Microsoft has ended the mainstream support for Windows Vista, not just because it is a five years old operating system, but also to keep pushing people to use Windows 7. But this doesn’t mean that users will be completely left on the dark, it only means that users using Windows Vista will only get security updates and business will now have to pay for bug fixes — this is what Microsoft calls “extended support cycle”.
In the extended support cycle of the operating system, you won’t be getting any new feature, bug fixes, performance enhancement or any other type of fixes that isn’t related to security. With all this in mind the next thing to do would be to upgrade to Windows 7, a more feature packed and more stable operating system. And you have several choices to get there, you can opt to do: Clean installation of a newer operating system, in-place upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, or creating a virtual machine out of your Vista PC and then doing a clean install of Windows 7 — always of course, making a backup before proceeding to protect your data.
Backup your personal files first
Before you start doing anything, the first thing you need to do is to backup all your personal files in case something goes wrong. There are many ways to backup all the data in your computer, one of them would be using the Backup and Restore Center feature that comes built-in Vista. One of the advantages is that the backup format can be restored in Windows 7, the bad news is that you can only use it to backup files and not the whole computer, for that you’ll need the Business and Ultimate edition of the OS. Fortunately there are third-party products you can use to backup the whole PC, for example: Acronis True Image Home 2012 PC Backup and Recovery, this is a paid solution but it has an user-friendly interface and provides a complete system image backup (OS, applications, settings and personal files) and recovery, or Clonezilla, this is a free open-source backup and recovery solution capable to clone a single computer’s storage media, or a single partition, to a separate medium device.
Also, you could use “Windows Easy Transfer”, this is a great utility that comes built in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, which will allow you to migrate OS settings, personal files, e.g., music, pictures, videos, documents, etc., and easily transfer them to a new computer (it is recommended that you update to newer version of Windows Easy Transfer, if you are running XP or Vista) – To learn how to use Windows Easy Transfer check this previous article –. This solution will not backup the operating system, but at least save your personal files and settings to a network or external drive.
Lastly, you can simply copy and paste all your personal files to an external hard drive. The disadvantage is that Windows settings won’t get transferred with this method, only the files that you export.
Option #1: How to do a clean install of Windows 7
In this first option, let’s start with the best way to move to Windows 7, and that would be doing a clean install of the operating system, which essentially will erase the previous version, plus everything else (documents, folders, music, photos, videos, etc.) and it will install a fresh copy.
Once, you secure your personal data, you can proceed with the installation of Windows 7, Pureinfotech has a great tutorial that can help you step-by-step — How to install Windows 7 – What to do before start [Part 1] and How to install Windows 7 – Clean installation tutorial [Step-by-Step].
Option #2: How to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7
There is always the option to just simply do an in-place upgrade. This is the easiest option of them all, technically you shouldn’t have to worry about backing up anything, and you should be able to keep all of your programs that are compatible with the new OS. Like in the clean install, there are things you need to do before, during and after the upgrade.
Head over to our previous article – How to upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7 Home Premium [Step-by-Step] –, to get all the details how to proceed from preparation, to backing up, to the upgrade process.
Option #3: Create virtual machine from Windows Vista + clean Windows 7 install
This is a little more advanced, but you can create a virtual machine from your physical Vista PC, then you can do a clean install of Windows 7 in your system. This will give you various benefits, such as preserve all your programs, settings, files and even the old operating system.
Basically, once you vritualize your old system and the new OS has been installed, you will download and install VMware player, which is a piece of software capable of running a virtual machine — in this case the one you just created. End result, you can now run Windows 7 in your PC, plus your old Vista system at the same time, giving you access to your old applications, settings, etc.
- First you will download and install in Windows Vista the VMware vCenter Converter (Free!), then you’ll proceed converting your Vista PC to a virtual machine — Check the video below to learn all the steps to get it done.
- Second, do a clean install of Windows 7.
- Third and last, download and install VMware player, the video below explains in details how to do this:
Once the three steps are completed, move the Vista virtual machine from the external media to your computer, simply run VMware player, click on Open a Virtual Machine, browser for the Vista VM (e.g., WinVista.vmx), click Open and then Play virtual machine.
As you can see, now you’ll be able to keep your old PC, settings, programs and files and run it alongside Windows 7. Doing it this way gives you many benefits, for example, if there is an old application that only worked in Vista, or if you were using an expensive program and you lost the installation files, chances are that you won’t be able to move it, but using VM you’ll still be able to access them. Another example will be, if you forgot to write down an important password, then from Windows 7 you can access the virtual machine and retrieve that information, and much more.