Installing Windows 7: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about installing Windows 7.

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How do I upgrade my computer from my current version of Windows to Windows 7?

For more information, including which versions of Windows can be upgraded to Windows 7, go to Upgrading to Windows 7: frequently asked questions on the Windows website.

For step-by-step tutorials, go to Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 and Upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 on the Windows website.

Should I install the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 7?

If your computer has a central processing unit (CPU) that is capable of running a 64-bit version of Windows, then you can install the 64-bit version of Windows 7. For more information, see 32-bit and 64-bit Windows: frequently asked questions.

How do I install Windows 7 on a netbook?

Purchasing and downloading Windows 7 online from the Microsoft Store is the simplest way to install Windows 7 on a netbook or other computer that doesn't have an internal DVD drive. For more information, go to Installing Windows 7 on a netbook on the Windows website.

Should I choose the Upgrade or Custom option during installation?

If your current version of Windows can be upgraded to Windows 7, choose Upgrade to keep your files, settings, and programs from your previous version of Windows. This is the simplest installation option. To learn more about which versions of Windows can be upgraded to Windows 7, go to Upgrading to Windows 7: frequently asked questions on the Windows website.

If your version of Windows can't be upgraded, you need to choose Custom. However, the Custom option doesn't preserve your files, settings, and programs. It's sometimes referred to as a clean installation for that reason. You'll need to back up your files and then restore them after installation is complete. You'll also need to reinstall your programs, so make sure you have the installation discs and product keys for the programs you want to use in Windows 7, as well as the setup files for any programs you downloaded from the Internet.

You can also use the Custom option to perform advanced disk management tasks during installation, such as creating and formatting partitions on your computer's hard disk, or choosing a specific partition on which to install Windows 7. For more information, see Installing and reinstalling Windows 7.

Do I need to format my hard disk before installing Windows 7?

No. The option to format your hard disk is available during a custom installation if you start, or boot, your computer using the Windows 7 installation disc or a USB flash drive, but formatting isn't required. For more information about formatting your hard disk during Windows 7 installation, see Installing and reinstalling Windows 7.

Note

  • If you use an upgrade version of Windows 7, don't use a program from another software manufacturer to format your hard disk before installing Windows 7. Instead, format the hard disk during Windows 7 installation.

Do I need to boot from the installation disc or a USB flash drive in order to install Windows 7?

Sometimes. Usually, you can start Windows 7 installation while your previous version of Windows is running. Both the Upgrade and Custom installation options are available in this scenario.

You'll need to boot, or start, your computer from the Windows 7 installation disc or a USB flash drive if you want to do any of the following:

  • Install a 64-bit version of Windows 7 on a computer running a 32-bit version of Windows.

  • Format the hard disk or perform other advanced disk management tasks—such as creating, extending, or deleting partitions—during Windows 7 installation.

  • Install Windows 7 on a computer that doesn't have an operating system installed.

For more information, see Start your computer from a Windows 7 installation disc or USB flash drive and Installing and reinstalling Windows 7.

Note

  • If you use an upgrade version of Windows 7, don't use a program from another software manufacturer to format your hard disk before installing Windows 7. Instead, format the hard disk during Windows 7 installation.

Can I install Windows 7 and keep my existing version of Windows?

Maybe. For more information on how to set up a multiboot system on your computer, see Install more than one operating system (multiboot).

Can I uninstall Windows 7?

You can't uninstall Windows 7, but you can reinstall your previous operating system if you have the original installation disc or installation files. However, reinstalling your previous operating system not only replaces Windows 7, but also deletes your programs, files, and settings. You'll need to back up your files and settings and then restore them after installation is complete. You'll also need to reinstall your programs, so make sure you have the installation discs and product keys for the programs you want to use in Windows 7, as well as the setup files for any programs you downloaded from the Internet. For more information, see Installing and reinstalling Windows 7‍.

Note

  • If you are running a multiboot system, you might be able to safely delete or reformat the partition that Windows 7 is on, and reclaim that space for use with the earlier version of Windows. For more information, see Uninstall Windows 7 on a multiboot system.

Will my programs work with Windows 7?

Most programs written for Windows Vista also work in Windows 7, but some older programs might run poorly or not at all. To try and fix a compatibility problem, see Open the Program Compatibility troubleshooter‍. For more information about program compatibility, see Make older programs run in this version of Windows.

If the Program Compatibility troubleshooter can't fix the problem, you might be able to run the program using Windows XP Mode. For more information, search for "Windows XP Mode" in Help and Support.

Notes

  • Some programs such as Windows Mail and Outlook Express are no longer included in Windows 7. If you used Windows Mail or Outlook Express as your e‑mail program, you'll need to install a new e‑mail program after you finish installing Windows 7 to read your messages or to send and receive e‑mail. For more information about programs you can use, go to Looking for Windows Mail? on the Windows website.

  • If you perform a custom installation of Windows 7, you'll need to manually reinstall the programs that you want to use in Windows 7. Make sure you have the installation discs and product keys for your programs, as well as the setup files if you downloaded any programs from the Internet.

  • If you're running a 64-bit version of Windows and plan to install a 32-bit version of Windows 7, programs that were designed to run only on a 64-bit operating system might not work. Check the software manufacturer's website for more information, or go to the Windows 7 Compatibility Center website for hardware and software tested to be compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

Can I use my product key on more than one computer?

You can't use the same Windows product key to activate Windows 7 on more computers than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. Usually, the license terms allow the product key to be used on only one computer.

If you use your installation disc or a USB flash drive to install Windows 7 on a second computer, you'll need to buy an additional copy of the same edition of Windows 7 to obtain a new product key. For more information, see Get a new Windows 7 product key.

Article ID: MSW700062