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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.

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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).

Commitment

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.

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Accept the terms. Choose the Custom install.

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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.

w7-install1

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 .

w7-user

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!

w7-fish

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.

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