Be cautious reading “Be cautious upgrading to Windows 7” articles

I came across an article today, “Be cautious upgrading to Windows 7”, written by Troy Wolverton at the San Jose Mercury News,and distributed via wire service.  Although the author claims to have upgraded to Windows 7 twice, there are some serious inaccuracies in the article.  I actually did four installs (two “clean”, two upgrades), all in the name of science.

If you’re one of the millions of PC owners still running Windows XP, your computer may not be powerful enough to run the new software. Worse yet, you have a tedious and long upgrade process ahead of you, essentially requiring you to erase everything on your current hard drive and reinstall it.
If you are upgrading from XP, the process is even more time-consuming. Microsoft requires XP users to do a "clean" installation. That means the installation disc will wipe out everything on your hard drive, including not only the old operating system, but all of your programs and personal data, including documents, songs, photos and bookmarks.

This is absolutely wrong—you do not have to format your hard drive when upgrading from XP to Windows 7.  If you perform a Custom Install, the Windows 7 installer will put all your old Windows XP, program files and documents and settings in a folder named windows.old.  Windows 7 will install in c:\windows, just like XP was before.  Once this installation is done, you can then move your documents and settings from windows.old to wherever you want them in your new Users folder.  Your programs will not operate, they will need to be reinstalled under Windows 7.  Once you have your programs reinstalled and running, and your documents moved around, you can delete windows.old and free up some space.

This is like a “fresh install”, in that you get a completely fresh operating system, but without having to destroy your data.  It’s a pretty good option.

You can download a program called "Windows Easy Transfer" from Microsoft that will simplify the backup part of the process. The program collects your user data and allows you to transfer it to an external hard drive or USB drive or to another computer on your network.

Once you finish installing Windows 7, you can use "Easy Transfer," which is built into the new operating system, to move your personal files back to your computer and put them into their appropriate places.

Easy Transfer can be used to migrate settings for an in-place upgrade, but it’s really meant for moving stuff to a new computer.  Easy Transfer packages up all your Documents and Settings from your old PC into a single file, and then restores your settings on the new PC.  You’ll have your backgrounds, documents, cookies, favorites, email contacts and messages, etc. on the new PC, just like the old one.  Novice users may prefer this route, power users might like the windows.old method.

But there’s no simple way to reinstall all your programs. Indeed, if you’re like me, you may be at a loss trying to find all your old discs_or you may have software that you downloaded online that may be difficult to reinstall without repurchasing it first.

Ahh, but there is!  See my review of Laplink’s Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant.

Back up your stuff: It’s a good idea anytime you upgrade your OS; it’s mandatory if you’re running XP.

Even better, get an external hard drive and image your machine.  Get Easeus ToDo Backup, clone your current hard drive, then install Windows 7.  If the install fails for some reason, or you want to go back to your old OS, you can restore your PC from the clone, and you’re back in business just as before.