In this article you will find instructions for:

  • Upgrading to Windows Vista when you already have a version of Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional on your computer and you want to keep your files, settings, and programs.

  • Installing a new, or clean, version of Windows when:

    • You want to replace your current operating system.

    • You want to install Windows Vista on a separate partition of your hard disk, and you have an operating system on your computer and an available partition.

    • You have a computer with no operating system installed.

  • Reinstalling Windows Vista when you want to restore default Windows settings or when you are having trouble with Windows and need to reinstall it by performing a clean installation.

Note

During the installation process, you will need:

  • Your Windows installation disc (DVD or CD).

  • Your Windows product key (25 characters). 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.

  • The name of your computer. 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.

You will also need to decide whether to install a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows Vista. For help deciding, see 32-bit and 64-bit Windows: frequently asked questions.

For more 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.

Warning

  • Before installing Windows, be sure to disable all antivirus software and back up your files to an external hard disk, a DVD or CD, a USB flash drive, or a network folder.

To upgrade to Windows Vista

When you upgrade to Windows Vista, you keep your files, settings, and programs from your current version of Windows.

Important: Use the following procedure only when upgrading from a 32-bit version of Windows XP to a 32-bit version of Windows Vista.

Before you upgrade:

  • Check your hardware compatibility. Go to the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor on the Microsoft website. Alternatively, you can run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor during the upgrade by clicking Check compatibility online on the Install Windows page.

  • Make sure you have Windows XP Service Pack 2 installed before you upgrade a computer running Windows XP to Windows Vista. If you're using Windows XP, here's how to see if your computer is running Windows XP Service Pack 2:

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

      On the General tab, verify that Service Pack 2 appears in the System area.

    If Windows XP Service Pack 2 is not installed, you must install it before you upgrade to Windows Vista. To get Windows XP Service Pack 2, go to Windows Update online.

Warning

  • If you have an upgrade copy of the 32-bit version of Windows Vista, you must start Windows installation while running your existing version of Windows.

Notes

  • If you are using a fingerprint reader or other biometric device to log on to your computer, make sure you write down your password before upgrading. You must log on by typing your user name and password the first time that you use Windows after upgrading.

  • For detailed information about upgrading from language versions of Windows XP to Windows Vista, go to You cannot upgrade certain language versions of Windows XP to Windows Vista online.

  1. Insert the Windows installation disc into your computer's DVD or CD drive. You must start Windows installation while running your existing version of Windows.

  2. On the Install Windows page, click Install now.

    Picture of the Install Windows page
    Install Windows page
  3. On the Get important updates for installation page, we recommend getting the latest updates to help ensure a successful installation and to help protect your computer against security threats. You will need an Internet connection to get installation updates.

  4. On the Type your product key for activation page, we strongly recommend that you type your 25-character product key to help avoid problems during activation.

  5. On the Please read the license terms page, if you accept the license terms, click I accept the license terms.

  6. On the Which type of installation do you want? page, click Upgrade to begin the upgrade. You might see a compatibility report.

    Picture of the Which type of installation do you want? page
    Which type of installation do you want? page
  7. Follow the instructions.

To install Windows by performing a clean installation

You can use the following procedure when performing a clean installation of a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows Vista.

When you perform a clean installation, your existing version of Windows, including all of your files, settings, and programs, is automatically replaced. You can back up your files and settings, but you must manually reinstall your programs and restore backed-up files when the installation is done. For information about how to restore your files after a clean installation, go to How to restore your personal files after you perform a custom installation online.

Perform a clean installation if your computer has no operating system installed, or you want to delete your current operating system and replace it with Windows Vista, or you want to partition your hard disk and install Windows Vista on a specific partition.

Before you install Windows, check your hardware compatibility. Go to the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor on the Microsoft website. Alternatively, you can run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor during installation by clicking Check compatibility online on the Install Windows page. If you start the installation from the installation disc, this link to the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor does not appear on the Install Windows page.

Note

  • You cannot install an upgrade copy of Windows Vista on a partition unless a copy of Windows 2000 or Windows XP is already installed on that partition. Depending on which version if Windows you are upgrading to and from, you might have to perform a clean installation.

