Windows 7 was finally released to the public on October 22nd. The release followed over a year of Pre-beta's, beta's, and release candidates all open for public consumption. The strategy of allowing the public plenty of access to Windows was a sign of confidence that was well placed. Windows 7 is a hit; it's a great improvement over Windows Vista and has received great reviews in the tech press.
The one question that remained unanswered prior to the release was how the upgrade version would work. Would users be able to do a clean install with the upgrade media, and how would Windows 7 install on computers running Windows XP which isn't supported for doing in place upgrades?
Fortunately the upgrade version of Windows 7 for any legitimate install works just fine. For my own use I installed 3 copies of Windows 7 which I purchased last June during the special half off sale Microsoft ran for a limited time.
The first install I did was a clean install using a hard drive that had Windows Vista already installed on it. Booting from the install media I was given the option of doing either a Upgrade Install or a Custom Install. Choosing the Custom Install, you then click on advanced options, and then choose which partition to install on. At this point you can choose, as I did to format the C drive and do a clean install over the previous version. The other option is to parallel install and end up with a windows.old folder on your C drive. Installing over the old version is useful if you're not sure you have a good backup of your data. The windows.old folder can be explored and files can be dragged into the new install with no problems. Once you're done with the windows.old folder it can be deleted with no problems.
On this install the process went very fast, it took maybe a half hour to complete. This machine is running a Core i7 and a 10,000 RPM Western Digital Velociraptor Hard Drive, so a fast install wasn't surprising. Reinstalling my old applications took longer than the install but I was up and running at full steam in no time. The next install I did was an in place upgrade of a 2 year old Dell Inspiron 1420 laptop. This required a lot more time and work before and during the install. Prior to the install I ran the "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor" available from Microsoft. This saves you from potential hardware and software conflicts when doing the install. The advisor indicated I needed to uninstall several programs including iTunes and NOD32 antivirus. This also turned out to be a good time to get rid of a few other programs I hadn't used for a while so once I had cleaned up my Program and Features in Vista I ran the install. The upgrade took about 2 hours and once completed I was able to reinstall iTunes and NOD32 and things have been running great ever since.
My last upgrade was for my HP Mini 2140 Netbook running the standard Atom 1.6 GHZ Atom Processor. This was a fairly new computer and had little if anything to be backed up. So I just used the upgrade install disc to format my C drive and do a full clean install. Once again it went without any issues at all.
Overall my experience with doing both clean installs and in place upgrades went great. Some issues have come up for some people though. When using a upgrade version of Windows 7 and installing it on a new or previously formatted hard drive you will not be able to get past the point in the install where you are prompted to enter the product key. Instead, you need to continue on without entering your key. Once the install is complete type activate in your Start Search and click on activate Windows. You will be prompted to either activate online or by phone, choose phone and then answer the questions you are asked. As long as your computer came with a copy of Windows you are entitled to the upgrade price.
Some links for Windows 7 the upgrade advisor download: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=1b544e90-7659-4bd9-9e51-2497c146af15&displayLang=en and a great tutorial for upgrading XP to Windows 7: http://www.butterscotch.com/tutorial/Upgrading-From-XP-To-Windows-7-An-Overview-Of-Whats-In-Store