Performing a clean installation of Windows 7, whether on a new computer or an old one, is a major job which will probably take you half of the day. On a new computer which does not come with an operating system preinstalled, you'll need to install Windows 7 (or another operating system) in order to use the computer. Fortunately, most new computers already come with Windows 7 preinstalled, in which case setting it up does not take very long. On an older computer, making a clean install of Windows 7 is a great way to get it up and running like new again. Over time, computer systems inevitably develop problems and get bogged down with unused data and software. There comes a point when the most effective way to optimize your computer and to fix problems is to start from scratch and install Windows 7 on a formatted hard drive. This also ensures that any malicious software is wiped out.
Installing or reinstalling Windows 7, though not usually overly complicated, can seem like a daunting task, especially to beginners. There are various preparations to make, especially if you're reinstalling Windows rather than getting started with a new computer. The following guide will take you through each step of the process from the essential preparations to the finishing touches and, when you're done, you'll have your computer working as though it were just off the shelves in the store.
If you're installing Windows 7 on a new computer without any operating system installed on it, then you can skip this step.
Performing a clean Windows 7 installation will completely wipe your hard drive, deleting any program files and personal documents. Make absolutely sure that anything important is backed up. You can copy everything over to an additional hard drive or partition, though the safest way to back up your data is by using DVDs, a USB flash drive or an external hard disk drive.
Make a list of what you want to back up to be sure that you don't miss anything important. Consider your documents, multimedia collections, downloads and Internet favourites. Don't rush this step, since it's often easy to miss something important.
If you are not upgrading from Windows XP or Windows Vista, you can skip this step. The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is a free tool available from Microsoft's website. Download and install the program and run it when you're ready. The Upgrade Advisor scans your computer for installed hardware and software and will alert you of any compatibility problems, if any, which may occur when you install Windows 7. It will tell you whether or not your computer is ready for Windows 7.
Drivers are the software components for certain types of hardware. They enable your operating system to communicate with the device. You can do this once Windows is installed, but it's generally better to get this out of the way before continuing, if possible. If you are either upgrading or reinstalling Windows or you have a spare computer handy, you should download the latest drivers for your hardware. This is especially important for devices such as network cards which are not natively supported by Windows. Without your network card drivers, you won't be able to connect to the Internet to download other drivers anyway once Windows is installed.
If you're not sure which drivers you need, consult your system specifications. There's a tool included in Windows XP and later called "msinfo32." You can access it by pressing and holding the Windows key on your keyboard and "R." Type "msinfo32" into the "Run" box and press Enter. By expanding the sections on the left, you'll be able to review the specifications of all hardware installed on your computer.
Many more basic hardware types such as keyboards, mice and many networking devices are natively supported by Windows 7. This means that, when you install Windows 7, drivers for those supported devices will be installed as well. However, there are also drivers which you'll need to install yourself. These typically include drivers for your motherboard (including the chipset and network card), graphics card, sound card, printers and scanners. Download the latest versions of the drivers you need and copy them to a DVD or USB flash drive for later. Don't bother with drivers on CDs which originally came with the computer, since they will be outdated.
You'll probably need to change the boot device priority before continuing, so that the computer will start up from the Windows 7 installation media.
Changing the boot device priority means accessing the system BIOS. On most computers, this is possible by tapping the "DEL" or "F2" key just after turning the computer on. A blue screen with various system settings and information should appear. There are various different BIOS setup utilities, so you may need to refer to your computer's manual. You should be able to navigate around the BIOS by using the arrow keys on the keyboard and pressing Enter to select an option. You should also find a boot device priority menu which is where you can configure your boot devices. You'll want to configure the BIOS to boot up from the DVD drive first or, if you're installing Windows 7 from a USB drive, from the USB port first.
Now that you've made all of the necessary preparations, it's time to start the installation. Insert your Windows 7 DVD or USB drive and restart the computer. Windows 7 will spend a few minutes loading up the files it needs for the installation into the system memory. Once this is done, the blue Windows 7 installation screen will appear and you'll now be able to use the mouse. Select your preferred language settings when prompted and click "Next" to continue.
Click "Install now" on the next page and accept the license agreement by checking the box at the bottom of it and clicking "Next" again. On the next screen, you'll be asked what sort of installation you want to perform. In almost all cases, you should avoid the upgrade option. Click "Custom (advanced)" to continue. Select the drive which you want to install Windows on. If you're reinstalling Windows 7, just select your primary "C:" Click "Next" to proceed.
For now, it's simply a matter of leaving Windows 7 to install. This will typically take around 20 minutes and your computer will restart several times during the process. Eventually, Windows 7 will start up for the first time, and you'll be asked to enter a user account name and a name for your computer. Fill in these boxes and press "Next" to continue. Enter a password for your account on the next page or just click "Next" to continue. In the following page, you'll be asked to enter your Windows 7 product key. Enter it and click "Next." On the next page, you'll be asked to choose your preferred settings for Windows Update. Generally, you should just stick with the recommended settings. Continue through the next stages of the setup to configure the system time and date, location and HomeGroup. Finally, Windows 7 will be installed and you'll be at the desktop.
Windows 7 is now installed, but there are still quite a few things you need to do. A notification will appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen, telling you which updates are available. Install all critical and recommended updates that Windows Update finds. On a clean installation, this can take quite some time and you'll need to restart your computer multiple times.
Next, you'll need to activate Windows 7. Again, a prompt will appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Click it to run through the activation process. You can either activate online or, if you don't have an Internet connection on that computer, by phone.
Once updates are installed and you have dealt with any other notifications which have appeared, you should install the drivers for your graphics and sound chips as well as any other devices and peripherals which require them. Insert the disk containing the drivers you downloaded earlier and install them one-by-one. After installing a driver, you'll normally need to restart the computer before installing the next one.
Finally, with all of your drivers and updates installed, you should now have a fully working computer. Install your programs and, if any, video games. It's best to get everything installed in one hit. Many smaller, freeware applications can be installed using Ninite, a free online service which enables you to select the software you want (many programs are supported) and download a customized setup file which installs all of the programs in one hit. It's extremely convenient since it's quick, no additional junk software is installed and it requires minimal user intervention.
Once everything is installed, you should defragment your disk to optimize performance. Click the start button and type "Defragment" into the search box and press Enter. Defragment the primary hard disk.
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