Windows 7: Clean Install Vs Upgrade

With less than two weeks until Windows 7 will be released to the public, have you decided if you will be doing a clean install of Windows 7 or will you be doing an in place upgrade from Windows Vista? I hope to help you see which option would be best for you in this article.

Windows XP UsersWindows 7 Home Premium

Firstly, if you’re using Windows XP unfortunately you haven’t got the option to perform an in place upgrade to Windows 7 as announced by Microsoft. Thankfully you will still be allowed to purchase the cheaper “Upgrade Edition” of Windows 7 but you will have to do a clean install. However we have written a guide for XP users who want to upgrade to Windows 7 without losing all their data using the Windows Easy Transfer Utility. You can view it here.

Windows Vista Users

Windows Vista users have the option to do perform an in place upgrade to Windows 7 if they so wish or they can perform a Clean Install.

In Place Upgrade

Firstly find out which version of Windows 7 you can upgrade to by using this chart. Of course the main attraction of performing an in place upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 is that you don’t have to backup all your data, or programs that you have installed as they will be automatically reinstalled as long as they are compatible. Most Windows Vista programs will be compatible and shouldn’t cause any problems when upgrading. Performing an upgrade is generally easier to do than a clean install. Your settings and personalization settings will remain the same such as your wallpaper and screen saver settings.

The disadvantages of performing in place upgrades is that over time, not matter how careful a user you are your computer will always have pointless junk files and excess registry entries. When you upgrade, these excess files and unneeded files and entries will be carried over to your new OS and will more than likely slow it down.

Also tests have been carried out showing that if you have a large hard drive with many programs installed the upgrade process can take up to 20 Hours! You can find out more by reading our article here

Clean Install

Clean installs will give you a fresher, cleaner OS without having all those old files and registry entries bogging down your system. All files will be removed and even that nasty virus that has been living there unknown to you will be deleted. A clean install gives you a fresh start and the opportunity to restore your computer to pristine condition like it was the very first day you got it. Also clean installs of Windows 7 from my experience never take more than 30 mins.

Of course performing a clean install means you lose all your programs and data, unless of course you have it backed up. You can back up your files and programs yourself to an external drive or there are plenty of programs out there that will do it for you. Then once you have performed your clean install, you can copy back over your data and files manually and reinstall your programs of choice. I know that I for one will be performing a clean install.

Older Computers

Of course maybe you shouldn’t even upgrade your current machine to Windows 7. There are multiple reasons for this which can be found in this guide. If you think this may be you , perhaps you would be better off investing in a new Computer.

Windows 7 Beta & RC Users

Users who wish to upgrade to Windows 7 from the beta release or the release candidate have been told by Microsoft that they can’t perform an in place upgrade

Unsupported Upgrade Scenarios

…Pre-release in-place upgrades across milestones (for example, Windows 7 RC to Windows 7 RTM) are not supported.

Users will either have to perform a clean install or you can follow our guide here on how to upgrade to the RTM.

Get Windows 7 Pre-installed

And finally, the easiest solution for some people would be, to just march down to their local computer store on the 22nd Of October and buy a brand new computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. All you would have to do is unpack it, turn it on and away you go running Windows 7. Just be on the lookout for manufacturers pre-loaded crapware!

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15 Responses to Windows 7: Clean Install Vs Upgrade

  1. Proberts October 8, 2009 at 8:14 am #

    You need to do a guide for users that buy Windows 7 Upgrade have XP and Vista and want to do a clean install. Sick of explaining need a place to send them.

  2. Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    Can I do a clean installation from an windows 7 upgrade disk and how?

    • Robert B October 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

      Yes you can, there will be an option presented to you when installing Windows 7

  3. Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    You missed 3rd option: for Windows7 Beta/RC users.

    • Robert B October 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

      You can either follow the method in the above article or do a clean install

      • Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

        Thank you. I know about it. This is how I progressed same install to latest RC since my first 7000 Beta. I just thought that article will be incomplete without it.

        • Robert B October 8, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

          Fair enough comment, I’ve updated the post to include it, Thanks

  4. Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm #

    I’m sorry to say this, but Microsoft is making a huge blunder here: the overwhelming majority of PC users (both personal and business) are still using XP, and did not migrate to Vista. I am sure quite a few will want to perform an in-place upgrade, which could be done with all other prior versions of Windows. By not allowing this type of upgrade, Microsoft is going to lose a lot of customers and destroy any goodwill that remained after Vista.

    • Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

      I think Microsoft might have a point here, or maybe they wanted to make life easier for their tech support.

    • colin October 8, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

      You need to know the architecture of the operating system of Windows XP. The kernel is entirely different from Vista and XP, and even more different to 7. My friend performed an upgrade from XP to Vista, but there’s a lot of registry problems afterwards, lots of hard drive space wasted and many problems not seen in a clean install.

      In my opinion, doing a clean install is the best option. I’ve been doing dozens of clean installs on my computers and my friend’s computer and it works fine. Backing up files isn’t hard at all, and the operating system fills fresh and faster, without the old drivers and programs floating around. So I really don’t see why clean install is that bad.

      • Anonymous October 14, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

        Colin, I understand your point, but after handling many clean installs as well as upgrades, I’ve had problems with legacy/drivers hardware in both situations. The difficulty lies in handling rollouts in (typically) understaffed IT departments, who have to deal with the pre-install backups, the actual wipe/install process, then the re-installation of programs, drivers and documents. Rolling out an upgrade via remote install on standard hardware can be a heck of a lot less time consuming than dealing with a wipe/install.

        Additionally, telling home users who sat on XP and didn’t upgrade to Vista that they either need a new computer or have to completely wipe the system they may have been using for 5+ years will likely result in the customer walking away, and sticking with XP. Just my two cents, but I doubt 7 will sell the way XP did in ’01.

  5. Laplink October 13, 2009 at 3:16 pm #

    Dear Robert,

    This is a very interesting article on moving to Windows 7. I thought your readers might be interested in a way to do an actual ‘in-place’ upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Even though Microsoft does not provide a path for this, we at Laplink do!

    PCmover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant is our solution to the Windows 7 upgrade dilemma!

    PCmover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant is available here: for $14.95 until Windows 7 is released and then the price will go up!

    Three other editions of PCmover for (PC-to-PC migration) are also available here:
    1. PCmover Professional
    2. PCmover Home
    3. PCmover Netbook

    Thanks again for the interesting article. I would love to personally connect with you at your convenience if you have any comments or questions!


    Daniel Donohoe, Public Relations

  6. D. Hill December 19, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    I have new computer with windows 7 pre-installed. I bought software (previously) of Windows 7 professional. I would like to install this and thought it would be easy but it isn’t for me. Any suggestions as it keeps asking for me to use windows anytime upgrades – then put in a key number. With windows professional that I have (not an upgrade) it will not take the key # on the box. How do I proceed now?

  7. Larry March 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Can a Dell Windows 7 “reinstallation disk” be used to upgrade a Dell XP machine to Windows7 (within the license limitations)? I am running W7 installed from a reinstallation disk but am now getting “non-genuine error messages”. When I try to put in the product key shown on the disk sleeve for validation it is not allowed to be entered.

  8. KenCharman April 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    And if you cant remember where those installation files are for all those apps you accumulated.. ? MSFT deserve what is coming their way. They entered the PC world because punters hated IBM. They will leave it on a similar shaped vessel..

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