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Nine PC Prep Tips for a Fresh Operating System Install

The best way to ensure your system will handle the latest operating system without any issues from your previous installation is to perform a clean install.  Make sure you follow these steps so you're not left without your important files and media.

Upgrading an operating system may seem daunting, but it’s easier than it sounds. With some upfront preparation, installation can be straightforward and, most importantly, pretty painless.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for a fresh install:

  • Tip #1: If the installation involves a switch from Windows XP to Windows 7, there’s a handy way to find out if your PC is ready for an upgraded operating system. Download and run Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. The program will scan hardware, devices and applications to look for compatibility issues. If any issues are found, the tool provides guidance on how to resolve them. If the PC is already running Vista with acceptable performance, it’s likely ready for the upgrade (no need to even check with Advisor).
  • Tip #2: Before running Upgrade Advisor, plug in and turn on any devices that you use regularly (e.g., USB drives, printers, external hard disks, scanners). This allows the tool to check if they’re Windows 7 compatible.
  • Tip #3: Once the computer is deemed ready for a fresh operating system install, go through all data, applications, games, videos, photos and other stored items to determine what should be kept or deleted. These checks may seem like a chore, but we promise it’s worth the time because it speeds up the backup process. Don’t get too overzealous cleaning out your PC; only delete files and applications that are familiar to you. Being conservative will help you prevent accidental deletion of important Microsoft tools or programs that are necessary for running an operating system.
  • Tip #4: After cleanup, back up important programs as well as documents, photos and music. This can be done by using an external drive or an online backup service. Be sure to set aside some time for this step, since transferring all files can take hours or even days, depending on how much data is involved.
  • Tip #5: Back up settings and fonts by using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, which is located in the System Tools folder under Accessories in the Start menu. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it saves you from having to do reconfiguration after the installation.
  • Tip #6: If you’re moving from Vista, the process will involve choosing either Custom or Upgrade as an option. Going with Custom gives you more options, but it can also mean reinstalling applications. If you want to keep it simple, pick Upgrade.
  • Tip #7: Unplug all USB devices, printers, external drives and scanners, even if you connected them for the Advisor program. We’ve seen reports of stalled installations caused by device connections.
  • Tip #8: Make sure you’re connected to the Internet, since the installation process involves retrieving updates from Microsoft. If there’s no Internet connection, the operating system can still be installed with updates downloaded later. However, it’s easier to do the entire fresh install while connected.
  • Tip #9: Have all important service numbers, Web sites or emails on hand for additional help. Think of it as your computer version of 911; you don't want to have to use it, but you have the number anyway.

Have you completed each of these steps? Great! You’re good to go. With a PC that’s cleaned up and backed up, installation will be faster and easier. Now you’ll have time to think about all the ways to use that new, speedy processing power.

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