There are two major challenges to any migration task: not lose any data, and migrate as quickly as possible so you don't lose much working time.
In order to migrate from Windows Vista to Windows 7, my preferred method was the dual-boot way. It works for going from Windows XP to Windows 7 as well. The steps I took were:
- Create a partition from within Vista for the new Windows 7 installation
- Install Windows 7
- Install all the software I plan on using
- Copy old data files from Vista partition to Windows 7 partition
- Use the new partition and test everything
- Delete Vista partition and use Windows 7 as primary operating system
Let me go over these in detail.
The first step is to create a partition for the new operating system, if you don't already have one. I used the free Partition Wizard Home Edition on both my machines and it worked great. The reason I chose this program was because it works with Windows 7 64-bit edition, which is what I was installing. (Screenshots from Partition Wizard website)
One snag I ran into was that there wasn't enough free space for the new partition. I had enough free space but not all of it was available. To clear up more space I disabled the System Restore feature in Windows Vista, which takes up a good amount of space.
Instructions for turning off System Restore (from Microsoft's website
- Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.
- In the System Properties dialog box, click the System Restore tab.
- Click to select the Turn off System Restore check box. Or, click to select the Turn off System Restore on all drives check box.
- Click OK.
- When you receive the following message, click Yes to confirm that you want to turn off System Restore: After a few moments, the System Properties dialog box closes.
Once that was done I had enough space for a new partition.
Go ahead and create a new partition in Partition Wizard. Partition Wizard will restart the computer, create the partition, and restart back into Windows. You're then ready to install Windows 7.
Installing Windows 7 is as easy as throwing in the DVD, booting from it, and following instructions. Specify the new partition you created as the install location, and during the installation Windows 7 automatically sets up the dual-boot for you. It sets Windows 7 as the default operating system, with a 30-second pause before it loads on its own.
Most of the software you used in Vista should work in Windows 7. Install whatever you use just as you would in Vista. If you installed the x64-version of Windows 7 you may want to check for 64-bit versions of the programs you use.
All your data from your Vista installation is available to you to use in your new Windows 7 installation. You may have noticed that your C: drive from Vista is now the D: drive in Windows 7. That's fine, because all the data is accessible just as it was before. If you want, you can even keep the Vista installation as it is and access the data in Windows 7 from that partition.
But if you want to migrate to Windows 7 altogether, you will want to copy all the files you use to the new partition. You can probably keep the same file structure as before, copying My Documents to Documents, My Pictures to Pictures, etc.
I would recommend copying instead of moving because you'll be deleting the Vista partition in the end anyway, so you're not permanently losing any space with the temporary duplication. It just gives you an extra buffer of protection while migrating.
This is a crucial step. I held on to the old Vista partition for a couple of weeks to make sure I had copied everything I needed. Sometimes there are files and settings you forget about that you end up needing at an unexpected time. Once you've spent enough time with the new operating system and your workflow is the same as (or better than) before, you can safely delete the old partition.
Install Partition Wizard Home Edition, but now in the new Windows 7 installation. This time you want to delete the Vista partition and merge the free space into the Windows 7 partition. Partition Wizard lets you do both in one step.
Allow it to delete the partition, let it do its thing and restart. What you'll notice is that Windows 7 fails to boot! Not to worry. Get out your Windows 7 installation DVD, launch from it, and instead of installing this time, choose to repair an installation. Let the installer restart your system while it repairs the boot record, and soon enough you should be launching right into your working installation of Windows 7. Your Vista installation will be gone and the disk space from it will be available in the C: drive of your Windows 7 installation.