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Lesson 2: Upgrading to Windows 7

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Introduction

Now that you have explored what Windows 7 has to offer, we can help you understand what's involved in moving to this operating system.

In this lesson, we will review the various versions of Windows 7 and the system requirements for running the operating system. We will discuss the process of upgrading and any considerations you need to be aware of before switching to Windows 7.

Note: Windows 10 was released in July 2015. Since it uses the same system requirements as Windows 7, you might consider upgrading to Windows 10 instead. Visit our Windows 10 tutorial to learn more.

Windows 7 versions and pricing

The major upgrade versions of Windows 7 are Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. Home Premium is the most popular version of Windows 7 and will likely suit the needs of most users. The Professional version may appeal to owners of small to medium-sized businesses because it has extras like Windows XP mode and networking backup features. Ultimate is the most powerful version, with added security features like Bitlocker and the flexibility of use in 35 languages.

Windows 7 DesktopMajor upgrade versions

  • You may come across a Windows 7 Starter version. This version is made for smaller laptops (sometimes called netbooks) and will have limited performance and features compared to Home Premium.
  • There is also a Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack ($149.99) for upgrading up to three PCs in a home.
  • Full versions of the above products are more expensive but will only be required if you are not already running Windows XP or Vista.

Windows 7 requirements for upgrade

In order to run Windows 7, your PC must have the following:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Additional System Requirements may be needed to run certain features.

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Microsoft is providing a tool called the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor so customers can determine if their PCs are able to run Windows 7. It is a good idea to download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor before upgrading. It will analyze your computer's processor, memory, storage, graphics capabilities, and any other compatibility issues. If possible, it will also provide guidance for resolving issues.

Please note that you should plug in and connect all USB devices, printers, and external hard drives when running the Upgrade Advisor. This will provide the best analysis of your system.

Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index is another indicator of how well your computer will respond to Windows 7. The Windows Experience Index tests your system and rates it with a score of between 1 and 7.9. The higher the score, the better your computer's performance. Some Windows 7 features, like Aero, need a score of at least 3 to run.

  1. To check your Windows Experience Index, click the Start Menu and select Computer. The Computer window will appear.
  2. Select System Properties in the button bar at the top of the screen. The System Window displays your computer's Windows Experience Index rating. It also shows other system info, including whether your computer has a 32-bit or 64-bit processor.
    Windows Experience Index RatingViewing System Properties
  3. Select the Windows Experience Index link to view the ratings of the individual computer components that are scored. The rating is determined by the lowest subscore.
    Windows Experience Index RatingExplanation of Windows Experience Index

In this case, a score of 4.3 should be sufficient to experience most of the new Windows 7 features. If your system scores lower than a 3, you may miss out on some of the digital media and graphics features, including Window's Aero.

What to consider before you upgrade

Once you have run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and reviewed your system's Windows Experience Index, you will have a better idea of how Windows 7 will perform on your computer. Just to be sure, here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you have a 32-bit or 64-bit processor? The 64-bit processor can handle larger amounts of information and increase the responsiveness of the computer. Windows 7 can run on 32-bit and 64-bit computers, but some features may not perform as well on 32-bit computers.
  • Will you be upgrading from XP or Vista? Windows 7 was designed to be upgraded from Vista. If you are currently using the XP operating system, your upgrade experience may be complicated. You will have to back up your current files, programs, and settings and do a custom (clean) installation. Microsoft has subtly suggested that XP users should consider getting a new PC for Windows 7. If this is not an option and you are going to do a custom (clean) installation, you may want to get help from a computer service professional.
  • Are you interested in gaming, multimedia, and Windows Touch? With Windows 7, Microsoft improved graphics capabilities for gaming and the multimedia features of Windows Media Player. Additionally, Windows 7 has touch-screen capability. If these digital media features are important to you, make sure to review the Additional System Requirements before upgrading.


    Windows TouchUsing Windows 7 on a touch screen
  • Do you currently use Windows Mail or Outlook Express? Windows Mail and Outlook Express are not available on Windows 7. You will need to replace them with Windows Live Mail or another email program.

What kind of upgrade do you need?

If you are currently using Windows Vista, your upgrade experience should be easy. If you have XP, upgrading will likely be more complicated. Either way, it is probably best to download and run the Windows Upgrade Advisor before proceeding.

Based on the current version of your operating system, you will need to figure out if you have to perform a simple upgrade or a custom (clean) installation. You can visit Microsoft's Upgrade to Windows 7 page to determine which type of upgrade you need and what additional information should be considered before performing the upgrade.

Even if you do not need to do the custom (clean) installation, it is a good idea to back up your files before upgrading. For more information, read Protecting Your Computer in our Computer Basics tutorial.

Microsoft provides instructions for doing a custom (clean) installation. However, you may want to consider using a computer service professional if you are not comfortable with this process.

Windows versionsWindows versions

Once you have determined which Windows 7 version you want and what kind of upgrade you need to perform, you can go to a retail outlet or visit the Microsoft Store online to purchase your upgrade.

Conclusion

Now that you know what it takes to upgrade, you have a better idea of whether Windows 7 is right for you. Depending on your circumstances, upgrading may be an easy or complicated process. As previously mentioned, you should weigh any complications you may experience with your desire for the improvements and features Windows 7 has to offer. Time and cost are also factors, especially if you are considering purchasing a new computer.

Windows 7 Desktop

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