I'm a dip-a-toe-in-the-water kind of guy. Although I've been playing with Windows 7 for a couple months now, I'm not quite ready to dive in. I want to make a more gradual move, keeping my Vista-based PC up and running while I slowly transition to the new OS.
Why? I have my reasons. For one thing, I don't want any driver- or software-related surprises. An all-at-once move could leave me with programs that don't run or even a system that won't boot.
What's more, I don't have a full afternoon to devote to the tedious process of offloading my data, installing Windows 7, reinstalling all my apps, restoring the data, and so on and so on.
So I've come up with a plan. Instead of wiping my system for a fresh install or doing an in-place upgrade from Vista to 7, I'm going to get the best of both worlds.
First, I'm going to partition my hard drive--which, thankfully, has more than enough room to accommodate both Vista and 7.
Then I'm going to load 7 onto the new partition, which will give me a fresh install (always the best approach, in my humble opinion).
Next, I'll make sure 7 "agrees" with all my hardware and peripherals. Assuming it does, I'll start installing the apps I use daily and copying over my data from the Vista partition.
Because I'll be running a dual-boot setup for awhile, I'll bop back into Vista as needed--for games I'm halfway through playing, for instance, and for any apps that aren't running quite right in Windows 7.
Eventually, after a few weeks (or even months), I'll shrink down and ultimately remove the Vista partition. I'll need to figure out how to make 7 the primary partition so I don't run into boot issues, but that's a problem for a much later day.
And that's my solution in a nutshell. Stay tuned for more details on each individual step of the process, like how to create a partition and install Windows 7 on it. Who knows? This might turn out to be the ideal option for you as well. In the meantime, don't miss Lincoln Spector's indispensable How to Upgrade to Windows 7.