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FAQs: how to upgrade to Windows 7

How to upgrade to Windows 7, hassle free

When it comes to upgrading to Microsoft's latest operating system Windows 7, there's been so much written on the subject, you may well be thinking that you'll breeze through the process. However, there are some tricky nuances and possible snags that continue to confound consumers. We look at just what you may need to consider.

The 32bit/64bit question

Even if you have a fairly new PC running Vista, you may not be getting the best version of Windows 7 when you do an in-place upgrade. Why? You've got a 32bit system.

64bit versions of Windows are becoming all the rage. At its simplest, this refers to how much information a processor can handle at one time. 64bit Windows can run faster than 32bit, allows more applications to run at once and facilitates faster switching between apps.

You should understand, however, that to get the full benefit of a 64bit OS and 64bit compatible hardware, you'll also need 64bit applications - and application developers are still lagging behind Microsoft and Intel on this front. Your favourite and most demanding apps may not have been rewritten to take advantage of 64bit technology yet.

Most PCs sold in the past three years have 64bit compatible hardware and most sold in the past nine months run a 64bit version of Vista. So if you've got one of these, and want to upgrade, just load the 64bit Windows 7 disk (Windows 7 retail packages come with both 32- and 64bit disks) and let your in-place upgrade to 64bit Windows 7 begin.

But if you're like me and your laptop runs a 32bit version of Windows Vista, your only in-place upgrade will be to a 32bit version of Windows 7. To go from 32bit to 64bit, you will have to do a clean install. Additionally, you'll have to add RAM if you have anything less than 4GB, because 64bit demands this much at minimum for good performance.

You could upgrade your Vista machine from 32bit Vista to 64bit Vista first, and then do an in-place upgrade to 64bit Windows 7. But in addition to buying a Windows 64bit Vista disk and buying more RAM, you'd still have to do a clean install for the 32bit Vista to 64bit Vista upgrade.

Is it a disadvantage to run a 32bit version of Windows 7? Heck no. Most users run a 32bit OS very comfortably everyday. With 3GB of RAM, a 32bit OS can easily handle aggressive computer use (unless maybe you're editing the next Spielberg movie on your laptop.)

But if you're a forward-looking power user with the latest hardware who usually has 10 apps going at once, then 64bit will be worth the dreaded clean install.

Laptop buying advice

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See also: Is the Windows 7 touch capability useless?

  1. It could be Heaven or Hell
  2. XP to Windows 7: the hard way
  3. The 32bit/64bit question

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