How to Prepare For an Operating System Upgrade

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

It would help if you prepared 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 the system upgrade, whether it is a Linux OS upgrade, a Mac OS upgrade, or a Windows 7 upgrade, you need to back up all your application data first.

Operating System Upgrade

No matter the computing platform, system software affects how the computer sees and interacts with the world. To make your migration as painless as possible, you should follow 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 your hardware.

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

-i. Go to the vendor’s website and determine the minimum hardware requirements. 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 printers/fax/scanners

-ii. Your DVD and hard drive

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

2. Determine the type of installation 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 installation.

b. Upgrade, leaving Old System files intact.

-i. Some folks do this to set up a dual-boot system to 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 application reinstallation before they can be used under the new OS.

3. Plan your strategy for backing up your data and do it. Copy the data to CD, DVD, or hard drive before upgrading. 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 keep many files on our desktop and our Documents folder (this is very true for 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 is to back up the entire hard drive as an image with a backup utility. Each operating system has several free options; get the right one for your current OS. Ensure the program is compatible with your new OS, or it 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 this is overkill, but you will be much happier if you can retrieve your data after the migration.

5. If you use a CD or DVD, back up 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 a source Microsoft Office several years ago because it was damaged in the drive. If you get scratches on a backup, all you have to do is make another copy to do your installation – 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 reinstalls, and you won’t be sorry.

I hope this information helps you and allows you to migrate smoothly from one OS to another. If you follow the steps above and the installation goes bad, you can try to install it again. If it worsens, you can reinstall the old OS and copy your data until you fix whatever problem prevents 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.