Techno Buddy: Don't just dump Windows 7 into your computer

Windows 7 was plunked down on shelves Thursday, and if it lives up to advance billing it’ll do everything but wash your dishes at night.

Based on my own tests of early versions of the new Windows and on what I have read, it is faster, does a better job using memory and is less prone to crashes as well as offering some new features. Here’s a link that will go into far more detail about what it has to offer:

http://tinyurl.com/lolvb2

Now, despite all those virtues, you’d be smart to wait a bit before buying and installing it. It’s just common sense to let the dust settle for a month or so. That way, if — despite all the testing and raves — there are some ugly bugs, you’ll avoid that. Besides, in the early days of a new release, it’s very hard to get technical support. Lines are jammed and tech support folks are still a bit inexperienced with things themselves.

But, if you use a Windows machine, you almost certainly will install it sooner or later. And there are some things you should know that will make the experience easier as well as give you the best shot at having a program that runs with no problems.

We’ll start our preparation work for Windows 7 by doing something that I’ve nagged you about before. You need to make sure you have a working back-up of all the data on your machine.

Don’t just back up. Test that back-up by trying to restore a few files. If you can manage two separate back-up copies of your precious data — so much the better.

Here’s why that back-up is so important. I strongly suggest you do what is called a “clean” install of Windows 7. Unlike an over-install, this kind of installation wipes out everything on your hard disk. All your family photos go away, so do your documents, tax records — everything. You’ll also be forced to reinstall all your programs — we’ll talk more about that in a minute — after the clean install of Windows 7.

Users of Windows XP and earlier won’t have an option other than a clean install. However, Vista users can do an over-install. That keeps all your data, all your programs. It seems like a no-brainer to do that if you’re running Vista. But it’s the wrong choice. A clean install is best for you, too.

Here’s why. There are bits and pieces of the older version of Windows that remain behind in an over-install. And that can create problems down the road that could leave you with a computer with more bugs than a rotten log. So, despite the ease of an over-install, you should go to the extra trouble of a clean installation. If you want to read about some of the troubles you could face with an over-install, you can check out this site: http://tinyurl.com/5hc89g

While some of the explanation may be a bit technical, I think you’ll still get the message.

I mentioned earlier that besides losing all your personal information you’ll also lose all the programs you’ve installed. That’s why, after you have made sure you have a working backup of the data on your computer, you need to gather all the CDs and DVDs used to install your programs.

Also make sure you have any activation codes needed to reinstall them. These programs will not be part of your back-up so you’ll need to install each one of them. Now’s the time to find the discs and activation codes.

Another task may face you, whether or not you followed my clean-installation advice. You need to double-check that your printers, scanners and the like will work with Windows 7. The good news is that if they work with Vista they should be fine with Windows 7.

However, if you plan to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, or if you’re moving from any 32-bit version of Windows to any 64-bit version, you probably will need new drivers. Drivers are the small programs that let your computer communicate with devices connected to it. The best way do that is to check the manufacturer’s Web site. In most cases there will be a link to an area where drivers can be downloaded. If in doubt, or confused, use the contact information found on the Web site to e-mail the manufacturer’s tech support staff.

Look, I know this is a lot of trouble. And sometimes choices with computing are sort of gray — there’s no one clear way to go. But today’s choice isn’t gray at all. It’s the right way.

Since you may have more questions about the installation process, I’m including a Web site that will take you through it step-by-step:http://tinyurl.com/y8ug48t

Check out the Web sites I’ve included and follow my tips and the installation process won’t be too much trouble. It may involve some time and even some sweaty palms, but it should go fine.

Think of it this way: Go to a little trouble now or face the chance of huge trouble later.

Bill Husted, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution technology writer, writes on computers and consumer technology subjects. He cannot answer every question, but may choose those of general interest for publication.E-mail: tecbud@bellsouth.net

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