Windows 7: How to Upgrade

How to Upgrade to Windows 7

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Some More Steps and Tweaks

With Windows 7 up, lean back and admire the new look. It's really quite lovely.

Unless, of course, the resolution is too low and all the objects on screen too big. If that's the case, right-click the desktop and select Screen resolution to fix the problem. You may have to do this again after reinstalling your video drivers, but you might not and it's easy enough to do twice.

Check the lower right corner (where the system tray used to be) for a flag icon. If you see it, click it for a problem report. It will probably just tell you that you need antivirus software (you know that) and that Windows Defender has yet to scan your computer. But it might give you some actual, useful advice.

With that taken care of, it's time to deal with your drivers. If you did an upgrade install from Vista (the only version you can do that from), you'll probably just check Device Manager and discover that everything is fine. If you did a clean upgrade from Vista, any problems you encounter should be easy to fix. But if you started with XP, expect some major challenges.

Use the Windows 7 Device Manager to check that all of your device drivers are properly loaded.
However you upgraded, select Start, type device manager, and press Enter. Do the following for any item accompanied by a yellow exclamation point: Double-click the item, then click the Update Driver button. Select Search automatically for updated driver software and wait for the results. Hopefully, that will fix the problem.

If it doesn't, and you did a clean install from Vista, click the Update Driver button again. This time, click Browse my computer for driver software. For the path, enter C:\Windows.old\Windows, make sure that Include subfolders is checked, then click Next. Chances are, this will work.

Why? Because along with your data, the installation program moved all of your Windows files to C:\Windows.old--including all, or at least most, of your old drivers. But the installation program doesn't know enough to look for drivers where it put them.

This won't work if you upgraded from XP, even though the old drivers are still in subfolders of C:\Windows.old. Windows XP drivers aren't compatible with Vista.

So what can you do about drivers if you upgraded from XP? Before you go any further, install and update your security software--antivirus, firewall, and so on. You're about to do some heavy Web surfing, and you need protection.

Then go back to the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and look up the device there. If that doesn't help, search on the device name and Windows 7 driver. Or even the device name and Vista driver.

If you did an upgrade install, you're pretty much done, although you should skip down to "Final Touches" below for additional advice. But if you did a clean install, you still have work to do.

And your first job is to reinstall all of your programs. I told you to gather them up before the upgrade; now it's time to dig into that pile. The downloaded files, which I told you to store in a subfolder of My Documents, is now in a subfolder or C:\Windows.old\Documents and Settings\logon\My Documents.

Start with your security software, if you haven't installed it already. Do the others in any order. Make sure you have the licenses and product IDs handy. And as soon as a program is installed, check for updates.

Add new users to the PC by creating separate accounts for them in the User Accounts control panel.
You created a logon for yourself near the end of the installation, but if other people use your PC and have had their own log-ons in the past, you'll need to re-create them. If you can't remember all the user names, use the folders inside c:\windows.old\users (c:\windows.old\documents and settings if you upgraded from XP) as a reference. To create user log-ons, select Start, Control Panel, and click Add or remove user accounts.

You don't have to create a Public or shared account. It's already there.

Now you're ready to restore your data. Luckily, thanks to the above-mentioned C:\Windows.old folder, this is actually pretty easy. Select Start, type C:\users, and press ENTER. If you don't already have the c:\windows.old\users (or c:\windows.old\documents and settings) folder open, open it now.

At this point, you have two Explorer windows open. The windows.old one, which I'll refer to as the source, contains your data. The C:\users window, which I'll call the target, is where your data should end up. Do the following for each folder named for a person who uses your PC:

  1. Open the respective folders in each Explorer window (so that the source window is open to C:\Windows.old\Users\yourname and the target to C:\Users\yourname).
  2. Make sure that hidden folders are truly hidden. If you see an AppData folder in the target, select Organize, Folder and search options. Click the View tab. Select Don't show hidden files, folders, or drives, and click OK. (You can change it back later.)
  3. Drag all the folders--but not the individual files--from the source to the target.
  4. You'll get a lot of questions as the files move. When Windows tells you that you need administrator permission, make sure Do this for all current items is checked and click Continue. If told that "The destination already contains a folder named...", check Do this for all current items and click Yes. And if told that there's already a file with the same name, check Do this for the next nn conflicts and click Move and Replace.

Windows XP keeps pictures, music, and videos inside folders within My Documents, while Vista and 7 store them separately. You'd expect that to cause problems, but Windows 7 is smart enough to put everything in the right place.

When you're done with the user folders, repeat those steps one more time for the Public folders. If you upgraded from XP, your source won't have a Public folder, but it will have a shared folder, and you should move the folders from there to the target's Public folder.

At this point, Windows is ready to use. But keep the Windows.old folder around for a few months. There may still be something important inside--especially in the hidden AppData or Applications Data folder.

Final Reminders

If you didn't enter your product ID and activate Windows 7 during the installation, now would be the time to do it. Select Start, type activate, and press Enter. Click Activate Windows online now and follow the prompts.

At this point, all you ex-Vista users should check out "3 Key Tweaks for Windows 7" for suggestions on retrieving some Vista features that might actually be missed.

One last suggestion: Once Windows 7 is set up the way you like it, create another image backup, and keep this one as long as you have the PC. That way, should you ever need to reinstall Windows, you can simply restore the image and skip several steps.

For more of PCW's Windows 7 coverage, read our in-depth Windows 7 review, and read how we tested Windows 7. For ongoing information about Windows 7, sign up for PC World's Windows News and Tips newsletter. And for comprehensive, straightforward advice and tips that can help you get the most out of the new operating system, order PC World's Windows 7 Superguide, on CD-ROM or in a convenient, downloadable PDF file.

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