The big day has arrived. You have downloaded the RC and you want to install it on your computer. The only problem is that you are not quite sure how to do it and you have a lot of programs and settings in your present configuration that you really don’t want to loose. What to do?
In this guide I will present my take on how to perform a fresh install of Windows 7 RC while keeping your data and most of your settings intact!
Ready? Lets get to it!
Step 1: Initial preparations
- Make an inventory of the software in your present setup; Which applications are installed on it? A nifty little tool that’s available for free is System Information for Windows (SIW). This software provides a complete overview of your system. Download, install and run this program and you will see mote information on your system than you can digest! Choose the option Installed Programs and browse to a list that is longer than you imagined! Which ones are you actually using, and want to have access to on your new machine as well? Make a list of the latter category, and then find your application install media and corresponding serial numbers. If it is downloads move them to a separate partition on your hard drive or to CDs or DVDs.
- Make an inventory of the hardware on your computer; Scroll on down the options in SIW and open up and print the following reports in Hardware; System Summary, Motherboard, Network Adapters and Video. Keep these prints for later.
- Take the printouts for Hardware and go to the websites of the manufacturers and download drivers, preferably for Windows 7, but if those are not available Vista drivers in most cases will do. Most likely you do not have to perform this step. Assuming that you have fairly recent hardware Windows 7 will most likely install the necessary drivers in the install process.
- Go to C:\Windows\System32\Driverstore and make a copy of the Filerepository folder. This folder contains all existing drivers for your current setup (NB! Here I assume that you are using either Windows Vista or an earlier beta of Windows 7)
- END STATE: A list of applications that you want to install and Install disks with serial codes ready. Numerous lists with details of your hardware setup and possibly recent drivers available, as well as a backup of all current drivers.
Step 2: Prepare your Windows 7 RC media
- Having downloaded Windows 7 RC I assume that you are tech savvy enough to mount the image on a DVD. What I will provide here is how to mount your RC image on a 4GB USB flash drive!
- In order to do this you need the Windows 7 RC ISO file and WinRAR as well as a 4 GB USB flash drive.
- First of all you need to format the USB flash drive. You can do this by right clicking on the USB flash drive in Explorer and choose the option to Format.
- Then you have to extract the files from the ISO image. Navigate to your Win 7 RC ISO file and right click it (assuming you have WinRAR installed). There you choose the option to “Extract to – folder”
- Copy this folder to the root of one of your hard drives and rename it Win 7 RC
- So now we need to get the contents we have extracted onto the USB flash drive – and NO you cannot just copy the files. Now it is time for the old command window;
- Click the Start button and type cmd and hit enter in the search box. A command prompt should appear. Navigate to the location of your Win 7 RC folder (copy the commands I have used in the screenshot);
- Now type “xcopy *.* n: /e” where n is the drive letter of your USB flash drive – replace n with your actual drive letter. All the contents of the Win 7 RC image is now copied to your USB flash drive and it is ready to be used during the setup process.
Step 3: BACK UP – BACK UP – BACK UP
- This is something you really should do on a regular basis, but if you are anything remotely like me – you now need to back up your data and settings. There are numerous tools available for this purpose, but here I will only describe two ways of doing this; manually and with the Windows Easy Transfer utility provided with Windows 7
- Take all your personal data, by default stored in the Users folder (normally; C:Users) and copy it over to a separate partition
- Some programs saves their data in other places. Go to the different applications and look in their Options section and find where the data is saved and copy that as well.
Outlook saves data in several locations, and it is not easy to move everything included rules and account settings manually over. One tool I recommend for this is ABC Outlook Backup (free to try – costs $28). Using it is straightforward and self explanatory.
I assume that you let iTunes keep your music library organized. Create a folder called “iTunes Backup” on the same partition as the rest of your backup (not C!). Then go to your Music folder and copy the “iTunes” folder over to the backup folder you created earlier.
Then you click the Start button and type Folder Options in the search box. Once there you click the View tab and under Advanced Settings tick the “Show hidden files and folders”.
In Explorer navigate to Users- Your username – App Data – Local – Apple Computer – iTunes. There you will find the “iTunes.pref” file – copy this to your backup location. This file contains all your iTunes settings.
NB! Remember to Deauthorize both your computer and your Audible account (if you have one) before moving on. First option is found under the Store tab, and the second one under the Advanced tab in iTunes.
That’s it – your most important settings and data are backed up. You are now ready for Step 4.
Windows Easy Transfer Utility
- Assuming that you want to move all settings and applications you have at the moment over to Windows 7 RC you can use the Windows Easy Transfer Utility to move everything automatically.
- Open Explorer and navigate your Windows 7 RC install media (a DVD or as in this example a USB flash drive) to the support – migwiz folder and run the migsetup application.
- The following screen will welcome you after the initial setup:
- After clicking Next – you choose the option to use an external hard disk or USB flash drive
- You then click the obvious choice on the next screen 😉
- Windows Easy Transfer then scans your computer for the files and settings that you want to keep for later;
- After the scan has finished and you have clicked Next you are given the option to password protect your data;
Click Save – then choose the location where you want to save the settings (NB! If you have a lot of data – you need a lot of space – for me it needed 370 GB for my files and 212 GB for shared files!). Now – go and do something else until this thing finishes – it will take some time 😉
- That’s it. You are now ready for Step 4:
Step 4: Perform a clean install of Windows 7 RC
- I have said it before, and I will say it again: Do not upgrade from a previous beta version – do a clean install. First of all there are locks in the Win 7 code that limits upgrade option only to build 7077 or more recent builds (this can be circumvented – read this) and besides that; upgrading from one beta build to another one, in this case the RC might bring along some of the older bugs. The only way to be sure you have the RC as it is supposed to be is… a clean install.
