Saturday, 5 March 2011

A step into the unknown

After deciding to upgrade to Windows 7 64bit my first action was to order an extra 4GB of memory for my PC. With memory priced by the dollar it is quite cheap at the moment. A quick visit to www.crucial.com and £50 from the credit card soon had memory on its way to me. When that arrived it was a matter of a two minutes work to open my PC box and plug in the extra memory.

Next was the task I'd been fearing. I wanted to go from Microsoft Vista Home premium (32 bit) to Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64 bit). This is not on Microsoft's automatic upgrade paths. It needs a clean install of the operating system with the joys of reinstalling all of the applications from their original DVD, CD's or downloads. Do you always keep those DVD's and their product key numbers?

Fortunately I remembered a company called Laplink produce a software tool called PC Mover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant. For £20 this tool takes a lot of the pain out of moving from an old version of Windows to Windows 7. You install the software on the "original" PC and set it running. Its first action is to examine your software and to create a "Moving Van" file. It stores almost all of your software settings in the moving van. Then you install the new version of Windows 7 on the PC but not allowing it to reformat the hard drive. Once the operating system installation has taken place reinstall the Moving Assistant. It will then use the "Moving Van" file to reconstruct the settings of your original application software and you are back in business.

But wait; I'm getting ahead of myself. On a major upgrade like this it is essential to take a complete backup of your PC and create a recovery DVD before proceeding with the changes. Then if things go wrong you have a chance to rebuild your PC without a loss of data. I have some disk backup software called Paragon so I chose to use that. It told me the backup would take 17 DVD's to backup the entire machine. I settled in for a long slow process of swapping and labelling DVD's. This where the problems started. After a few Gigabytes of data the backup would fail with an I/O error. The DVD's were effectively destroyed. I needed another solution.

It was time to spend some more money. I quickly located a suitable 320 GB external hard drive with a USB connection for about £50 from dabs.com. A moment's work with a credit card then I just had to sit back an wait for the post to deliver it a couple of days later. Once that was done the total backup of my PC using Paragon was complete in less than 3 hours. Another couple of hours to run PC Mover.

Now, finally, I was ready to install Windows 7 64 Bit. I slid the DVD into the drive door pushed it shut and took that step into the unknown... to be continued.

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