  1. Turn on your computer, insert the Windows installation disc into the computer's DVD or CD drive, and then do one of the following:

    • If your computer already has an operating system installed, and if you do not want to create, extend, delete, or format partitions, go to step 2.

    • If your computer does not have an operating system installed or if you want to create, extend, delete, or format partitions, you need to restart your computer with the installation disc inserted in your CD or DVD drive. This will cause your computer to start (or "boot") from the installation CD or DVD. If you are asked to press a key to boot from DVD or CD, press any key. If the Install Windows page appears, go to step 2.

      If the Install Windows page does not appear and you're not asked to press a key to start from DVD or CD, you might have to specify that your computer use its DVD or CD drive as the startup device. This means that you need to set the DVD or CD drive to be the first startup device in the basic input/output system (BIOS). To learn how to do this, see Start Windows from a CD or DVD. After you select your DVD or CD drive as the startup device, restart your computer, and then start Windows from the installation DVD or CD as previously described.

  2. On the Install Windows page, follow any instructions that are displayed, and then click Install now.

  3. On the Get important updates for installation page, we recommend getting the latest updates to help ensure a successful installation and to help protect your computer against security threats. You will need an Internet connection to get installation updates.

  4. On the Type your product key for activation page, we strongly recommend that you type your 25-character product key to help avoid problems during activation.

    Note

    • If you have an upgrade copy of a 32-bit version of Windows Vista, you will see a message telling you to restart your computer and start Windows installation from within your existing operating system.

  5. On the Please read the license terms page, if you accept the license terms, click I accept the license terms.

  6. On the Which type of installation do you want? page, click Custom.

    Note

    • After you click Custom, if you have an upgrade copy of a 64-bit version of Windows Vista and do not have a version of Windows that can be upgraded, the installation cannot continue. You will need to install a copy of Windows 2000 or Windows XP to proceed with this installation method.

  7. On the Where do you want to install Windows? page, select where you want to install Windows.

    • If you don't partition your hard disk, click Next. The installation will start automatically. You might see a compatibility report that lists which programs and software drivers won't work after the installation. You can resolve any issues after the installation is complete.

    • If you have an existing partition and want to have more than one operating system on the same computer, you can install Windows on a specific partition. (This is called a dual-boot or multiboot configuration.) If you do this, be sure to install Windows on a different partition from the partition where your current version of Windows is installed. To install Windows on an existing partition, select the partition you want to use, and then click Next to begin the installation. You might see a compatibility report.

    • If you want to create, extend, delete, or format a partition, you must start Windows from the installation DVD or CD. If you did not begin the installation process this way, follow the instructions for starting Windows from the installation DVD or CD that appear in the first step of this procedure, and then follow the instructions on each screen. On the Where do you want to install Windows? page, click Drive options (advanced), click the option you want, and then follow the instructions. Click Next to begin the installation. You might see a compatibility report.

  8. Follow the instructions.

Note

  • Be sure to enable existing, or install new, antivirus software after the installation is complete.

To reinstall Windows Vista

If you want to reinstall Windows Vista by performing a clean installation—possibly to restore the default Windows settings—here's how to do it. (If you're having a problem with Windows, first see What to do if Windows won't start correctly, which explains how to use the Windows installation disc to fix problems without completely reinstalling Windows.)

Warning

  • Back up your files before you begin reinstalling Windows, even if you're reinstalling Windows on a hard disk partition. A clean installation replaces the current version of Windows and all personal files.

  1. Turn on your computer and insert the Windows Vista DVD or CD.

  2. On the Install Windows page, follow any instructions that might appear, and then click Install now.

  3. On the Get important updates for installation page, we recommend getting the latest updates to help ensure a successful installation and to help protect your computer against security threats. You will need an Internet connection to get installation updates.

  4. On the Type your product key for activation page, we strongly recommend that you type your 25-character product key to help avoid problems during activation.

  5. On the Please read the license terms page, if you accept the license terms, click I accept the license terms.

  6. Follow the instructions on each page. On the Which type of installation do you want? page, click Custom.

  7. On the Where do you want to install Windows? page, select the partition where you want to install Windows.

  8. Click Next to begin the installation. You might see a compatibility report.

  9. Follow the instructions.

Note

  • Be sure to enable existing, or install new, antivirus software after the installation is complete.