How to install Windows 7: Clean installation tutorial (step-by-step)

Install Windows 7 - Desktop

The best way to start fresh and avoid many possible issues is by installing Windows 7 in a new empty partition. This will be possible when you are utilizing a brand-new hard drive, of when you wipe out the partition that contains any version of Windows. 

If you just landed on this tutorial I would recommend you to read the following articles before proceeding:

Tip: If you’re installing to an older machine, make sure all USB devices are disconnected. You may even need to disconnect internal USB connections. There have been reports of stalled installations when USB devices are connected.

Process to install Windows 7

Now diving into the Windows 7 installation process, the safest way is by starting a clean installation using the Windows 7 DVD or a USB bootable drive.

1.  To begin insert the Windows 7 installation media in your computer and restart. When the your computer is booting up you’ll be asked to press any key to continue, do so to start the installation wizard. Choose your settings in the first screen, click Next and Install now.

Tips:

  • If you are using a Windows 7 DVD or USB bootable drive, make sure that your computer’s BIOS is set to boot first from any of these installation media, because if your hard drive is set to boot first you’ll never get to the installation wizard. To change the boot order you should check your computer or motherboard manual, as there are many different ways to do this.
  • If you happen to have the Windows 7 ISO file or you computer doesn’t have a DVD drive, you can also create bootable USB drive using the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool — refer to this article to learn how to do this
  • Alternatively you can copy the Windows 7 installation files to a folder on your hard drive, and start the setup from that location.

Windows 7 installation

2.  Choose the operating system version if you are asked to, click Next; then accept the license terms and click Next.

Windows 7 - Choose operating system

3.  Answer the question: Which type of installation do you want? Because you used an external media to start the process the upgrade option will look like is available, but it is not, if you try to select it, you’ll get an error. Click the Custom (advanced) to continue with the process.

Windows 7 - Choose installation: Custom or Upgrade

Troubleshooting Tips:

  • If the setup is not detecting your hard drive, there could be a variety of reasons, the most common are: the hard drive isn’t functional, it might be disconnected, or if your computer is an older system, the setup may not be recognizing your disk controller. In which case, you will prompted to supply the drivers. For Windows 7 32-bit (x86) you should be able to use Windows Vista or Windows 7 type drivers that can be stored in a USB drive, on a floppy disk, or in a CD or DVD — for this last option mentioned, you’ll have to remove the disk from the computer, insert the disk with the drivers and load, then remove the disk and insert the Windows 7 DVD once again.
  • If during the setup, some of your computer peripherals don’t work the way it should, this could be cause by an outdated BIOS and this is a crucial part of your system. To check if there is an update available, check your manufacture website or the motherboard site.

4.  Choosing location: select the hard drive where to install Windows 7, just click Next. For this Windows How-To, I am using a new hard drive without a partition on it and I am going to be using all the unallocated space available.

Windows 7 - Setup where to install Windows

The setup will start the process of installing Windows by copying, expanding, adding features, updates (if available), and finally completing the installation — This could take a while, for now just sit and relax. Oh! Windows may restart during the installation many times, when this happens do not press any key if you see the message “Press any key to continue”, leave Windows alone and let it continue with the installation process.

Windows 7 installing

5.  Choose a username for your account and a computer name — Note that the user account that you are creating a this moment is the first one in your system, which also means that it is member of the Administrators group (Full access account) –. Once done entering the information required, click Next.

Windows 7 - User name and computer name

6.  Set a password for your user account in Windows 7. You can skip the creation of a password, but it is strongly recommended to have one. Also don’t forget to choose a password hint, this is something that can be a word or a phrase that will help you to remember your account password if you happen to forget, but it should be something difficult for other people to figure out — do not type your actual password here!

Windows 7 - Set a password for your account

7.  Next, type your product key: You can enter the product key (serial number) that was included with the purchased of this copy, or you can skip it this portion of the setup, but remember that you only have 30 days to supply the product key. One thing to keep in mind, if you do the mistake and install a version of Windows that do not correspond to the product key, you’ll have to start the installation process from scratch once again, so pay attention.

Windows 7 - Product Key

8.  Select Automatic Update settings for Windows 7: If you are a regular user this first options is the one you want to choose.

Windows 7 - Set up Windows Update

9.  Review your time and date settings: choose the time zone for your region. Note that when changing the Time Zone the time will not correct itself, check and modify the correct Date and Time, then click Next.

Windows 7 - Date and Time

10.  Set up your network: if this a clean installation of Windows 7 in a laptop that has a wireless network adapter enabled, you might be asked to enter a security pass-phrase to connect to the network and/or internet.

Now the network location settings will determine the network security: sharing and firewall settings: Choose Home Network or Work Network if you are using the computer in one of these places, or click Public Network if your computer is directly connected to the cable or DSL modem with no router or gateway in between, or if you are connected to the internet using a dial-up modem. 

In the case you have chosen the option Home Network, the following dialog box will let you create or join a homegroup, but this is something that we’ll talk in a later Windows How-to.

Windows 7 - Set network location

Now your computer has a clean installation of Windows 7, login for the first time and you are done!

Windows 7 default desktop

If you made it up to here, going through the three-part tutorial on the Windows pre installation process, you may realize that the actual process of installing Windows 7 it is not too difficult, the what to do before start is what take some time, but it makes sure that the process goes smooth and it pays off at the end, because it is likely that you won’t run into a lot of problems.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He is also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.