Installing Windows 7

This is truly a great time to be a geek. Heck even if you are not, you will still find something that will interest you when you explore what Windows 7, Microsoft’s next operating system, has to offer. Microsoft has a lot at stake here and I will explain why. In this first of two post, I will go over how to install the Windows 7 RC candidate. In a following post, I will go over some of the awesome new features that Windows 7 has in store for you. You can be sure that Microsoft has put a lot of effort into making this operating system work for their consumers because finally, Microsoft has listened to feedback and consumer suggestions and have included a lot of features that we have always wanted. The result? Well, it will be one operating system that everyone should take notice of.

I will begin by saying this. For all the hardcore XP users out there, it’s time to finally let go. XP was indeed one of Microsoft’s best work to date, operating system wise. However, Windows 7 is the future. Everything just seems to work. Vista users, depending on your experience with it, you could have been either left with a bitter aftertaste of what felt like a rushed operating system or you could have been one of the users that loved it because luckily for you, all of your software and hardware installed correctly. I feel that I should discuss Vista a little bit more because it tackles two issues at once. First it will give you a much needed insight as to why you should not be afraid of Windows 7 due to your experiences with Vista and secondly, it will allow XP users to also see why upgrading to Windows 7 is the smart move.

When Vista arrived to the markets, it received a huge backlash. One of the major complaint was the lack of driver support. No driver for your hardware? Then it’s as good as sitting piece of junk. Either that or you won’t be able to utilize that equipment to it’s fullest potential. Although Microsoft couldn’t be totally at fault here because technically, it is the job of third party manufacturers to actually release those said drivers in the first place, consumers will not look at the issue from that viewpoint. Another complaint was software compatibility. Although Microsoft did have a tool to help users migrate to Vista and to check for software compatibility problems, average users just don’t like performing these kind of tasks! All they care about is turning on their computer and being able to access their application! Vista also required strict hardware requirements in order to run well, especially if you wanted to turn on the newly introduced Aero interface. Vista was also considered a ‘resource hog’. On a cleanly installed Vista system I did, without any third party applications installed other than the necessary hardware drivers, I still had about 68 processes running in Task Manager!

With Windows 7, everything seems to have been revitalized and revamped. On a clean Windows 7 install on my Lenovo R61 laptop, I had about 42 processes running. Third party manufacturers have realized the importance of developing and releasing their hardware drivers when a new operating system ships and with Windows 7, they did a much better job. A major advantage of Windows 7 is that it can be installed on much older hardware. Some testers even crammed Windows 7 into old netbooks, which have limited hardware resources, and still be able to use the netbook for basic functionality like web browsing, listening to music and watching video clips from Youtube. Of course, your mileage may vary but from what I have seen so far and from what a lot of computer veterans have said about Windows 7, this will be the operating system that will put Microsoft back to the top and gain everyone’s confidence again. Technically, Microsoft is still the most dominant OS provider in the market today but Vista left a lot of users disappointed.

The Windows 7 RC (release candidate) is publicly available to anyone who wishes to use it. The release candidate is very much a representative of what the final release of Windows 7 will look like. For example, at this point all of the major features have already been set and implemented. Of course between now and the final release of the OS, they will iron out the bugs and basically ‘tweak’ the OS here and there for other minor changes.

To fully test Windows 7, I recommend you to do a full install of the OS on a spare computer or laptop. This means that you will lose all of your data on the hard drive so before attempting to do anything, backup your important files if you haven’t already. Remember, everything gets erased and this includes your user accounts, data, music, videos, photos and applications. The user guide I am writing is based on a full install.

If you only have one computer to work with, than what I suggest you do is to follow my guide on how to create a full system image of your current computer system. Once you have created the image and have it stored on an external hard drive, you can be sure that in the event something goes wrong with Windows 7 (whether you don’t want to use it anymore or a fatal error has occurred), you can quickly restore the system image back to the system and continue working on your previous OS with everything intact and just the way you have left it before creating the image.

# Downloading the Windows 7 RC ISO file
First things first. You will need to download the Windows 7 RC from Microsoft’s website. The file weighs in at about 2.35GB. If you have a really slow connection, you might want to visit a friend who has a faster broadband or DSL connection to download the ISO file. The webpage also has a lot of useful information about installing Windows 7 so carefully read it so that you understand the procedures. Please be careful in which version you download. If your computer is 32-bit, then by all means download the 32-bit version and vice versa for 64-bit systems! You will need to provide a Hotmail or Live email account so that Microsoft can send you a product key. As a reminder, the file is available as a free download until about July or so according to Microsoft.

