How to upgrade from Windows 7 RC to Windows 7
If you're running the Windows 7 Release Candidate then you'll need to upgrade to the full version by the end of February. This guide explains how
Users of Windows 7 Release Candidate don't have too many choices when it comes to upgrading to the full version. While you can cheat by tweaking the cversion.ini file, the best option for most people is to take the leap and perform a clean installation.
The good news is that it's very easy to do. Vista's installation was a huge improvement over the text-based clunkiness of XP, but you still needed to sit and watch the routine as it asked for help throughout. Windows 7 gets everything out of the way at the start so you can leave your computer installing and come back when it's done.
Here, we provide eight simple steps, from choosing the right version to adjusting the final settings.
Choose your version
Before you even start thinking about installing Windows 7 on to your machine, you need to be certain you’ve made the right choice when it comes to the version. We cover this in detail in our Windows 7 review.
However, while you can always perform an “Anytime Upgrade” to jump from Home Premium to Ultimate, this is your last chance to decide whether or not you choose the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. If you later decide you want to move to 64-bit – perhaps when you decide 4GB of memory is no longer enough – you’ll have to perform a full reinstall.
Back up your stuff
If losing all your files and settings is a bit too “clean” for your liking, you can back them up using Windows 7’s Easy Transfer wizard, then restore them to your new system after installation. In Vista, go to Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools and click on Windows Easy Transfer to kick it off. Opt to start a new transfer and tell the wizard that this is your old computer.
If you're using Windows 7 Release Candidate, just type "Easy Transfer" into the Windows start box and click on the first entry that appears in the dialog.
You can choose where to store your files during the switch: an external hard disk is best, but you can also use a USB flash drive or a recordable DVD, or back up over your home network to another PC.
Give your backup a name, then choose whether to transfer all your existing user accounts and their data, or just the currently active account. It’s safest to click Advanced options and tick exactly which files and folders you need. This done, start the process and make a cup of coffee while it completes.
Insert the Windows 7 disc and restart the PC. If you get a message saying “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD”, do so. If you don’t see this and the installer doesn’t appear, you’ll need to access your BIOS and ensure it’s set to boot from the DVD before any other drive, such as the hard disk. Check your PC’s manual if you’re not sure how to do this. You should soon see the initial Windows 7 setup screen, where you can alter the regional settings if necessary.
Choose your destination
Next you’ll be asked what type of installation you want: Upgrade or Custom. We want the latter. Now choose where to install Windows 7: you’ll see a display of all your local hard disks and partitions. This may vary according to how many drives are in your PC and how they’re set up, but for most Windows machines it will be more or less the same. Unless you want a dual-boot or virtualised system, pick the main partition containing your existing Windows system. You’ll need at least 16GB free, although we’d recommend at least double that.
Once you’re sure you have the correct partition, click on it and click Next. You’ll be warned you’re about to lose the data on that disk, so be sure you’ve backed it up (whether using Easy Transfer or manually) before you continue.
The install process is nowhere near as lengthy as with Windows XP or Vista, so you can come back to your PC in as little as half-an-hour. Don’t be alarmed if your system restarts itself several times.
Enter your details
Windows 7 will now start for the first time, and you’ll need to enter your details, beginning with a name for your PC (so you can recognise it on a network). You have the option of setting a password for your user account, sensible on a shared PC, before entering your 25-character product key, found on or in your Windows 7 packaging. As long as the “Automatically activate Windows when I’m online” box is ticked, Windows 7 will authenticate itself automatically.
The final settings
Opt to let Windows check for updates automatically, so that your system is as secure and up to date as it can be. Then choose your location: selecting Home, Work or Public gives Windows different default security settings. You may also be given the chance to create a homegroup, which links PCs on a network.
And you’re done. To restore your backed-up data, click Windows 7’s Start orb and go to All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Windows Easy Transfer. Navigate to where you stored your backup, choose what to restore and click Transfer. Finally, you should protect your system as soon as possible by adding antivirus software such as AVG Anti-Virus Free 9.0.