Vista/XP.

If you have a computer running XP or Vista, I would highly recommend upgrading to Windows 7.  Download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to verify that your hardware can run it and also to verify that your programs are compatible.  Remember to backup all of your data in case you need to go back to your previous operating system.

Below are the CPU/Memory specifications for my systems:
Desktop: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+ (2.10GHz), 2 GB DDR2 Memory
Laptop: AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core TL-60 (2.00 GHz), 3 GB DDR2 Memory
Netbook: Intel Atom N270 (1.60GHz), 1 GB Memory

For more details on how to do an install or upgrade for yourself, PC Magazine has a great guide at: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2354687,00.asp

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