My Journey from Windows XP to Windows 7

How many computers does it take for Lisa to install Windows 7 on her one XP laptop? Find out! It was an unnecessarily long journey and I even survived to tell the tale.

  • 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of RAM (32-bit)/2 GB of RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB of available disk space (32-bit)/20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with Windows Display Driver Model 1.0  or higher driver

These are the big 4 requirements but Microsoft has a list of additional feature based requirements also.  

Looking at this screenshot of my Toshiba Tecra M3 laptop’s hardware specifications you can see that I am in pretty good shape for general hardware requirements. There is also a tool called the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (only a Beta version is currently available) that will tell me if all my devises will work with Windows 7 as well.

Toshiba XP System Specs

I downloaded and installed the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. This tool also requires .NET framework 2.0 or higher. I didn’t have it so I was automatically prompted to download and install it before continuing with the upgrade advisor install. 

The upgrade advisor told me to make sure I install all my devices before running the tool so that they can be checked for compatibility. That reminds me. What about my USB adaptor for my Play Station controller? I better still be able to use that.

Success! I am Windows 7 ready! Sort of. While there was no mention of my game controller this message was given for my wireless card:

Upgrade Advisor NIC Warning

I wonder why it wants me to download the driver upgrade first before installing Windows 7. If I download it now I would have to have an external device to save it to (I do have one but that’s not the point).  I decided to just ignore this advice and see it if bites me later.

There are several programs that the upgrade advisor is asking me to uninstall before upgrading to Windows 7. I will not be upgrading to 7 from XP as that is impossible. So I don’t need to bother uninstalling anything – everything will be wiped anyway. Did I mention that this tool is a beta?

File Backup

All I need to backup is My Documents, my browser favorites, and my Thunderbird profile. With those all safely copied and pasted onto a USB drive, I am ready to go.

Install Windows 7

I waited all morning on Thursday for the RTM downloads to show up on TechNet. Sometime around noon (CDT) I hit refresh and there they were — the  versions of Windows 7 in all their shining glory. I chose the 32 bit version of 7 Ultimate and started the download.

I also got a key from TechNet and made sure it was saved in a .txt file on my USB drive. What? Did you expect me physically to write it down? How barbaric.

After 3 hours and still no completed download I saw a tweet form Keith Combs with a tip to use the Akamai Technologies Download Manager Browser add-on at TechNet’s Top Downloads.  This was much faster!

Akamai Download Manager

My second attempt at downloading the ISO file finished in only 42 minutes. However, and this is a huge however – I simultaneously discovered that my DVD/CD-ROM drive on the Toshiba does not work. When was the last time I even tried to use it? I can’t be certain. This puts a damper on things.

Well, if I am going to embark on trying to make a bootable USB drive I might as well make it for my netbook instead and just get the Toshiba’s DVD/CD-ROM fixed/replaced. Now the focus switches to my Acer Aspire One A150X. This means a quick trip back to TechNet to get Windows 7 Home Premium instead of Ultimate (a new key too).

Acer Aspire One Netbook

Create a Bootable USB to Install Windows 7 From

After some Googling I found a guide at IntoWindows.com for making a bootable USB drive.  This guide shows the steps for making the drive bootable using Vista so I used a different (yes a third) computer to actually create the bootable drive.

I was using a 400GB external HDD instead of a little USB key. Therefore the line in the instructions that says “Format process may take few seconds” was a wee bit of an understatement. After an hour and a half the format was only at 18%.

Instead, I just used the normal Windows GIU method to do a quick format after assigning the drive a letter. This time, after an actual few seconds passed I just went back to the command prompt and continued on to step number 6. This worked for me just fine, but I would suggest sticking to the written directions if possible.

Bootable USB cmd Screenshot

At this point I was getting impatient. I didn’t bother with the Upgrade Advisor, I just checked to make sure the netbook had the minimum hardware requirements (it does), backed up my needed files, and went for it.

My first trip into the BIOS to change the boot order did not list USB as an option – not all computers can do this. However, after trying it again … with the USB drive actually plugged in to the computer, the option was available.

Acer BIOS Boot Menu

Custom Windows 7 Installation

I then followed the install wizard as it did its business:
A custom install is a clean install.

CustomInstall7

I left the XP restore partition on the netbook (hey you never know), and chose not to further partition the drive. The third drive you see here is actually the bootable USB hard drive.

Partition HDD

Besides asking for a computer name, username, time zone, and other expected configurations — the custom install asked me for my network information.  You could always skip this step if you want, but why not set it up now.

Join a Network During Install Wizard

Tada! Windows 7 on my netbook! That was easy.

Window 7 Desktop

All that is left is to get it configured just how I want. Sliding scale UAC controls here I come! Windows 7 sure has some wacky standard desktop backgrounds available.

So how many computers does it take for Lisa to install Windows 7?

The answer is 4. I know you probably only counted 3. In a momentary act of stupidity, I actually tried another ridiculously old machine I have that is running Windows ME. Needless to say it wouldn’t even open the Windows 7 install disk.  So the final tally is:

  • 2 broken/obsolete computers that were nothing but distractions from my true quest (you can’t polish a turd)
  • 1 current Vista machine on which to create the bootable USB drive
  • 1 slick little Acer netbook that eventually did run 7

Oh and don’t forget the 400GB external hard drive and my trusty Nikon D200 for all the awesome photos of the install.

Well, I hope your upgrade/custom install journey goes significantly better than mine did. I guess it was worth it in the end.

Share Your Journey: How did your Windows 7 install turn out?

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