How to upgrade (relatively) painlessly to Windows 7

Windows Easy Transfer does the hard work for you

I think we all know by now that, no matter how good the Windows version you are installing may be, the one thing that doesn’t often go well is performing an upgrade from a prior version.

Any network administrator can tell you that, given two identical machines with identical Windows installations and settings, you are still not very likely to have two similar experiences upgrading to a new version. Even Windows 98, which I still say is arguably the best version of Windows ever made, had upgrading quirks despite how similar it was in many ways to Windows 95.

Undoubtedly the best and most secure way to upgrade is to reformat the drive and do a fresh install. Of course, in the real world, where users haphazardly install random applications and save to the local hard drive even though you told them to use the network drives time and time again, reformatting may not be a feasible option. So how are you supposed to upgrade to Windows 7 cleanly?

Our friends at Microsoft have what we all hope will be the answer: Windows Easy Transfer. This utility will transfer from a computer running XP or Vista all the user accounts, files and folders, e-mail stuff and general settings to another computer, network, external hard drive, or even CDs and DVDs. Then, once the new OS is in place, another run of Easy Transfer will move them all back, making it all seem as though nothing has changed. If you tweak it right, you should be able to save everything, which would allow you to do a fresh install on a reformatted drive.

So why didn't Microsoft come out with this wonder before? Actually, they did — it also was available when Vista came out in 2007. It’s too bad Vista was so unpopular, or Microsoft might have gotten more praise then for trying to lessen the pain of upgrading.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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