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How to get your old system ready for a Windows 7 upgrade

While most computer techs and savvy users usually advise against performing an upgrade from one Windows version to another (what's called an "in-place upgrade"). There's always the chance that your new OS could inherit some problems from the old, after all, and it could potentially cause issues with your current programs or hardware.

Truth is, some users want to upgrade and Windows 7 handles the process pretty well. While it might not be an ideal situation, there are plenty of people who are going to take a stroll down the upgrade path. A little careful prep work will help make the experience a pain-free one.
Where's the best place to start? Why, with the Windows 7 Upgrade advisor (download it), of course!

This free program from Microsoft will perform an inspection of your computer and let you know if anything might cause you problems. After running the Advisor, you'll see a report screen like the one below:
As you can see, on Brad's test system hard drive space was a major concern. The Windows 7 Upgrade requires at least 16GB of free disk space. Why so much? Because during the install it needs plenty of elbow room to back up, move, and copy files. 16 gigs is the minimum - more free space is better.

If you happen to be running low, grab a couple free programs to help you make room. Start off with a round of CCleaner (read about it) (download it) - it's a great way to clean up useless temp files. I've seen it remove as much as 12 gigabytes of crud from a system, so CCleaner can definitely be a difference maker.

Still need more room after running CCleaner? Fire up DriveSpacio (read about it) (download it), a free program that will quickly show how much space the files and folders on your computer are taking up. It's a good way to find folders and files that are eating up excess gigabytes.

In addition to making sure space requirements are met, the advisor checks to see that the hardware in your system is capable of running Windows 7. Want the short version? Your computer can run Windows 7. Ideally you should have at least 1GB of memory (more is better) and a new-ish processor (say a p4 or Athlon that runs at 2 or more gigahertz).

In the real world, people have gotten Windows 7 to run on all kinds of clunky old hardware, so you're probably in good shape even if the advisor spots some weaknesses. Drivers may be a problem, however, so make sure you can at least find Windows Vista drivers for anything the advisor calls to your attention. They'll probably work just fine with Windows 7, too.

The advisor will also let you know if any of your existing programs don't play well with Windows 7. It's very important to look this list over carefully. Is there a program listed that you absolutely can't do without? If so, you might want to reconsider your upgrade.

Windows 7 does offer a feature called XP Mode which is able to run many old applications, but it does require a bit of skill to get set up correctly. There's also a good chance that some of your programs working by simply changing compatibility settings. I'll go over getting old programs to work a little later on, so stay tuned!

As far as getting your data ready for the process, Windows 7 includes a revised version of Vista's Easy Transfer tool. It does a fantastic job of gathering up your data from Windows XP and Vista machines and zapping it into your Windows 7 install.

While this isn't technically necessary if you're doing an upgrade it's never a bad idea to play it safe. Running Easy Transfer gives you a Windows 7-friendly backup of your data and settings in case something goes wrong.

To see how Easy Transfer works, check out the video below:

Once you've addressed the advisor's concerns and made a backup of your data - using Easy Transfer or another tool (like the free ones listed on our site) - you're ready to start your upgrade install from the Windows 7 DVD.

Good luck!

Tags: howtos, osupdates, windows 7 upgrade, windows-7, windows7, Windows7Upgrade