- OK, so steps 1-3 are done. You have the USB flash drive (or a Win 7 RC DVD). Restart your computer with this very drive or DVD popped in and make sure that the boot options are set to boot to either DVD or USB flash drives prior to any hard disks. The normal Windows 7 install routine should then start. The first that will greet you is this screen;
- Next up is;
- And then you get to make some choices;
- After making your choices and clickinh Next you get this;
- Click Install now and setup starts
- You then have to agree to the terms of the EULA;
- Finally you are confronted with these options;
And here you should of course choose Custom (advanced) in order to perform a clean install
- Then you are presented with these options. Click on the Drive options (advanced)
- Select the drive and partition where you want to install Windows 7 RC. If you want to replace your old Windows Vista or Windows 7 Beta setup choose the drive where that system is and… take deep breath… click on Format. Everything on that drive/partition are now deleted. If you want to install Windows 7 RC as a dual boot option alongside your old OS choose a different partition than the C drive. Highlight the partition where you want Windows 7 RC by clicking on it and click Next.
- Windows 7 are now installing on your system. It will reboot several times during the process;
- Later in the process this screen will pop up:
- Time to choose a name for your user account and to name your computer;
- Then you set a password for your account
- The process now asks for a Windows product key. You do not have to input anything in this step – this can be added later when you activate your copy of the RC. But… You do get a product key from Microsoft when downloading the RC so why not?
- Then you are asked to set your security settings. I advice you to select to Use recommended settings.
- Then you are asked to select your computer’s current location
- Now comes something new, when compared to Vista or prior versions of Windows; the option to set up a homegroup to ease the process of sharing pictures, music, videos, printers and documents between computers in the same Homegroup.
- Then the setup process finalizes your settings
- before finally preparing your desktop for your first view of it…
- Windows 7 RC is now installed on your machine, but wait… you are not done yet!
Step 5: Run Windows Update
- Before you start roaming around your OS, click the Start orb, choose Programs and run Windows Update to grab all (if any) updates to your system.
Step 6: Install Anti-Virus software
- Now is the time to install your Anti-Virus software of choice on your system. Several AV companies have Windows 7 ready versions of their applications. I am using Norton Internet Security 2009, which runs fine on Windows 7 and is amazingly light weight on the system.
Step 7: Check you Device Manager
- I have found that on the several occasions I have installed different iterations of Windows 7 on my different computers Windows 7 more often than not returns a so called clean Device Manager, ie it has installed all necessary drivers for your system to run smoothly. If you find any unknown devices in your device manager it is time to dig up those previously printed lists from Step 1.
- … or rather, first right click on the unknown device and choose to Update drivers. Then point the update process to your backup of the filerepository folder. It will probably then find the correct Vista driver and install the device. If not, then it’s time to dig up those prints.
- Go through the lists and compare it with what’s already installed in the Device Manager. The one (or more) items that are not ticked off on your list after this process is (are) the culprit(s). Now you will have to go to the manufacturers website and see if they provide Windows 7 drivers for the product. If not – you are probably out of luck, although I really don’t see this happening on any relatively recent hardware.
Step 8: Install the your applications
- Remember that list of applications you made as part of Step 1? Find your install media and install them 1 by 1, checking that everything is working fine, before moving on to the next app on your list.
- One recommendation: After having installed your version of Office (if you have one) install the Windows Live Essentials suite. You can find a link to them in the Start menu, under Getting to know Windows 7. Highly recommended!
Step 9: “Installing” your data and Settings
- If you chose to use the Windows Easy Transfer Utility this step is easy: Click the Start orb, choose Getting to know Windows 7 and the Windows Easy Transfer Utility. Go through the steps, this time choosing that this is the “new computer” and let the utility reinstall your data and settings.
- Now, if you are like me, you think that formatting and reinstalling/installing an OS is a perfect time for starting a new, well then the manual part is our way;
- Move your backed up data to your new User folder.
You have already installed ABC Outlook Backup again, so run it and choose the Restore tab, point to app to your back-up and off you go 😉
After having installed iTunes on Windows 7, run the application once, but ignore the import wizard and close the application. Now move the backed up files and folder to the same location in which you found them on your previous system. Go to the Folder Options again and once more choose to show hidden folders and files and then in Explorer navigate to Users- Your username – App Data – Local – Apple Computer – iTunes. There you will find the “iTunes.pref” file. Copy your backed up file to this location overwriting the existing file.
And then move the iTunes folder into your new Music folder. When you now start iTunes all your previous settings and data are present.
- Other applications
Now go through your other applications you installed that didn’t save their data in the Users folder and restore it to the same locations as before.
- Your chosen data and settings are now reinstalled and you are almost ready to start using your new OS, only one step left…
Step 10: Make an image backup of your now new and pristine system
- Go to the Backup and Restore Center (Click the Start orb and type Backup and restore and hit enter in the search box) and perform an image backup of your current system so that later you are able to go back to this state if needed. The process will take some time, and once again consume some hard disk space, but this step is highly recommended.
Now – you are finished! – Start exploring a new OS – ENJOY!
In writing this article I have used many sources; among them Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows, Steve Sinchaks blog, Ed Botts Microsoft Report. I owe them thanks for their sharing of their knowledge. Any mistakes or errors in this article is all my fault!
If you have any feedback on this process or my post please comment underneath.