Microsoft allows you to freely use Windows 7 until June 1, 2010. However, beginning of March 1, 2010 Microsoft will start implementing automatic bi-hourly shutdowns if you are still using the Windows 7 RC at that time. Windows 7 has a predicted shipping date of October 2009 so it’s not too far from now. You can download the Windows 7 RC ISO file here.

Once you have the full ISO file downloaded, then you will need a blank DVD to burn the ISO using your favorite burning application. Once you have completed both of these steps, its time to install it!

# Boot from the DVD
Insert your newly created Windows 7 RC DVD into your DVD drive and select the option to boot from that device first. Depending on your computer, you either have to enter the BIOS to change the setting or by pressing a certain key to alter your boot device priority. Either way, you’ll quickly see the Windows splash screen and arrive at the ‘Install Windows’ page. Hit Next to accept the defaults. Next, hit the Install Now button to continue.

Install Screen

Next you’ll want to look over the license terms and then hit the ‘I accept the license terms’ checkbox and then hit Next. Now it will ask you what type of installation you will want to perform. Click the ‘Custom (Advanced)’ button to proceed.

Type of Installation

# Erasing your hard drive and creating a partition
Warning! By following these steps, you agree that you are fully aware that all data on the hard drive (or partition) will be erased. If you haven’t made a backup yet, you still can do so but once you erase it, you cannot go back.

In the ‘Where do you want to install Windows’ box, you will see the physical hard drives installed in your computer as well as their partitions. If you have just one hard drive installed, then it will be labeled as Disk 0. Select the disk and choose the ‘Advanced’ option. Now select the ‘Delete’ button. This will erase the hard drive. Next, click ‘New’. Here you will have to make a decision. You can either use your entire hard drive space as one partition or you can create one or more partitions to better organize your data if you so wish to. If you want to create a second partition, then in the ‘size’ option box you’ll want to specify how big you want the partition that houses your Windows 7 (essentially your main C:) files to be. For example if you have a 100GB hard drive and want to split it into two 50GB partitions, one for your main Windows 7 system files and applications and the other for data only, then you need to specify it here. In my example I will use the entire 20GB as a single partition.
You will notice that once you specify your partition size, a message will popup alerting you that Windows might create additional partitions for system files. Hit OK.

Additional Partition

Once done so, you will then notice that Windows have created a separate 100MB partition for you. This is done so for preparations of the Bitlocker service. Don’t worry. This doesn’t cause any harm to you if you don’t use the Bitlocker service or even know what it is. Just know that you can safely disregard that separate partition. Now you want to make sure that the partition that you want Windows 7 to be installed on is selected/highlighted before hitting ‘Next’.

Partitions

# Wait for it to install
That’s it! Windows 7 has now all the necessary information to begin installing the operating system onto your hard drive. The install process has dramatically improved from past operating systems and now takes much less time to install.

Install Process

# Entering post installation information
Once everything is installed, it’s now time to fill in the blanks. Your first task is to type in a username and computer name.

User Account

Next will be entering your password. Please create a strong one!

Account Password

Typing in your product key will be next. Microsoft should have emailed you the product key so check your email and enter it here.

Product Key

Next, it is recommended that you immediately install the important updates. This will make sure your Windows 7 is as secure as possible with the latest patches.

Windows Update

Next, select your timezone and make sure your date and time is correct. Now you will choose your ‘Network Location’. If your computer is used at your home for personal use, simply select the ‘Home Network’ option and the proper firewall settings will be applied automatically.

Network Location

Once that’s settled, you will then be presented with the Windows 7 desktop! The first thing you’ll want to do is head back into Windows Update and check for the optional downloads. This will allow Microsoft to check if there are any drivers that you should download and install for your hardware. Remember, no driver means you can’t use that particular hardware device. To check your hardware status, head into Device Manager. Do so by hitting the Start Menu and typing in ‘devmgmt.msc’ and then hitting Enter. You will then be presented with a list of all the hardware currently installed on your computer. If you see any yellow exclamation mark next to a device, then it’s usually missing a driver. Search Windows Update to see if it can find a match for it.

Windows 7 Desktop
Device Manager

In part 2, I will go over some of the most notorious changes you will notice when using Windows 7. Be prepared to be amazed!

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