You can install Windows 7 on a virtual machine like what Guy did (Parts 1 & 2) and that’s a very valid and safe option. However, the odds are that eventually, you’ll need to install it on an actual computer if you want to use it on a daily basis. I did. Take advantage of that to make your own installation simpler and faster. I’ll show you what and what not to do.
A word of warning: Windows 7 is not free. It’s not even close. But this is the Release Candidate we’re talking about. Windows 7 RC may be used for free until June 1, 2010. Just keep in mind that at some stage you’re likely to have to go through this again, either to install a final copy of Windows 7 (after you purchase it) or to downgrade back to Vista or XP.
Editor’s note: Windows 7 RC will operate normally until March 1, 2010 then it will shut down every 2 hours.
Once more, this is a Release Candidate. A piece of beta software. It’s good and seems stable. It’s not necessarily ready for your use. There may be things that don’t work for you. Don’t go doing this if you are unprepared to accept that fact.
Before we start
Varun has done the hard yards to determine if your machine can actually run Windows 7. Check that out first. This is not for you if your computer cannot support the latest and greatest from Microsoft.
Decide whether you plan to upgrade your existing system (if you are running Vista already) or will be starting from scratch. Microsoft’s recommendations used to be to always start again, but this time around they seem a little more mellow. Nonetheless, I chose to lose all my settings and installation, and start clean on an empty hard disk.
Make sure that you have backups of all your important stuff. Okay, that’s hardly a new recommendation but definitely worth remembering. If you are blowing away an existing Windows installation, a number of things go with it. Most of your data is hopefully on another drive but I have a few hints for some apps you might be using. Think it through. Here are some examples.
- Firefox bookmarks need to be exported, and the resulting file put somewhere safe. Any add-ins will need to be reinstalled. Take a note of the ones you have. Here’s how to backup your Firefox preferences.
- Trillian. Copy Program filesTrillian and everything underneath it.
- iTunes. Careful here. Use the Apple instructions or many of the other how-tos on the web to ensure you have a valid copy of your music and the database files. Remember to deauthorise your machine if necessary for iTunes Store purchases. Jackson wrote a short manual on how to migrate iTunes from Windows to Mac, but that article can also be used in terms of backing up your iTunes library.
- Office configuration. This is easy for Office 2003 but the Office 2007 tool (Windows Easy Transfer) never seems to work for me. Take notes so you can reinstate files. Make sure any .pst files are somewhere safe.
- Digsby. This one is easy. Nothing to do. Reinstall and set up. Log in, and everything reappears. Careful with the install though. Digsby has a habit of installing things you don’t want if you don’t watch closely.
- Logins. It’s easy to forget your logins if you’ve set up applications or websites to remember them on your behalf. Make sure you have backed them up before you wave goodbye. We have had several great articles about password managers: KeePass, LockCrypt and MashedLife.
If you have multiple partitions or hard drives, make sure you take note of the drive mappings so that you can recreate them later. Some of those configs you saved will benefit. Don’t leave your notes on the computer, especially not in the C: drive. Yes, of course I’ve done that myself. But not lately. Write them down on good old paper.
Take note of your hardware specifics, especially if you are running a machine with parts from multiple suppliers. Video cards, CPUs, network cards, monitors, printers, wireless mice and keyboards. You can also backup each driver (restoration might not work in Windows 7).
So you have backups, details, configs and exports. It’s time to cross the line and make something happen.
You can get hold of a copy of Windows 7 RC here. Remember to get a key for the product. You’re going to need that to activate it.
Download Windows, and burn the .iso to a DVD.
Time for some more decisions. If you intend on performing an upgrade from Vista, then insert the DVD while Windows Vista is running. The rest of these instructions assume a fresh install instead. Therefore, shut down Windows XP or Vista, checking once more that you have everything you need.
Boot from the DVD. Most machines will display a message during boot up indicating which keys to press to change the boot device. The PC will display a “˜Press any key to boot from DVD”¦’ message. Best to follow that advice. Welcome aboard.
Choose an appropriate language and location.
Accept the terms. Choose the Custom install.
Carefully, choose the partition you wish to install to. Normally that’s the one that just had Vista or XP on it, and is marked System. To keep this as clean as possible, choose Advanced and delete the existing partition. Needless to say, you are now committed to the cause.
Create a new partition in the empty space. Note that Windows 7 may create an additional system partition as well.
Let the installer do what it’s paid for. Files will be copied, expanded and installed. Restarts will happen. Just go along for the ride.
Choose a user name and password.
Remember that product key I reminded you to pick up? Now, is its moment of fame. Best to choose Automatically Activate.
Choose your poison with regard to updates. I just left it on Recommended.
Set your Timezone, and your Location. I sincerely hope most of you are doing this at home, rather than in the office. Let everything finish and reboot some more if necessary.
Well done! Welcome to the newest game in town!
Have a wander around, and play with things. I’ll be back soon with a follow-up post.
So tell me, how did it go? Where did you get to? What did you forget? Tell me in the comments.