In this tutorial I will be showing you the step-by-step way of doing a Clean install of Windows 7. It might be quite long, but bear with me. The actual process itself is quite quick. I will be updating this tutorial frequently, so if you see anything amiss or something you think should be added, let me know in the comments and I will make an addition/ edit.
If you don’t have access to a copy of Windows 7 then you can legally download all versions of it for free. All you will require is your Product Key for your current version of Windows with should normally be on a sticker somewhere on your machine. If you can’t find the Product Key then use ShowKeyPlus (the download link is the ShowKeyPlus.zip file) to locate it for you. The version of Windows 7 that you download should be the same as your current version as it will also matches the Product Key.
eg: You can’t install Windows 7 Ultimate and expect your Windows Home product key to work.
I have found that Windows 7 plays nice with most machines that I have put it on, however, there are some that aren’t capable of running Windows 7. This can be for a variety of reasons from, age, lack of driver support for your machine, incompatible hardware, insufficient amount of RAM etc. If you are concerned that your computer might not be able to have Windows 7 installed on to it, then please download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser Tool that is a free tool from Microsoft. When you run this tool, it is advisable to connect any devices that you normally use with your computer, to see if they may have an issue. (printers, fax, external HDD’s, scanners etc) Basically, if your computer is capable of running Vista then you should be OK driver wise as they mostly work in Windows 7 as well, but you must make sure on your computers manufactures site that they also provide drivers for Windows 7. That said, I have installed Windows 7 (back when it was in BETA) onto a friends Netbook before without issue even though it only had drivers for XP on the makers site. That doesn’t mean that yours will be the same though.
If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here’s what it takes as a bare minimum:
- 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
- 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
Once you have downloaded the tool, run it and you will be presented with the following window:
Simply click Start Check to begin:
This shouldn’t take too long. When it is finished, you will be presented with the verdict window, which will hopefully give your system the all clear:
The system requirements that you can see at the top of the window are OK on my machine:
Hopefully you are all good and can now begin the installation process.
First and foremost this is a tutorial on how to do a Clean install, not an Upgrade install. By doing a Clean install, you will be wiping all data from your computer and starting again, (unless of course you have created a separate partition in order to dual-boot) so make sure that you have backed up all your data (pictures, music, documents etc) onto an external hard drive or other form of external media or in The Cloud. Once you are happy that all your data is stored safely you can begin.
Place your Windows 7 Disk in to the DVD tray and reboot. You will need to change the boot order of your computer in BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), so that it boots to the DVD first instead of your hard drive. For most computers you will need to either press DEL or ESC or F2 as the computer first boots. If you are unsure of which key/s to press, then here is a great article that will help you.
Once you enter BIOS (be very careful what you do in BIOS), you should see a list of choices at the top of the screen. Using your up/down/left/right arrow keys, navigate to the Boot section and find the Boot Device Priority section, and press enter to expand it. Please note that your BIOS may look different to mine.
Once you have expanded the selection, you will be able to move the different peripherals up or down in order using the ‘+’ or ‘-‘ buttons (plus or minus).
Once you have changed the boot order so that CDROM (your DVD drive) is first to boot, press F10 to Save and Exit. You may have to press the letter Y to confirm and then press Enter. Your computer will now reboot, and start loading Windows 7.
This should only take a few minutes to load the files and then you will see the next screen:
The next screen that you come to is where you tell Windows which language, Time, Currency and keyboard type methods you use. Select your choices and click Next
In the next window we are given some options. Obviously you want to install, but remember this window, as should you have any issues in the future and you didn’t create a Repair disk after you installed Windows 7, but still have your disk, then the ‘Repair your computer’ part at the bottom will be a life saver in certain situations. However, we want to install, so select Install Now.
This is where you can read the Licence Terms if you wish and accept them. Check the box at the bottom and click Next
Now, I am starting from fresh, so I want to do a Clean install which means choosing Custom (advanced) which is the 2nd choice. If you are wanting to upgrade from Vista for example then choose Upgrade instead as this will also maintain your data throughout the process. It is better to do a Clean Install though.
Please note that if you are wanting to upgrade from a 32bit version of Vista or Windows 7 to a 64bit version of Windows 7, then you will have to back up your data first and then choose Custom upgrade.
Let’s click Custom (advanced) for now and move on
This is where you choose which partition you want to install Windows 7 onto. Normally if I were to do a re-install there would be two partitions here; one would be around 100MB in size and be a System Reserved partition and the other one would be my main partition (C:). I personally don’t have multiple partitions nor do I use any form of RAID configuration, so when I reinstall, I will click on Drive Options (advanced) as shown in the picture below which will give me more tools to use. These are Delete, Format, New and Extend. The only one I use is Delete. I simply select each partition in turn and hit Delete. It will ask me if I am sure (yes) and then do the same for the other ones until I am left with one single partition with Unallocated Space. It’s on this new one that I will install my new OS. Windows will still create a separate partition which will be reserved by the System. This is where system files will be stored on a small boot partition which is normally quite small at around 100MB
Windows will now begin the task of Copying Windows files to the new partition and expanding. Depending on your CPU and RAM this will take anywhere between 15 mins to 1 Hour. Go make a cup of tea.
