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Installing or Upgrading to Windows 7


This guide works with Windows 7 home and professional versions, and explains how to install Windows 7 or upgrade a computer running  previous versions of Windows to Windows 7. I have made this guide to be printable or downloadable as a PDF, just click the Print|PDF link in the upper-right corner of this page. In writing this article, I am assuming that you will be installing Windows 7 from a DVD drive.

If you need to install Windows 7 from a USB drive, I will be covering creating and using a bootable Windows 7 USB drive later. In the meantime, this link will take you to a Google search page for installing Windows 7 from a USB drive.


The information provided on this page is provided for informational purposes only. While this information is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and posted in good faith, I cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss of data that may occur. You use this guide at your own risk.

System Requirements

In order to install Windows 7, your system must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • 1 GHz or faster AMD or Intel 32 or 64 bit single, dual, or quad-core processor. 32 bit systems can support up to 32 cores, while 64 bit versions can support up to 256 processor cores.
  • At least 1 GB of RAM for a 32 bit system, and at least 2 GB of RAM for a 64 bit system. The more RAM, the better. By experience, I recommend typically 8 GB of RAM in a 32 bit system and 16 GB of RAM in 64 bit systems, more if the computer is going to be used for graphical or media production.
  • At least 16 GB available hard drive space for a 32 it system, and 20 GB available hard drive space for a 64 bit system.
  • A graphics card that supports DirectX 9

You will also need

  • Internet Access in order to activate Windows 7 and download Windows updates.
  • If you intend to run Windows XP mode, you will need an additional 1 GM of RAM and 15 GB of available hard drive space.
  • Windows 7 installation media and a valid license key, and if you are upgrading from a previous version of Windows, you may be required to provide  the product key for your previous version of Windows.


  • 32 bit or 64 bit? – The majority of today’s computers, be it laptops, desktop computers, netbooks, and most tablets, are capable of running a 64 bit operating system. I recommend running a 64 bit operating system if your hardware supports it. 64 bit systems are generally faster than their 32 bit counterparts, offer more security than 32 bit operating systems, and are capable of running 64 bit and 32 bit applications. Where as 32 bit systems cannot run 64 bit operating systems or applications.
  • You should also know that if the computer you want to upgrade is currently running a 32 bit operating system and you want to upgrade to Windows 7 64 bit, you are more likely to experience issues with certain 32 bit applications. It is highly recommended that you run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to see what programs or drivers you will need to replace with 64 bit versions. You can download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft’s website. You will also have to do a clean install, regardless of whether you are upgrading from Windows Vista or Windows XP. Which means you will need to back up your data, and be prepared to reinstall your software and drivers.
  • If you intend to upgrade to Windows 7, but wish to do a custom install on a clean or formatted drive, you will need to provide proof that you posses a valid copy of a qualified version of Windows. You may be asked to provide a product key or insert the installation disk of the previous version of Windows.

Upgrading to Windows 7

If you already have a previous version of Windows and you want to upgrade to Windows 7, there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • If you are upgrading from Windows XP or a previous version of Windows  to Windows 7, you will  have to do a custom install, as there is no direct path to upgrade versions of Windows previous to Windows Vista. That means you need to back up your data, and install Windows 7 as a custom installation, which will wipe the primary hard drive completely and then install Windows 7. I have a detailed guide to help you with this upgrade. Please see: Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7
  • If you are upgrading from Windows Vista, the Windows 7 installation can upgrade over Windows Vista as long as both versions are the same 32 bit or 64 bit formats. If the formats are not the same, you must perform a custom installation.

Before you attempt an upgrade to Windows 7, you should run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to see what issues, if any, you might face after the upgrade is completed.

Installing Windows 7

Note: Before installing or upgrading to Windows 7, it is a good idea at this point to disconnect any external hard drives, removable drives, or any secondary drives that contain data you do not want to risk wiping. You can reconnect these drives after the installation is complete. Also note, turn your computer off before disconnecting and internally connected drives. Disconnecting a drive while the system is powered on can permanently damage the drive or the system.

There are two ways you can start the installation process directly from a Windows 7 installation DVD:

  • From within Windows Vista or Windows XP, you can launch the Windows 7 installer from the DVD drive, providing that you are upgrading a form a 32 bit version to a 32 bit version or a 64 bit version to a 64 bit version.. The installation DVD will copy over the core files it needs to launch the installation process, and restart your computer to stat the installation process. This process works well as this will also present you with the option to check system compatibility before you install Windows 7.
  • You can also boot your computer to the Windows 7 installation DVD, providing that you have configured your BIOS to boot to the DVD. Please refer to your computer manufacturer’s user guide for information on accessing and configuring your computer BIOS boot order.

