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How do-it-yourselfers do Windows
on July 10, 2011
If you've reinstalled Windows just once in your life, you've learned enough to tackle a full virgin installation of Windows 7 from a system builder DVD. Microsoft has finally created an operating system with so much built-in support and maintenance technology it practically does all the work for you, so if your current Windows XP machine is labeled "Windows Vista Capable" or "Windows 7 Capable," this is the way to go. Just to be sure, install and run Microsoft's Upgrade Advisor. If it passes the 64-bit system requirements, order up!
You can't upgrade from XP to 7; you have to wipe the drive or partition and perform a clean install, but even an upgrade from Vista to 7 is fraught with peril, so you might as well do the same if you're running Vista. Just back up your data and find all your application installation software before you begin. Once you activate Windows 7, it's married to the PC's system board. You can't reuse the product key on another machine unless you can convince Microsoft that the previous PC is out of commission. You're also not eligible for free phone and chat support from Microsoft, but there's a big enough expert user base that you should be able to solve most problems by joining a few Windows 7 users' forums. If you're not building an exotic tricked-out übergamingmaschine with overclocked handmade graphics cards, you shouldn't have much trouble that will require outside help. Your humble author installed Windows 7 64-bit on a MacBook Pro using Boot Camp. It found our Brother WiFi laser printer and installed the latest drivers and Brother's printer control center.
The biggest advantage: you'll skip all the "enhanced experience" software the likes of Dell, HP and Lenovo cram onto their otherwise zippy machines. After the latest updates install, head off to microsoft dot com slash securityessentials and you'll get all the virus and malware protection you'll need absolutely FREE. Pay a visit to your PC maker's website, let 'em scan your system and grab all the latest hardware drivers.
With a system builder DVD, you don't get both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. If you should find that 64-bit isn't right for your machine, don't fret. Just Google the phrase "legal windows 7 download" and the first match will show you how to create a 32-bit installation DVD that you can activate on the same PC using the product key from the 64-bit DVD. The new installation wipes out the old one and that keeps everything legal.