As I wrote the other day, I'm making my way to Windows 7 a little bit at a time. It's getting a fresh install on a new hard-drive partition, then a gradual load of software, settings, and data.
If you're interested in taking the same approach, your first step needs to be partitioning your hard drive. Vista has a built-in partitioning tool, but you may need third-party software to take full advantage of it. (Windows XP users should check out Easeus Partition Manager, a free utility.)
Keep in mind that this requires a reasonably large drive, preferably one with at least 50GB of free space--more if you have a lot of video files and other data you'll be copying over from the old partition. (On my system, which has a 750GB drive, I'm creating a 300GB partition for Windows 7.) Here's how:
1. To create a new partition in Vista, click the Start button, type diskmgmt.msc, and press Enter to open the Disk Management utility.
2. In the Volume column, find your C: drive, right-click it, and choose Shrink Volume.
3. Vista will calculate how much "shrinkage" is allowed. And here's where you may run into trouble. My aforementioned 750GB drive had close to 400GB free, but Disk Management was willing to shrink the partition by only about 80GB. That would have been fine, but I wanted more breathing room. Thus, I turned to PerfectDisk, a drive-defragmenting utility that can perform the all-important function of moving system files to the beginning of the partition, thus freeing up much more of the available space. (You can find out more in this Ghacks post.)
4. With that step done (or not, if you're okay with Vista's default findings), enter a size for your new volume (I entered 300000 for 300GB, for example) and click OK. After a few minutes, Disk Management will show you a new "Unallocated" space on your drive.
5. Right click Unallocated, choose New Simple Volume, and then follow the steps indicated by the utility.
When you're done, you'll have a brand spankin' new partition that's ready to receive Windows 7. I'll cover that part of the process next week. Stay tuned!