Surviving Windows 7: FAQ

Thursday Oct 1st 2009 by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Here’s what you need to know to upgrade to Windows 7 – and be happy with your system once it’s running.

ALSO SEE: Upgrading Windows XP to Windows 7: Advice and Shortcuts

As the Windows 7 launch date edges ever closer, the number of questions I’m fielding about this new operating system has increased exponentially.

People seem to be very interested in Microsoft’s new OS. Yet at the same time they seem apprehensive about making the move to the new OS.

It seems like a good time to offer readers seven top tips for surviving Windows 7. These tips are based on the questions that I’ve been asked most frequently over the past few weeks.

#1: What are the system requirements for Windows 7?

The Windows 7 system requirements are very similar to those of Windows Vista. Here are the base system requirements:

• 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) CPU.

• 1GB RAM for 32-bit OS, 2GB RAM for 64-bit OS.

• 16GB hard disk free space for 32-bit OS, 20 GB for 64-bit OS.

• DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.

Above and beyond these base system requirements, you’ll likely want to add one of more of the following:

• Internet access.

• Depending on screen resolution, video playback may need more RAM and more powerful graphics processing unit (GPU).

• To use Windows Media Center functionality you will benefit from a TV tuner.

• To use HomeGroup you will need a network and PCs running Windows 7.

• DVD/CD burning requires a compatible optical drive.

• BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2.

• BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive.

• Music and sound will require audio output.

• Windows Touch and Tablet PCs require specific hardware.

• Windows XP Mode requires an additional 1 GB of RAM, an additional 15 GB of available hard disk space, and a processor capable of hardware virtualization with Intel VT or AMD-V turned on.

#2: How much of a hassle is it upgrading to Windows 7?

Depends where you're starting from. If you are going get Windows 7 with a new PC then most of your hardware issues are sorted right from the start.

When it comes to loading on your existing hardware then you might run into issues where either something is incompatible (if it worked with Vista, chances are good that it’ll work with Windows 7), or you’ll have to go searching for a driver. As far as software goes, again you might be OK or you might find yourself needing to seek out updates or even buy new software.

If you are upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista then, again, when it comes to hardware you should be OK (you might need new drivers). Software compatibility should also be very good, so you should be reasonably worry free there, too.

If you are upgrading to Windows 7 from XP, then beware. Here be tigers! Here’s a guide to Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 written by the author of the Windows for Dummies books.

If your PC passes the basic system requirements then you should be OK to run Windows 7, but as far as compatibility of other hardware and software goes, you could find the process to be a smooth one, or you could find it impossible.

If you are planning on upgrading to Windows 7, I suggest that you download and install the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft from Microsoft.

This handy bit of software will scan your PC and generate a report for you of any compatibility issues that you are likely to encounter.

#3: I’ve heard that you can’t upgrade directly to Windows 7 from XP … is this true?

Yes, it is. If you are a Windows XP user and you want to move to Windows 7 you can’t carry out what Microsoft call an in-place upgrade, where you install Windows 7 over the top of your existing OS and get to keep your applications, setting and data intact.

Instead, you have to do a clean install, i.e. basically starting from scratch, which is annoying to say the least.

However, as annoying as it might be to do a clean install, it’s always the route I recommend. It’s best to backup your data, do a clean install, reinstall all your applications and then copy your data back over onto the system. This method gives you the best possible start for your OS experience.

#4: I’m confused by all the different editions … which do I need?

If you have to ask the question, then chances are that you will be perfectly happy with the Home Premium edition of Windows 7. This OS is the cheapest consumer edition of Windows 7 and includes everything that the average user will need.

If you think that you might need something extra that’s not included as part of Home Premium, then there are the Professional and Ultimate editions.

The differences between the editions are subtle. To determine what’s best for you I recommend that you take a look at the editions chart over on the Microsoft website.

#5: What if I pick the wrong edition?

Don’t panic! There are two options open to you:

• First, you can use Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrade feature that allows you to purchase a higher edition. This is a quick 10-minute process and prices are reasonable.

• You might be able to add the feature you are looking for using third-party software. In fact, there’s almost no feature that you can’t add using third-party software.

#6: Should I go for 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 7?

If your hardware can handle it, there’s essentially nothing preventing you from going 64-bit and being able to break the 4GB memory limit that has plagued the 32-bit operating system.

If you have any doubt about your hardware, consult the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft.

#7: What’s the quickest way to install Windows 7?

Believe it or not, I suggest that you copy the files off the DVD onto a USB key if you have one that’s big enough and install from that.

Why? Because it’s faster than messing about with the DVD. If you have more than one PC to upgrade, then the minutes that you save start adding up. Not only that, but after copying the files to a USB key you can put the DVD disc away for safe keeping.

#8: What should be the first thing I do after installing Windows 7?

First, get all your hardware working right. After that, install all your must-have software. Then, make a backup of your system and store this safely on an external drive if you have one. Don’t have one? Get one!

Why make a backup? Because when it comes time to reinstall you’ll have a nice, clean image of your system that you roll onto your PC in a matter of minutes, if things go wrong. It’s an additional hassle at the beginning, but when you need that image, you’ll thank yourself that you did it!

Note: Windows 7 hits stores October 22nd!

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