Upgrading to Windows 7 - Your questions answered!

I'm getting a lot of questions from readers about upgrading to Windows 7. Here are your top questions answered.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

I'm getting a lot of questions from readers about upgrading to Windows 7. Here are your top questions answered.

#1: What are the system requirements for Windows 7?

The Windows 7 system requirements are very similar to those of Windows Vista, and users running Vista shouldn't have much problems upgrading to Windows 7.

Here are the base system requirements for Windows 7:

  • 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) CPU
  • 1GB RAM for 32-bit OS, 2GB RAM  for 64-bit OS
  • 16GB hard disk free space for 32-bit OS, 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Users may want to add one of more of the following:

  • Internet access - duh!
  • Depending on screen resolution, video playback may need more RAM and more powerful graphics processing unit (GPU)
  • To use Windows Media Center functionality you will benefit from a TV tuner
  • To use HomeGroup you will need a network and PCs running Windows 7
  • DVD/CD burning requires a compatible optical drive
  • Music and sound will require audio output 
  • Windows Touch and Tablet PCs require specific hardware
  • Windows XP Mode requires an additional 1 GB of RAM, an additional 15 GB of available hard disk space, and a processor capable of hardware virtualization with Intel VT or AMD-V turned on
  • BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2
  • BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive

#2: How easy/difficult is upgrading to Windows 7?

How easy or difficult it is to upgrade to Windows 7 depends on what operating system you are starting from.

  • If you are planning of buying a new PC with Windows 7 pre-loaded then all of your of your hardware issues are sorted right from the start as far as your PC goes. When it comes to hooking up your existing hardware then you might run into issues where something is incompatible (if it worked with Vista, chances are good that it’ll work with Windows 7), or you’ll have to go searching for a driver. As far as software goes, again you might be OK or you might find yourself needing to seek out updates or even buy new software.
  • If you are upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista then when it comes to hardware you should, on the whole be OK (again, you might need new drivers). Software compatibility should also be very good (be wary of installing programs such as antivirus unless they have been updated ... security software is usually the most problematic when changing operating systems).
  • If you are upgrading to Windows 7 from XP, then beware. Here be tigers! If your PC passes the basic system requirements then you should be OK to run Windows 7, but as far as compatibility of other hardware and software goes, you could find the process to be a smooth one, or you could find it impossible. Also, you'll want to read #3.

If you are planning on upgrading any Windows-based machine to Windows 7 I suggest that you download and install the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft. This handy bit of software will scan your PC and generate a report for you of any compatibility issues that you are likely to encounter.

#3: Is it true that you can’t upgrade directly to Windows 7 from XP?

Unfortunately, yes, it is. If you are a Windows XP user and you want to move to Windows 7 you can’t carry out what Microsoft calls an "in-place upgrade" where you install Windows 7 over the top of your existing OS and get to keep your applications, setting and data. Instead, you have to do what is known as a "clean install" which basically means you are starting from scratch and installing a totally fresh, clean OS.

As annoying as it might be to have to carry out a clean install, it’s always the route I recommend. It’s always best to back up your data, do a clean install, reinstall all your applications and then copy your data back over onto any system when upgrading your operating system. This method offers the best possible start for your new OS experience.

#4: Which edition of Windows 7 do I need?

My blanket advice to people asking me this question is this - If you have to ask the question, then go with the Home Premium edition of Windows 7. This OS is the cheapest consumer edition of Windows 7 and includes everything that the average user will need.

To find out what the different editions have to offer, check out the editions chart over on the Microsoft website.

#5: Should I go for 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 7?

If your hardware can handle it, there’s almost no reason preventing you from going 64-bit. If in any doubt about your hardware consult the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft.

Any questions? Post them in the TalkBack or send them over to me via email or Twitter.

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