Windows 7 Upgrade from XP

My dad emailed me over the weekend and asked if I would help with upgrading their PC to Windows 7.  Being the family geek squad, I of course obliged.  My parents are late-adopters of computers.  I am proud to say, however, that they both use email, and they also use software on their computer to keep track of their finances.  In recent months they even began using a digital camera and downloading their photos to their PC.  Unfortunately, they have also fallen victim to a number of virus infections in recent months, in spite of the anti-virus software and their own best efforts to keep their PC working properly.

Being an adventurous techie, I thought I might learn something about the upgrade to Windows 7 and help them out.  There is no direct upgrade path for Windows XP users to Windows 7.  I guess Microsoft was punishing users that refused to self-flagellate themselves with Vista; Vista has engendered plenty of complaints from users of all sorts since it was released by Microsoft, and I doubt my parents would have been happy using it either.  Windows 7, however, does appear to be an improvement on Vista, and seems to be at least as reliable as XP.

Without a direct upgrade, your only real option is to install Windows 7 fresh on the PC, after backing up your data, and then reinstall you applications.  So, be sure you have all the original disks and license keys for the software you need before you start.

Windows 7 also no longer includes Outlook Express (which my parents were using for email), so my dad bought a copy of Outlook 2007.  I’ve never been a big fan of Outlook Express, and my guess is that an email virus was the source of their problems with the PC this year.  Outlook is a more complete application, though it is still susceptible to viruses in email, so we also re-installed the latest version of McAfee to the new computer.

Their PC has but 512 MB of RAM, which was way less than what Vista required to run properly, but is ok for Windows 7.  I may buy them some more RAM to help speed things up a bit, but my guess is that they will not notice much of a difference when just using Outlook or Internet Explorer.

We did run into a problem initially with the proper video driver loading for their Dell Dimension 3000 (for which there are not Windows 7 drivers available from Dell).  However, I was able to get it to use the XP drivers and the display worked properly.  The initial reboot also returned us to a black screen with the mouse cursor and nothing more; however, on the third reboot, the system did boot properly into Windows without a long wait.  My guess is that the initial install was still configuring where we thought we had arrived at the BSOD.  Other users have reported some upgrade problems with the Windows 7 installation, but ours went relatively smoothly.  (See Yahoo Article here)

The printer, however, would not print when I left 5 1/2 hours after starting this odyssey.  My guess is that an updated driver is required for it.  All in all, however, things went relatively smoothly, which is unusual for these kinds of upgrades.  We’ll see if I get any desperate calls for help this week!

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Maryland technology attorney and college professor.

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