How to Prepare For an Operating System Upgrade

Upgrading software is a task that should do with some care. When you upgrade an application, you should back up your data for it. But when you are performing an operating system upgrade, you should do more than just backup the data.

You should prepare your migration because an Operating System (OS) controls how your computer interacts with the components attached to your computer and how it communicates with networks and the Internet. What I am stating here applies to ALL operating systems. No matter what the system upgrade is, whether it is a Linux os upgrade, Mac os upgrade, or a Windows 7 upgrade, you need to backup all your application data first.

Operating System Upgrade

No matter the computing platform, system software affects how the computer sees the world and interacts with it. For your migration to be as painless as possible, you should go through the following list. Skipping any step on the list could cause you to lose data or make your computer inoperable under the new OS.

1. Determine if the new OS is compatible with the hardware you have.

a. This step is the most critical and cannot be skipped.

-i. Go to the vendor’s website and find out what the minimum hardware requirements are. Important items here are:


1. Memory Requirements

2. Hard Drive Space Required for installation

3. Graphics Card Support

4. Video Support (Monitor or LCD panel)

5. Installation Source

a. CD, DVD, hard drive, or network

6. Supported Devices and Equipment

a. If you own unsupported items, they may or may not work and most likely will have to be replaced.

-i. This affects printers, scanners, and all-in-one printer/fax/scanners

-ii. Your DVD and hard drive

1. This can get worse if the DVD you install isn’t supported and suddenly fails.

2. Determine the type of install you want to perform:

a. Clean Install – which reformats the hard drive before installation.

-i. This is usually the best option, as it checks hard drive integrity during the installation and removes any potential virus or spyware during the install.

b. Upgrade, leaving Old System files intact.

-i. Some folks do this to set up a dual-boot system that can boot the old or new OS.

-ii. I recommend this only to advanced users, as problems can occur if the installation has problems…data can be lost in this scenario.

c. Deleting the old OS and keeping existing programs and settings.

-i. This option is not always possible, as some OSes, like Windows 7, require reinstallation of applications before being usable under the new OS.

3. Plan your strategy for backing up your data and do it. Copy the data to CD, DVD, or a hard drive before you do the upgrade. If you don’t back up your documents, you may lose them, especially if you do a “Clean Install,” which reformats the hard drive before installation. Application data varies on where it is stored, and some of us store lots of files on our desktop and our Documents folder (this is very true of both Mac and Windows users).

a. Look around for your files a little and make SURE you have backed up all your important files, or else you can lose them.

b. The ideal solution here is to back up the entire hard drive as an image with a backup utility. There are several free options for each operating system; get the right one for your current OS. Make sure the program is compatible with your new OS or won’t do you any good.

4.Verify that the data you backed up is usable. Open some of the files to verify them, or if the backup utility you used can do this, use it to verify the data. It seems like this is overkill, but you will be much happier if you can retrieve your data after the migration.

5.If you are using a CD or DVD for the install, make a backup of your installation discs before proceeding, and put the originals in a safe place. This may sound like an extra step, but take it from someone who lost an original of Microsoft Office several years ago due to it being damaged in the drive. If you get scratches on a backup, all you have to do is make another copy to do your install – don’t assume the software manufacturer will be willing to replace the damaged original. Use the backup of the installation disc for all installs and all re-installs, and you won’t be sorry.

I hope this information helps you out and allows you to smooth migration from one OS to another. If you followed the steps above and the installation goes bad, you can try to install again. If worst comes to worst, you can reinstall the old OS and copy your data back until you fix whatever problem prevented a successful upgrade.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.