Windows 7 is due out on October 22nd and many people will be planning to install it as soon as possible after it arrives. I know I will be as I’ve completely had it with Vista! In order to try to help make your installation day go a little bit smoother I’ve compiled a list of 7 things to do before inserting the Windows 7 program disc into your computer’s drive:
- Check for Viruses
- Backup your System Hard Drive
- Backup your Data Files
- Update your System BIOS
- Find your Hardware Driver Discs
- Find your Software Installation Discs
- Consider Dual Booting Windows
- Check for Viruses: You should be doing this all the time anyway, but if you are planning to upgrade your existing Windows installation to Windows 7 (rather than performing a clean install) you will definitely want to ensure that your system is clean of viruses before proceeding. This is not quite as important for a clean install, but it’s still not a bad idea. If you don’t have a virus scanner check out the free version of AVG Antivirus
- Backup your System Hard Drive: You will want to be completely prepared to recover your computer just in case the worst happens. It probably won’t, but better safe than sorry. The best way to do this is to make a complete backup of the system drive (ie. the drive that contains your operating system, usually the C: drive) onto a brand new spare hard drive. Hard drives are very cheap these days and it’s always good practice to have a complete backup drive sitting on the shelf anyway, just in case. I generally buy bare drives and install them in USB enclosure to connect them to my computer. I do this rather than buying dedicated External USB Drives so that I can take the disc out of the enclosure and insert it directly into my computer when my installed drive fails (because eventually it will fail). I use Acronis True Image backup software to clone the drive. There are other good software programs out there too, but I’ve successfully used True Image many times.
- Backup your Data Files: If you have important files stored on your computer, such as legal documents, photographs, music, videos, and financial information, you will want to ensure you have spare copies of those files handy for use in an emergency. USB thumb drives are a good choice here (they are small, fast, cheap, AND easily writable in case you make changes to your files), but burning a CD or DVD would also work in a pinch.
- Update your System BIOS: Check the website for your computer manufacturer to see if they have any BIOS updates available for your system. Sometimes these updates are required to ensure that your system will even run with newer operating systems, and immediately prior to an upgrade (and immediately after backing up your hard drive) is a great time to do this.
- Find your Hardware Driver Discs: Windows 7 has been out in the wild in a release candidate version for a long time, so it’s likely that the installer will be able to find the drivers for most of your hardware devices. But sometimes printers, scanners, etc. really need the OEM installer before they work properly. Unless you are uber-organized your discs are probably not all together in one place, so it’s a good idea to find everything and have them ready in one convenient location.
- Find your Software Installation Discs: Unless you are doing a direct upgrade of Vista to the corresponding version of Windows 7 (ie. Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium) you will actually be doing a clean install of windows and you will need to reinstall all your software, so you’re going to need your installation discs (or setup files if you downloaded them from the web) and license information. Again it’s a good idea to gather all of this stuff into one convenient location in advance. You should also take some time to go through everything you already have installed under Vista to be sure that you aren’t forgetting about some of your rarely used programs (as long as it is still relevant and important).
- Consider Dual Booting Windows: If you’re really scared about losing everything when you install Windows 7, you might consider “Dual Booting”. Basically that means installing Windows 7 beside your existing OS without killing the existing version. There’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to do this over at Lifehacker, so I’ll leave it to them to help you make this work.
Well that’s it. If you do these things then you should be pretty safe to go ahead and install Windows 7 without worrying about losing all of your important files and data. There’s still likely to be a lot of work to set up the OS the way you like it, and to install all the software you need, but this is a great first step. Good luck!