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w7-logoYou can install Windows 7 on a virtual machine like what Guy did (Parts 1 Test Windows 7 RC on a Virtual Machine [Part 1] Test Windows 7 RC on a Virtual Machine [Part 1] In the past, beta's and release candidates would normally be released to IT professionals who had an extra computer kicking around to test things like this on. Yet, what if you just have the one... Read More & 2 Test Windows 7 RC on a Virtual Machine [Part 2] Test Windows 7 RC on a Virtual Machine [Part 2] Read More ) 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.

w7-evalOnce 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 How To Make Sure Your Computer Can Run Windows 7 How To Make Sure Your Computer Can Run Windows 7 Read More . 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.


Backups, backups

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.

w7-partitions-smallIf 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 Backup your drivers with DriverBackup 2 [Windows] Backup your drivers with DriverBackup 2 [Windows] Read More (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 Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner Don't waste money on a CD/DVD burning tool! A freeware application might be all you need. Here we have compiled five alternatives to Nero Burning ROM for your Windows PC. Read More 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 How To Create Strong Passwords That You Can Remember Easily How To Create Strong Passwords That You Can Remember Easily Read More .


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.

  1. Fred
    December 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    My XP Pro hard drive died so I installed a new drive and since I only had the XP repair disk, decided to upgrade to Win 7. Now running Win 7, how can I recover all my XP files that I previously had backed up on an extenal drive? I've tried setting up Virtual PC to run XP mode but my system is not capable of running it.(AMD Sempron 3000+)

  2. Emmet
    October 17, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Hi, I have just got a offical Win7 Ultimate disk. I have a 1tb hard disk with 2 partitions. I have backed up everyting to one of these (not the one with the OS of course).

    I want to do a clean install from win XP to Win 7. Will my backed up partition stay intact or will Window 7 want to delete it. Any help would be great as I hoping to do the upgrade soon.

  3. Computer Repair
    October 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Never believe to Microsoft upgrade. Even you have a fresh install. Make fresh install again instead of upgrade.

  4. Jim
    September 21, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    My laptop came with Vista 64-bit pre-installed. The company (Toshiba) offered a "Free Upgrade to Win 7".
    Went through the process to get the Win 7 DVD sent.

    Once I get the Upgrade DVD, can I and how will I do a clean install of Windows 7 using that Upgrade DVD?

    I have seen numerous webpages talking about clean (custom) installations.

    If I have my laptop booted up and running (current copy of Vista) and I insert the Upgrade DVD, choose Custom Install, how is my hard drive wiped and Win 7 installed (clean)? How will the verification be done that I have (had!) a certified, activated copy of Vista installed?

    I'm not sure I follow the process of the clean install...or how my current/activated copy of Vista is verified.

    Sorry if this seems like an "elementary" question. I just wasn't sure how all this was going to work.

  5. Waqar
    September 1, 2009 at 1:50 am

    from where i can get Evalution copy ? of Windows 7 Ultimate

  6. thiek
    July 9, 2009 at 6:47 am

    i am running windows 7 untilmate in my laptop, but since the os seems to be expired, the system shut sown every two hours. how can i solve this problems? or how to install other version of windows 7? because this is favorite OS.

    • Jim Henderson
      July 10, 2009 at 2:47 am

      Yup. This is because you are still running the Windows 7 Beta, rather than Windows 7 RC1.

      The good news is that you can obtain the RC for free still. The bad news is that you can't upgrade from what you have now. You need to do a fresh install. There are some reports of folk successfully upgrading through various different devious paths. I wouldn't recommend trying.

      Just for the sake of clarity, you understand you're going to have to go through all this again next year, right? You WILL have to install a final copy of Windows 7 (which will not be free) or find something else to install, because your machine will revert to what it's doing now. Restarting. And you will NOT be able to upgrade. You'll need to do a fresh install AGAIN.

      Such is the cost of the bleeding edge.

      I hope that helps.


  7. aha85
    July 7, 2009 at 3:47 am

    thank you

    • Jim Henderson
      July 10, 2009 at 2:43 am

      No problem.

  8. Justin
    July 3, 2009 at 4:05 am

    I'm trying to install Windows & on my MSI X320. A clean install just got stuck.

    Using the upgrade from vista method its got to the last stage "Tranferring files settings and programmes 56% complete, and for the last 10 hrs its been saying "please wait ... transferring files settings and programmes 89716 of 147200 transferred"


    • Jim Henderson
      July 3, 2009 at 5:42 am

      I'm afraid I'm not going to be much help with this, Justin. I only did the clean install. One idea though. Given that you've already been prepared to blow everything away (otherwise you couldn't have done the clean install), how about you clean off the drive, and try again?

      Anyone else have any helpful ideas?

  9. Pashunya
    June 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Set your Timezone, and your Location. I sincerely hope most of you are doing this at home, rather than in the office

  10. picardo
    May 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Here is a question for you. Currently I have Vista 32-bit installed on my machine. I want to upgrade to 64-bit. Can I directly upgrade a 32-bit Vista to 64-bit Vista?

    • Jim Henderson
      May 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

      No. According to Microsoft:

      No. If you are currently running a 32-bit version of Windows, you can only perform an upgrade to another 32-bit version of Windows. Similarly, if you are running a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, you can only perform an upgrade to another 64-bit version of Windows Vista.

      If you want to move from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, you'll need to back up your files and then perform a custom installation of the 64-bit version of Windows Vista.

      Having said that, if you mean upgrade 32-bit Vista to 64-bit Windows 7... the answer is still no. Sorry.


  11. Ava Watts
    May 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I told a buddy of mine about this story and he truly appreciated it. I'm really looking forward to reading more of your stories...

    • Jim Henderson
      May 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

      Thanks Ava. And I'm looking forward to writing them! :-)

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