For those still running Windows Vista and who may be interested in upgrading to Windows 7, I decided to document my experience of upgrading from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium to provide a list of the things to watch for, what needs to be considered, an idea of how long the process will take, and a general feel for how it all works. Although, in my case, it was with the x64 (64-bit) Home Premium versions of Windows, the same should be true for the x86 (32-bit) versions.
The PC I did this on was built from new components in late 2009 and is an Intel Core i7 920 with 6GB DDR3 RAM; two linked CrossfireX graphics cards, 1TB SATA2 (C:) and 300GB SATA (D:) hard drive. Your mileage may vary in terms of the time the process takes for you.
Before inserting the Windows 7 DVD, I took a few steps to cover myself against unexpected complications. These involved the following:
My C: drive contains the operating system and programs only. All my data is on another drive, and I have important C: drive data backed up elsewhere. Downloaded the Windows 7 version of my network card driver to my desktop.
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Downloaded the Windows 7 version of my video card driver to my desktop. Disable all third-party software that starts automatically. Disable antivirus software, as the install program recommends.*That was it, really. Everyone says it, and I’m no different: backup any data that you cannot face losing before you start. Note: I dual-boot between Windows and Wubi Ubuntu Linux, so that’s worth considering below when I mention Windows boot menus likely, most Windows-only installations won’t show a menu most of the time, and it also shows that this process will work if you multi-boot your PC.
First Run — Compatibility Check
Upon inserting the DVD and running SETUP.EXE, I told it to install Windows 7, which, among other things, got it to run a compatibility check. It flagged several devices and programs that “might not work after installing Windows 7″: Device drivers: IDE storage controller and Canon USB scanner (ten years old now and only usable via VueScan’s generic scanner driver). Programs: iTunes (reminded me to de-authorize it first), DaemonTools, and the ATI Catalyst software for my graphics cards. The install software automatically removed the driver software, but this caused issues for my SATA DVD-RW drive until I made a BIOS change (forced ACHI emulation instead of IDE). I removed the programs as recommended.
Now for the install process, as I experienced it (time is shown in hours and minutes): 0:00: Step 1: Ran setup.exe on the Windows 7 upgrade DVD. Performed and passed compatibility checks, then started the installation proper (“copying Windows files”). 0:05: Step 2: Gathering information. 0:25: Step 3: Expanding Windows files. 0:30: System rebooted, Windows boot menu showed a “Windows 7 Installation” option which was automatically selected. 0:40: Continuation of file expansion. 0:50: Step 4: Installing features and updates, the screen flickered a few times (video drivers, etc.). 0:53: Reboot. A same boot menu option is automatically selected. 0:55: Step 5: Transferring files, settings, and programs. 1:15: Reboot. The boot menu now showed “Windows 7” (rather than “Windows Vista”). 1:27: Reboot. I came up doing video performance checks. It made me enter my license key,** and then began the post-install setup process (update installation schedule, clock, time zone, network and firewall settings, etc.). 1:32: The Windows 7 login screen appeared. Once I logged in with my existing username and password, it followed by preparing the desktop, personal settings, etc. 1:38: Finally, at the new Windows 7 desktop. Windows Update ran at this point and downloaded 65MB of updates. It included driver updates for my motherboard and peripherals (NIC, audio, video, etc.), and I let it do all of them, figuring Microsoft had had so many problems with third-party driver updates over the years that they must have got it right by now. Sadly not. 1:46: When updates were all installed, the machine wanted to be rebooted, so I did. 2:00: Upon coming back up, I realized that my network connection was no longer working. Windows Update had got the NIC driver update (this is why I downloaded the Windows 7 version of the driver before starting the upgrade process). I ran the software to install the driver manually, and everything began working correctly. I did a manual installation of the video card drivers as well. This required another reboot. 2:25: All done. The initial compatibility check run was first performed an hour before all this, so — including the preparatory work of downloading drivers and removing incompatible drivers and programs — the entire process took about 4 hours. It is fair to say that you should be able to do it in an evening, providing you have second-guessed Microsoft’s track record, and you know what you are doing.
Except for the third-party driver updates screwing things up, it worked perfectly well after many installations and 6 reboots. The rest of the work was adding the removed software, re-enabling the software I wanted to start up on boot automatically, and general customization. Everything was running fine. I made the final aesthetic changes as follows, though you may prefer to skip these: Disabled Aero Peek. I think it’s a resource-intensive gimmick, though I can see how others would like it. “Unpinned” everything from the Taskbar. Re-enabled the Quick Launch Bar. It has been a few months since I performed this upgrade, and I am still very pleased with it. It is a much more solid and usable platform than its predecessor.