Installing Windows: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about installing Windows.

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Can my computer run Windows Vista?

To check your hardware for compatibility with Windows Vista, go to the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor on the Microsoft website.

To see system requirements for Windows Vista, go to Windows Vista recommended system requirements on the Microsoft website.

What preparations should I make before installing Windows?

Do these things before you start, to save time and help you avoid problems during installation:

  • Update your antivirus program, run it, and then disable it. After you install Windows, remember to enable the antivirus program. If you need an updated version, you might be able to download it from the manufacturer's website.

  • Back up your files. You can back up files to an external hard disk, a DVD or CD, or a network folder. For more information about backing up your files, search for "back up" in Help and Support.

  • Connect to the Internet. Make sure your Internet connection is working so that you can get the latest installation updates. These updates include security updates and hardware driver updates that can help with installation.

  • Check your hardware for compatibility with Windows Vista. Go to the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor on the Microsoft website.

What do I need to have available?

You will need these items during the installation process:

  • The Windows installation disc.

  • Your product key. You can find your product key on your computer or on the installation disc holder inside the Windows package. A product key sticker looks similar to this:

    Picture of a Windows product key sticker
    Windows product key sticker

    Go online to see other stickers.

  • Your computer name. You will need to provide this if your computer is currently connected to a network. If you're using Windows XP, here's how to find your computer name:

    • Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.

      The computer name is displayed on the Computer Name tab.

Should I upgrade or perform a clean installation?

Upgrade if you want to keep your files, settings, and programs from your current version of Windows.

Perform a clean installation to install Windows on a specific drive or partition (this replaces the information on the drive or partition you use for the installation), or to set up a multiboot system on your computer. For more information about setting up a multiboot system, see Install more than one operating system (multiboot).

For detailed information about installing and upgrading 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows, go to Installation choices for Windows Vista (32-bit) or Installation choices for Windows Vista (64-bit) online.

Can I uninstall Windows Vista?

You cannot uninstall Windows Vista, but you can reinstall your previous operating system, which then replaces Windows Vista. To reinstall your old operating system, you must have the original installation disc. Back up your programs and files, insert the installation disc into your computer, and then reinstall the old operating system. To regain the hard disk space used by Windows Vista, reformat the disk during the reinstallation process. After reinstalling your previous operating system, reinstall your programs and files. For information about removing Windows Vista from a multiboot system, see Uninstall Windows Vista on a multiboot system.

Will my programs work with Windows Vista?

Most programs written for Windows XP also work in Windows Vista, but some older programs might run poorly or not at all. For more information about program compatibility, see Make older programs run in this version of Windows.

Also, Windows Vista uses the NTFS file system. If you upgrade a computer running Windows XP and using the FAT file system, it will be upgraded to NTFS, which might affect program compatibility.