When you boot your computer from the Windows 7 installation DVD, you will first see a prompt telling you to press any key to boot from CD… This starts the Windows boot loader which will copy the core files and basic drivers needed to launch the installation process.



When the core files are copied over, Windows will boot into a special installation environment



Here, you can adjust your language preferences along with time and currency format and keyboard or input method. Windows supports many languages, but you may need to download and install language packages for some of them after Windows is installed. After you have made you selections, click ‘Next‘.



You will notice on the Install screen that there are options to Repair your computer. Should your computer become unbootable or develop serious stability or performance issues in the future, you can use your Windows 7 installation DVD to repair Windows 7. Sp please treat your installation DVD with care and store it in a safe place.

To start the Windows 7 installation, click ‘Install now‘.



You will have to agree to Microsoft’s  End User License Agreement for Windows 7. If you do not agree to the terms and conditions, you will not be able to install Windows 7. You must check the acceptance box, and then click ‘Next‘.



Next, select whether you are upgrading over a qualified previous version of Windows, or if want to perform  a clean, or custom installation.

  • If your previous version of windows qualifies for an upgrade, Windows 7 will be installed over your previous version of Windows. In this way, your programs, system settings, and user profiles and data are preserved during the migration
  • If you previous version of Window does not qualify for upgrade, you can perform a Custom or Clean Install. This wipe and prepare the primary hard drive, and give you the opportunity to manage disks and partitions.



You are next presented with a list of available drives. Windows needs to be installed on the Primary partition.

  • If you do not see the hard drive you want to install Windows 7 to, it may be because you need to install a special drive for it. If this is correct, you can install the driver here. You can either proceed from here by clicking ‘Next’, or click ‘Drive options (advanced)’ for disk and partition management options



This is the ‘Drive options (advanced)’ window where you can delete, format, and partition your hard drives. Once you have your drives configured, click ‘Next‘.



Windows copies the core installation files, and then installs and configures the operating system and default features. When this process is complete, the installation wizard will restart the computer and begin the next phase of installing Windows 7.



This begins the graphical phase on the Windows 7 installation process. Here, you will see Windows starting and updating the system and registry, and completing the installation of the core files and services.





When this phase is complete, Windows is installed. Your computer will restart again, and begin the User environment portion of the installation process. The first thing you will do is enter a name for the local administrator account and a name for the computer. Enter the required data, and click ‘Next‘.



As part of Windows Security, all user accounts require a password. You should use a strong password containing numbers and letters, and preferably a special character or two, and passwords should be at least 8 characters long. Click ‘Next‘ when done.



Enter your Windows 7 Product Key, and click ‘Next‘.



Set your date, time, and time zone options, and click ‘Next‘.



If WIndows 7 detects that your computer is connected to the Internet, you will be prompted to select what type of network you are connected to:

  • Home Network – Provides file and media and Device sharing, and basic network security suitable for home use.
  • Work network – Provides networking and file sharing services and basic security features typical in a business network.
  • Public network – Provides the highest network security and blocks file sharing while connected to public networks



If you select Home network for your computer’s current location, you may be asked if you want to create a Home Group to share music and videos within the group.



Now Windows 7 finalizes the installation and prepares your desktop.



Post Installation Recommendations

Now that Windows is installed, there are some things you should do in order to prepare your new system for use.

  1. Check and see if there are any missing drivers. To do this, open the Control Panel and then open the System folder. In the left-hand column, select Device Manager. Look for any drivers with a small red x or red exclamation mark on a yellow background. These icons indicate a problem with a device or the associated device driver. Typically, all you have to do to resolve these issues is download and install the driver from the vendor website, or you can choose to let Windows Update try to locate a driver.
  2. Install an Antivirus application and install any available Window Security Updates. If your computer is online, just type ‘updates’ in the Start search box and select Windows Updates. This will launch the Windows Update utility. Make sure you re-run the Windows Update utility until there are now more critical updates to download.


At this point, your installation process is complete. You can now install your programs and restore any user data you may have backed up fr migrated. I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or concerns about this guide or installing Windows 7, feel free to contact me via e-mail through the form on my Contact page.

Related Articles

This is a list of other articles I have written for Windows 7

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