Interested in installing Windows 7 but want to avoid headaches and potential pitfalls? Then read our guide on how to set up a dual-boot Vista/Windows 7 machine and migrate to a new PC.

Windows 7 is currently the hot topic - and Microsoft is expected to stop handing out public beta keys on January 24. However, what do you do if you're yearning to try the new Windows 7 beta everyone's talking about but don't have a spare machine lying around? Fear not: you can install Windows 7 in a small corner of your primary PC, without interfering with any of your day-to-day operations.

Set-up a dual-boot configuration for Windows 7

The secret: create a new drive partition where the beta can take up residence. Lifehacker has a step-by-step guide that shows you how to do this, so I won't regurgitate the steps here.

I will say that I tried this recently and it worked like a charm. Perhaps ironically, it's easiest for Windows Vista users, as that OS has built-in drive-partitioning tools. (And you thought it brought nothing new to the table.) But you can do it in Windows XP as well, provided you use a freeware partitioning program.

After you're done with the install, you'll be able to boot to your original Windows partition or the new one containing Windows 7. Truly, this is an ideal way to take the beta for a spin. And when you're done tinkering (or the licence expires in August, whichever comes first), you can easily remove the partition to reclaim the drive space.

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NEXT PAGE: Migrating to a new PC

  1. Avoid headaches when setting up Microsoft's new OS
  2. Migrating to a new PC

Interested in installing Windows 7 but want to avoid headaches and potential pitfalls? Then read our guide on how to set up a dual-boot Vista/Windows 7 machine and migrate to a new PC.

Plan your migration to a new PC

I just ordered a new PC. That's right, I'm doing my part to help the economy (or so I told the missus). When it arrives, I'll get to enjoy the kind of fun that usually requires a visit to the dentist's chair: migrating all my programs, data, and settings to the new machine.

I've had a bit of experience with this over the years, and feel like I've just about got it down to a science. The secret to a successful migration? Planning, planning, planning.

For starters, I've got a week or so until the UPS driver delivers my new toy. During that time, I'm going to compile a list of all the programs I use regularly, if not daily: Word, Outlook, Firefox, IrfanView, iTunes, and so on.

My plan is to reinstall each program on the new machine, as opposed to using pricey migration software to try to move the apps. In my opinion, that's just asking for hassles. For each program on my list, I make a note: 'CD or 'download'. If it's something I can't download to the new machine, I'll start searching now for the CDs I'll need.

Also for each program on the list, I make a note of what kind of data goes with it. That way, I can determine the best way to migrate. Firefox, for instance, has bookmarks, passwords, and extensions. The bookmarks and passwords are a snap: after installing Firefox on the new machine, I'll then install the Foxmarks extension and sign into my account. It syncs my bookmarks and passwords to the browser and presto, I'm done.

As for Word, I keep all my documents in a Data folder; it's a simple matter to copy that over to the new machine. (I'll connect both PCs to the network for fast and easy file transfers.) Same goes for my photos, videos, MP3s, and the like.

In addition to listing apps and data, I'm making notes about drivers I'll need for printers and other accessories. I'm making sure I've got registration codes for programs I've purchased online. And I'm clearing extra home-office space so I can keep the old machine 'live' for a few weeks after I've transitioned to the new one, just in case I discover I left something important behind.

You know how it goes with moving.

See our Laptop Advisor website for expert reviews of today's best laptops, plus read our essential advice to make sure you choose the right specs

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See also: Windows 7: the public beta explained

  1. Avoid headaches when setting up Microsoft's new OS
  2. Migrating to a new PC