Thinking about the Windows 7 upgrade experience, have you backed up your files lately?

This week the Windows 7 team posted on delivering a quality upgrade experience for Windows 7, noting that many people are running the Windows 7 Beta full time just as many of us do daily at Microsoft. And the team is encouraging users to revert to an earlier Windows Vista image on their PCs and perform an upgrade to the next publicly available pre-release build…

"The supported upgrade scenario is from Windows Vista to Windows 7. Before you go jump to the comment section, we want to say we are going to provide a mechanism for you to use if you absolutely require this upgrade.  As an extended member of the development team and a participant in the Beta program that has helped us so much, we want to ask that you experience real-world setup and provide us real-world telemetry."

The Real World, as in moving/upgrading from Windows Vista to the next public Windows 7 build. And yes, it’s a challenge to have to reinstall your applications and set up your desktop all over again, as Ina Fried noted in her column yesterday, "Windows 7 beta upgrade won’t be easy".

This is one reason I advocate setting up a dual boot system for Windows 7, as I did on some of my machines, particularly at home. (This was also mentioned in my later post in the article "How To Dual Boot Vista and Windows 7" from NetworkWorld.)

OK, deep breath. It’s not that bad, but there is some work involved.

General housekeeping advice: make sure you do an inventory and find your original installer discs for your applications, and note your serial numbers. An easy way to note your installed applications is to use the Windows Instrumentation command-line interface (WMIC) to generate a list as noted here.

I’ve also seen feedback on the request to mount the ISO and avoid having to burn a DVD: we know. As noted, this feature isn’t in Windows 7, but there are several third party tools (and many are free) that allow you to create a DVD from the downloaded ISO. Lifehacker covered the best CD & DVD burning tools and noted ImgBurn "emerged victorious" in their Hive Five Best CD and DVD Burning Tools. I’ve also used isorecorder successfully at home – both are great tools.

(A note on recovering your previous OS installation from Windows.old: Today there’s info on recovering a previous Windows build noted in Microsoft KB 933168, "How to restore a computer to a previous Windows installation after you install Windows Vista".)

My advice: before you do anything, back up your files from your current Windows 7 installation (preferably on to a volume different from where you’ve installed your Windows 7 OS, better if it’s removable media). I back up my files to an external hard disc (via USB2) as well as to a handy 4GB USB memory fob. Of course, there’s no better advice than this, offered in the E7 post:

"Since everyone reading is a well-versed and experienced beta tester you know ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR MACHINE before running any OS installation and NEVER TEST AN OS ON YOUR ONLY COPY OF ANY DATA. Testing a pre-release product means just that—it is testing and it is pre-release. Even though this is a Release Candidate, we are still testing the product. We have very high confidence but even if an error happens once in 1,000,000 we want to make sure everyone is taking the precautions normal for a pre-release product."

Tags: articles, blogs, Windows 7.

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