Plan a stress-free migration to Windows 7 (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Oct 15, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - For many, the hardest part about using Windows 7 is actually getting up the nerve to migrate to it.
After all, you have all of your data files, email, photos, addresses - and more - stored on your existing operating system. What if you should lose some of it in the move?
It's a reasonable concern. But with some careful planning, you can have both a seamless transition to Windows 7 and set yourself up to make future upgrades even easier. Here's how.
--- Assemble drivers
Before you make a move, look at what's attached to your existing PC. Special sound card or audio interface? Exotic video card? Brand new webcam? A printer from the dark ages?
Spend some time surfing for the latest drivers for these devices. You might not actually need the drivers, since Windows 7 comes with the best driver support of any previous version of the operating system, but you won't really know until you install Windows 7.
XP or Vista drivers will probably work if you can't find drivers that specifically say they are compatible with Windows 7. Assemble your drivers on a USB flash drive or an external drive, and then proceed to the next step.
--- Prepare your software
Some software companies today - especially Adobe - are requiring you to deactivate your software on your existing machine before reinstalling it on a new machine. If you fail to take this step, you will probably have to suffer through a frustrating and time-consuming call to tech support to get your serial numbers deactivated before you can be reactivate the software on a new machine.
Avoid this hassle by taking an inventory of the software on your existing computer now, and deactivate any software that has a 'deactive' option in the Help menu.
Even when deactivation is not required, take stock of the software you rely upon every day and make sure you have installation disks and serial numbers for anything you'll want to use on your new Windows 7 installation.
--- Back up critical files
If you store your files - documents, photos, music, and videos - in the locations chosen for you by your applications and you're running Windows Vista or XP, you can simply use the Windows Easy Transfer utility to back up your files to an external hard drive or USB stick.
Windows Easy Transfer comes with Windows Vista. It's simple to use both for backing up and restoring your data.
XP users can download a version for their operating system from Microsoft (http://bit.ly/az13Dl). XP users who want a migration utility that handles not only data files, but the transfer of applications, may want to consider Zinstall (http://www.zinstall.com).
--- Install a new hard drive
If you want an extra layer of protection against losing data in the migration to Windows 7, don't install the new operating system on your existing hard drive. Instead, buy a new hard drive - perhaps a much faster one than you now have.
Install the new drive in place of your existing one. You'll find plenty of instructions online that tell you how to do this. If you're not comfortable tinkering with you computer, have the new drive installed at a computer store.
What you'll gain from this move is complete peace of mind. If something goes wrong, you can simply pop the old drive back into your computer and everything will be as it was before the upgrade.
You'll also have access to any files that you may have forgotten to back up. The icing on the cake is that, if you buy a new hard drive that's faster than your old one, you'll get a performance boost. Plus you'll potentially have an extra hard drive (your old one) that you can repurpose as a backup unit.
--- Install and restore
With the preparatory steps out of the way, you can now safely install your Windows 7 operating system, choosing Custom (advanced) when asked which type of installation you want to perform. The Custom option installs a new copy of Windows, leaving you with a clean installation of the operating system, uncluttered with the detritus of your old setup.
Once Windows 7 is in place, install any missing drivers, and then move on to installing your application software. Finally, you can use Easy Transfer to restore your files from your previous operating system.
--- Image your system
Once you have your new Windows 7 system up and running, with the drivers and applications that you find essential, consider creating a backup image of the system in that pristine state. A backup image is a type of backup that allows you to restore everything, including your operating system, to a new drive in case your existing one fails.
Windows 7 itself contains imaging software, so start there. Open the Start menu, type Backup, and then click the Backup and Restore option that appears. In the left-hand pane of the resulting Backup=dialog box, you'll see links labeled 'Create a system image' and 'Create a system repair disk.' Perform both operations.
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