Ultimate includes everything in both other versions, and adds BitLocker encryption.
The key thing to consider here is that you will have to do a clean installation, without the ability to carry your applications and files along, if you move from one level of Vista to another level of Windows 7, say from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional. The exception is Windows 7 Ultimate, which will let you perform an in-place upgrade from any level of Vista, so long as you don't change from a 32-bit to a 64-bit version (or vice versa).
The good news is that any computer manufactured in the last couple of years will probably have a 64-bit capable CPU. The rule here is that if you have, or intend to install, more than 4GB of memory on your PC, you will have to use the 64-bit version of Windows 7.
At QBS PC Help we currently use Windows 7 Professional and think it's the best Operating System Microsoft has ever produced! It's very easy to install. You just need to place the DVD into your CDRW/DVD tray, close it and let Windows do it's stuff. That's if you just want to wipe your hard drive and have a fresh install of Windows 7. If that's not what you want to do please read on.
There are in fact two options to choose from when you go through the Windows 7 installation process:
Upgrade: this option replaces your current version of Windows with Windows 7, and keeps your files, settings, and programs in place on your computer.
Custom: this option replaces your current version of Windows with Windows 7, but doesn't preserve your files, settings, and programs. It's sometimes referred to as a clean installation for that reason. If you choose this option, or even a straight upgrade, you really must backup all your important files and folders to a different drive so that they can easily be restored to your new Windows 7 installation. It's also good policy to take an image of your complete hard drive in case you have to go back to your previously installed Operating System.
Both 32-bit and 64-bit installation discs come in the Windows 7 box, so you only have to specify which one you want to use. QBS PC Help recommend that if your system can run 64-bit software, you should go for it. You'll be using your CPU and memory more efficiently, and you'll be future-proofed for upcoming 64-bit applications.
The vast majority of drivers already exist to make hardware and your computers peripherals, such as printers and scanners, work seamlessly, without having to download any updated drivers. And most software that worked in Vista installs without any problems on Windows 7.
If you're doing an Upgrade from Vista, you should insert the Windows 7 DVD while your PC is running. But if you're doing a Custom install, restart the system with the DVD in the C drive. Make sure you've chosen the correct 32- or 64-bit disc and power up the system. You may need to hit a function key and then hit any key in order to boot from the DVD drive.
The Custom installation gives you a lot of options not available from a straightforward upgrade, like formatting and partitioning your hard drive. We recommend this type of "clean" install if you can live with having to reinstall your all your applications. The advantage of doing this is that your system will run without any of the junk it's accumulated over the course of many program installations and other system changes. You must start up from the DVD as you cannot run the installer from within Windows for this type of custom installation.
Next, you'll see a "Windows is loading files…" message and a progress bar, followed by a "Starting Windows" splash screen. After this, you'll be able to choose your language, time, keyboard, and currency formats.
Hit Next and you'll see a big Install Now button, but, before you hit it a couple of useful links are located below: "What to know before installing Windows" and "Repair your computer." The first addresses the topics of Upgrade and Custom options. The second offers advanced tools to address problems with booting your PC and lets you recover using a backup you've previously created.
Click the Install Now button. There's still time to back out, because on the next screen you have to accept the license agreement by checking a box.
It's after this that you get the choice between an Upgrade and a Custom (advanced) installation. For an Upgrade installation, the process then begins.
The Upgrade installation usually takes a bit longer than a Custom (or "Clean") installation: between 45 minutes and an hour. A clean installation should take half an hour or so, depending on your computer systems speed.
If you choose Custom, there's a little more to do.
Your next screen will show you a list of the disk partitions on your hard drive, and you'll need to select one on which to install Windows 7.
If you're lucky, the partitions will be titled with understandable text, but even failing that, your best choice is the one the installer preselects, which is the partition on which your previous OS was installed. This will have the type System shown in a column to the right, and all the partitions will show how much disk space has been allotted to them.
If you want to create another partition - for example, to multi-boot different Operating Systems - click Advanced. This will add choices to delete, format, and create new partitions. If you really want to completely remove your existing Operating System, choose Format. If you don't do this, the installer will actually make a copy of the files from your previous OS in a folder called Windows.old. Finally, the Advanced options let you load a driver for an external drive and extend a partition. (This last option will only be usable if you have unallocated disk space i.e., storage space that's not part of an existing partition-which will only be the case if you've added a new hard drive or done some partitioning yourself.)
Assuming you're choosing the same partition your previous Windows version used, you'll get a warning that your files will be moved to a Windows.old folder. If you've done this more than once, the folder will be named "windows.old.001," and so on.
Now comes the waiting. The Windows 7 installer copies its files to your disk, expands them (the longest step in this process), installs features, installs updates, and you're there. If something goes wrong - say, the external disk drive you're using gets disconnected - you can abort the installation and everything it's done to your system will be undone.
After Running Setup
Once setup has run its course, you'll be asked to type in a username (20 characters maximum) and computer name (15 characters maximum). Then you're asked for a password, password confirmation, and password hint. (You can bypass this last step if you're not worried about others getting into your PC.)
After this, you're supposed to enter your product key, but since you have a 30-day trial, you don't need to enter this right away. The same page by default sets the system to automatically activate Windows, but you may want to uncheck this if you're just trying it out. After 30 days, you'll see messages and warnings that you need to Activate, so it's not like you can forget about it.
Then you choose Security settings. The large choice at the top for Default Settings makes a lot of sense - it turns on automatic updates and checks online to resolve problems. The other two choices, "Install important updates only" and "Ask me later," leave you a bit less protected.
After this, you'll be prompted for your Time Zone and be given a chance to check the date and time. Windows gets this over the Internet, so you shouldn't have to set it manually.
Now comes the Welcome screen and the "Windows is preparing your Desktop" Message. And that's it - you're now running Windows 7! You'll will probably see updates are available in Windows Update, and these will probably require a restart.
If you did a Custom installation upgrade, install any applications and restore the files you backed up. If you've switched from the 32-bit edition to the 64-bit one, you can still install your 32-bit apps, but you may have to update your antivirus program and some hardware drivers to the 64-bit versions.
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