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Windows 7: A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade

06 Dec 2009   #1

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade

A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade

You have most likely heard that a clean (custom) install is the preferred install method when migrating to Windows 7. That is most certainly true. However, there are situations when in-place upgrade is more practical method to use. Tens, maybe hundreds of gigs software installed, no install media found for the software and so on.

You might have heard horror stories about non-working Seven and how it’s all in-place upgrade’s fault, or how an in-place leaves so much unwanted and not used pieces and bits it seriously puts your system in danger, at least making it slow. Most of these horror stories come from two types of users, those who have never done a Vista to Seven in-place upgrade but have heard third hand information and rumours, and those who have not prepared installation as it should be prepared.

I have done a lot of in-place upgrades, both from XP to Vista and lately from Vista to Seven. I have even successfully tried a one-session XP to Seven via Vista in-place upgrade (in-place XP to Vista, installing service packs and drivers and then directly in-place further to Seven), to show some colleagues how to do a safe and working upgrade. I have never encountered any upgrade related problems; I do have had my share of installation problems and issues but I’ve always found out that after failing to do an in-place upgrade, the same issue has occurred also after a clean install. Most often the reason is non-compatible hardware. You cannot blame in-place if your hardware refuses to work with Seven.

First, let’s take a look at the chart about in-place options:

A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade-upgrade_chart.png

(Click the images to show them bigger)

As you can see it is not possible to "downgrade when upgrading" i.e. you cannot in-place upgrade from for example Vista Ultimate to Seven Home Premium. You need to have the same or better edition (notice that you can in-place upgrade to Seven Professional only from Vista Business). Your current Vista needs at least service pack 1 to be able to upgrade to Seven.

Notice please:
  • You can only in-place upgrade to Win7 from Vista. Older Windows versions (XP, 2000 etc.) can not be in-place upgraded to Seven
  • You cannot in-place upgrade a 32-bit Vista to a 64-bit Seven or 64-bit Vista to a 32-bit Seven
  • The language versions have to match, you can in-place upgrade an English Vista only with an English Seven

So, let’s start. This guide will show you how to prepare and do an in-place upgrade from Vista to Seven. Following these steps you are most likely to get it right first time.

1. Check the compatibility issues
  • Download and run Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor
  • Follow any instructions given
  • Uninstall all incompatible software, update drivers and software if Advisor tells so
A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade-upgrade_advisor.png

2. Prepare your system
  • Update (flash) your system BIOS to most current version
  • After flashing BIOS, restore it to factory defaults
3. Prepare your software setup
  • Uninstall all applications and software you never use or which is expired (test and trial versions, software you know you are never going to use like the game you tested but didn’t like etc.)
  • Update AV and Firewall software to the most current versions, including virus definitions
  • Turn off AV, Firewall and all malware software. Remember to turn them on again after installation is finished
  • Check and run Windows Update until it tells you Vista is up to date
  • Clean up your system deleting all unnecessary files like temp folders etc.
  • Backup your system
4. Prepare your hardware setup
  • Check Device Manager to assure all devices are working
  • Disconnect all external devices, leave only the main display, mouse and keyboard
  • If upgrading a laptop, be sure it is connected to an AC power source
That’s it. Insert the install media and start doing an in-place upgrade. Please notice this is the most boring part of the process; an in-place upgrade can take hours as this chart shows:

A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade-upgrade_time.png

An in-place upgrade can easily take longer than doing a clean install and re-installing all the software. If you don't have too much personal files to transfer, only have a limited amount of applications to re-install and if you have all install media, I recommend doing a clean install. Remember though there's nothing wrong doing an in-place upgrade. It works well and fine when done right.

Enjoy your upgraded system. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to ask.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Dec 2009   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 10, Home Clean Install

Thank you, Kari, for taking the time in an attempt to help everyone who have not taken advantage of the greatest OS, to date.

I know that I felt a bit intimidated when I installed Windows 7 and your guide would have helped me, too.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Dec 2009   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient


Thanks, Rich.

I been reading these clean vs. upgrade threads and noticed there really was not a simple to read and understand guide about in-place upgrade. I felt I knew how to at least give it a better chance to succeed. In-place upgrade is a real alternative to some of us.

My System SpecsSystem Spec

06 Dec 2009   #4
Microsoft MVP


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by richc46 View Post
Thank you, Kari, for taking the time in an attempt to help everyone who have not taken advantage of the greatest OS, to date.

I know that I felt a bit intimidated when I installed Windows 7 and your guide would have helped me, too.
+1 Bravo! Bumped.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2011   #5

Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit SP2

Ok i'm a little confused. When I bought my pc on september 2009 later I ordered a free Windows 7 Upgrade Kit. This disc I have is for the in-place upgrade right?? I wanted to install 7 several times, but I was a little scared about it, because I don't want to lose all my images, songs, games, etc. Does this installation deletes everything? Or it just upgrades Vista to Seven?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2011   #6
Microsoft MVP


MS required manufacturers to provide a clean-copy Win7 Installation DVD in addition to a driver/applications disk for the Upgrade kits. So you have the ability to boot to clean install using the DVD if you want. Clean Install Windows 7

Confirm that there is a Product Key with the Installation media disk. That key should be accepted up front during install on a factory upgrade kit even if you wipe the HD first to get the cleanest install: re-install windows 7

Or follow Kari's steps above to run an in-place Upgrade which keeps files, programs and settings in place but reinstalls the OS only.

Be sure to back up your files first and (if you want) a Vista backup image as there is always a slight risk when installing.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2011   #7

Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit SP2

Well, I'm not sure about how to do a backup, never done it before. And also, are you sure that by installing this upgrade kit my HD will keep all of its data? No risk of losing everything?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2011   #8
Microsoft MVP


You'lll need to backup your data whether you do a clean install or an in-place Upgrade.

The easiest method is to go to your active User Account folder and either drag it intact to another HD, another computer on the network or DVD's. If you need to split up the data, drag each Active user folder: Documents, Pictures, Video, Music, Favorites, etc.

This saves a lot of wasted space and other complication caused by backup programs. Just click n drag to the storage location on the explorer tree on left hand margin of explorer window.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 Jan 2011   #9

Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit SP2

Alright thanks for your help Greg, I'll try to do it soon
My System SpecsSystem Spec
24 Jan 2012   #10

Win 7 Home premium 64 bit

I have a situation not shown on your Vista to Win7 chart
I have Win7 64bit installed but I accidentally deleted my D partition which had Office 2010 on it. My win7 still works and Office is still in my control panel. So
1. can I Update in Place Win7 64bit to Win7 64bit without reentering my product key? i.e. since I already have a Win7 installed, will he update in place recognize this and not require me to reenter the product key. This is a corporate license, reentering the product key means another license issued.
2. would I be better to use Win7 repair.
3. which order should I do my repair/update in place. i.e. should I repair my Office 2010 first, then Win7
4. I am trying to back up my Win7 first with Acronis True Image sector by sector image but it found some unreadable bytes which I told it to ignore. (I did chkdsk but no help). I am uncertain if my Acronis restore will work
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 A simple guide to a successful in-place upgrade

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