Ed wrote to ask about upgrading his computer:
I hate Vista and would like to improve it or switch to Windows 7. Even XP is a big upgrade as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to risk losing my music library in the process though. Can I do it myself or should I take it in and have a pro do it? $85 per hour up here.
I wrote back to Ed to tell him that he should be able to do it himself easily, with a Windows 7 upgrade package.
Assuming you’re running Windows Vista 32-bit, you can use the 32-bit version of Windows 7 to upgrade over your Vista installation. Similarly, if you’re running Vista 64-bit, you can use the 64-bit version of Windows 7 to upgrade over 32-bit Vista. You can not upgrade over the existing Vista to move from 32-bit to 64-bit (even if your computer supports 64-bit).
Your other alternative is a fresh install of Windows 7 on the hard drive. You would need to back up your data (including your music library) before doing that, since it would involve reformatting the drive. To do a fresh install, given that you’ll be using an Upgrade DVD, you install once, and then “install” again over the installed Windows 7. Otherwise, Windows 7 will not accept your Upgrade Product Key.
With regard to protecting your data, I suggest investing in an external hard drive – you can get a 1 TB external drive for around $100. Then use Karen’s Replicator ( www.karenware.com, free for non-business use) to copy the files. BE SURE TO DISCONNECT the external hard drive while you are doing the OS upgrade or installation.
Backing up your data to an external hard drive, and then disconnecting the external drive, a good practice whether you’re upgrading your operating system or not.
The advantage of Replicator is that it will create a log of problems as it copies the files. If you try to use Windows Explorer or xcopy, both simply stop if they have a problem – which is not good if you’re trying to rely on them to make a complete copy.
Be sure to use a good antivirus and antispyware program to make sure your computer is "clean" before doing an upgrade over Vista.