Windows will also install it’s features and Updates here as well.
Once the Installing Updates part has completed, your computer will ask you to reboot. You can either click the Restart Now button in the window or just wait 10 seconds for it to reboot automatically.
When your computer starts to reboot, you have to remember that the boot order is still set to CDROM boot priority. Do not touch the keyboard when it says ‘Press any key to boot from CD or DVD’, other wise you will have to start all over again. Just leave the screen and keyboard alone, and the Windows installation will take off from where it left off.
Note: If you are doing an install via a USB it may try to automatically re-load the Windows files again from the start, so it’s a good idea to remove the USB stick before it tries to re-boot to it.
Startup windows will appear. This will become a very familiar window to you as it appears every time you boot.
Windows is now updating your registry settings:
Set up is starting services
Installation is now in the final stages.
This is where Windows will prepare you computer for first time use, including readying your graphics card, so you shouldn’t have to configure your desktops resolution.
This is where you create the new user account. This will have administrator privileges.
You can rename your Computer Name if you wish as you don’t have to use the default one that Windows will call it, based on your name.
It’s up to you if you use a password. Personally I don’t as I will fully encrypt my hard drive using Trucrypt, so having a weak password is pointless, unless you use LogMeIn, where a user password is required should you wish to remote access this machine using LogMeIn. However, if you are not going to use any of the above or similar, then I would advise using a password, so at least you have some protection.
Enter your product key here and click Next
This part is entirely up to you. Personally I will always choose Ask Me Later as I prefer to install my drivers first from motherboard CD that originally came with the computer. If you don’t have the CD containing the drivers for your computer, them go to the manufactures site and find the most up to date ones for your motherboard. If you are unsure, click the first option Use Recommended Settings, and Windows will try to locate these drivers for you.
Note: When doing a Windows Update (not just now, but in general as well) it is best if you don’t install any graphics drivers that Windows finds for your system as from time to time this can cause issues, so try to locate them via the manufactures site. Most of the time it is fine to use the ones that Windows finds for you, but sometimes it can get this wrong and cause issues. That said, if you don’t have the driver CD with you and also don’t have access to another computer during the initial install, then go ahead and install the drivers that it chooses.
Select you Time Zone and the correct time. Next
This is where you choose your network settings. If you are at home and trust the people who live with you, choose the first option, Home network. If this is a work computer, choose Work network. If you are not sure or use a wireless device to get online whilst on the move, choose the third option, Public Network
Based on your choice above, Windows will now configure your settings
Done. Now you just need to configure your computer. Once it’s completely loaded the new desktop, you may notice that the Recycled Bin icon is pretty large. If you left click once anywhere on your desktop and then press and hold CTRL whilst scrolling your mouse wheel up and down, you’ll notice that the desktop icons also get larger and smaller. This also works on websites for images and text and in editing tools like Word as well as most applications.
To make the Taskbar icons smaller, right-click on the Start ribbon and select Properties, then choose the Taskbar tab and check the Use Small Icons box and hit OK
You’ll notice that right clicking on the desktop also has different options than XP or Vista.
Clicking on the Start ribbon will show you the default view for the Start menu. You may notice that ‘My Documents’ has now been shortened to ‘Documents’. If we click on it, the layout is also different and has now been made in to Libraries.
I actually prefer this look.
Now lets take a quick look at the Control Panel. You may notice that by default, Windows will display Large Icons. I really hate this as you can’t see all the options available to you straight away. To resolve this, simply go to the top of the Control Panel window and select the drop down menu next to View by: and choose Small Icons. Notice a few things have changed? Mainly, as it’s one you will use quite bit you will see that Add/ Remove programs has been changed to Programs and Features.
This is the new System view. You can also get to your System Restore settings from here to create one, or just make sure that System Protection is on and running for your partition.
To see the System Protection settings simple select System Protection on the left and the properties window will open up.
Now you have had a little look around, the first thing you should do is install your drivers. Always install your Chipset Drivers first, then all the others (order isn’t important). Once you have done that (one or two reboots may be necessary during this) you should download all available updates for your computer via Windows Update. To do this go Start>All Programs and you will see Windows Update at the top.
You should also have a decent antivirus running. I would personally choose Microsoft Security Essentials as it’s free and very well-regarded. It has a pretty small footprint, so it won’t lag your machine unlike McAfee and Norton can. Just remember to never have more than one antivirus running on your machine at the same time as this will lead to system conflicts.
You should also create a Windows 7 Repair Disk as well. Trust me, you will be thankful you did this should you lose your install disk and then have system issues sometime later.
Well, that’s it so far. As I said I will be updating this as and when I have time. I hope it has been of some use to you and I haven’t bored you into an early grave.