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Windows 7 Upgrade Checklist
by rob

CheckWindows 7, the next great thing, is two weeks from its debut. We've all heard fantastic things about it and everyone is excited. I assume you've made the decision to upgrade from Windows XP or Vista. Upgrading your OS is often a stressful time, but there are a few things you need to be prepared for the process.

A Windows 7 Ready PC
Use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to make sure you have the horsepower to run Windows 7. It's free software that will scan your system and let you know if there's anything you need to upgrade ahead of time.

In-Place or Clean Upgrade
If you're running Vista, the next thing to do is decide whether you'll be doing an in-place upgrade of your current OS or a clean install. An in-place upgrade is much easier but you won't get that "new computer smell" that comes with a fresh install. XP users don't get a choice. The only upgrade path from the eight year old OS is to do a clean install.

Disk Image Backup
No matter which type of install you choose, you should create a bootable image of your hard drive. This will be your insurance against anything going horribly wrong. You'll need an external hard drive equal in size or larger than your existing hard drive, and disk imaging software (like Norton Ghost). This step could take hours so start this the night before your upgrade.

Check Compatibility
Not all software will run under Windows 7 and not all hardware has drivers that are compatible. If you're running Vista though, you shouldn't have too many worries. While we wait for Microsoft to complete the Windows 7 Compatibility Center, the Vista version should be close. The Compatibility Center has a database of hundreds of software titles and hardware devices with indications of how compatible they are with Vista. If it works with Vista, it may work with Windows 7. No promises, though. Check with the software or hardware manufacturer to be sure.

You'll need to check for the newest drivers for each piece of hardware connected to your system. That includes monitors, printers, scanners, wireless keyboards and mice. Visit the hardware manufacturer's website to get your new drivers.

The same thing we covered in drivers goes for the firmware for your motherboard too. Get the manufacturer's newest firmware from their website.

The actual upgrade process consumes a lot of time. Make sure you can go without your computer for an entire day.

Windows 7 Upgrade Disc
The last, and undoubtedly most important piece, is Windows 7 itself. Like Vista before it, Windows 7 comes in three tiers: Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. Windows XP and Vista can upgrade to its comparable Windows 7 edition.

Now that you've got your system straight, it's time to put in your Windows 7 disc and start your upgrade. If everything goes smoothly, you'll be running the OS of the future in a few hours.

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