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Preparing to install Windows Vista: The final steps toward installation

Mark Minasi runs through the steps IT managers should take when preparing to install windows Vista. This chapter is an excerpt from Minasi's book, "Mastering Windows Vista for Business Professionals."

SP1 and R2

Mastering Windows Vista for Business Professionals
By Mark Minasi and John Paul Mueller

The following excerpt is from chapter two of Mastering Windows Vista for Business Professionals, entitled "Installing Vista."

Check out the rest of this chapter, Installing Vista.

Choosing an Installation Method

Once you've decided to install Vista, your next decision is how to install Vista on your computer. You can install Vista in three ways:

Upgrade -- You can upgrade any of the operating system choices in Table 2.1 with Windows Vista. This means you essentially overwrite the previous version of Windows with Vista. Upgrading like this transfers all your files, settings, and applications to Vista, so (in theory) you can pick up your work or play straight away in Vista where you left off.

New installation -- A new installation installs Vista on a new disk or a separate partition. You can use the Windows Easy Transfer to copy your files and settings from your previous version of Windows to Vista.

Clean installation -- You can install Vista from scratch on your computer, deleting the previous copy that was there rather than upgrading it. Again, you can use the Windows Easy Transfer to copy your files and settings from your previous version of Windows to Vista. You'll need to install all the applications you want to use after you install Vista.

Which type of installation to perform can be a tricky decision. The longer you've been running Windows on this computer since installing it, the stronger the arguments are for both an upgrade and a clean installation:
  • By now, you've probably installed all the applications you need and got them working together. By upgrading, you can transition your whole work environment to Vista, so that your Desktop, Start menu, and folder structure retain their current settings and your applications all work as before.

  • Then again, you probably have applications that you no longer use, or applications that no longer work. (Techies call this a "dirty system.") By performing a clean install, you can strip your system down to only the software you need. It'll take longer, but the result may be better. Similarly, your data folders could probably do with some cleaning out and archiving.
  • If you need to install a new hard drive as your main hard drive, you'll need to perform a clean install. Because Vista uses a substantially different file system, you'll find that some of the old tricks such as using ghost copies don't work as well as they could and may not work at all. Of course, the vendors will eventually provide updated versions of their products that do work with Vista as long as you're not using BitLocker (which encrypts everything in a way that would make it difficult to create a ghost copy).

    Preparing for Installation

    Once you've established that your computer should be able to run Vista, prepare for installation by taking those of the following steps that are applicable to the type of installation you're planning (upgrade, new installation, or clean installation).

    Back Up All Your Data Files

    For safety, back up all your data files shortly before installation, using your usual backup medium.

    Write Down Internet Connection Information

    If you're planning a new installation or a clean installation, rather than an upgrade, and you use a dial-up Internet connection, write down the information you need to create the connection: your ISP account username, your password, your ISP's phone number, and your ISP's primary and secondary DNS servers. You might also want to write down the information for connecting to your mail servers.

    Plug In and Switch On All Hardware

    Make sure that all the hardware you intend to use with the computer is attached to it and powered on. For example, if you'll use a printer and scanner with the computer, make sure these devices are attached to the computer and powered on, so that Setup can detect them if it's smart enough.

    WARNING: Make sure your hardware configuration is exactly the way you want it before activating Vista. Activation creates a code based on the installed hardware that locks that copy of Vista to that hardware, so if you make a lot of hardware changes to the system later, you might need to reactivate (by calling Microsoft). I'll explain activation in more detail later in this chapter.

    Use Windows Easy Transfer to Transfer Settings

    Vista includes a wizard for transferring files and settings from one computer or operating system to another. Windows Easy Transfer can save you a great deal of time when you want to transfer files and settings either to a new computer that's running Vista or to a new installation of Vista on the same computer on which you've kept your previous installation of Windows as a dual boot. For example, if you choose to test Vista on a new partition before committing yourself to it, you can use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer your work environment to the new partition so that you can use your regular settings and files.

    Before you use Windows Easy Transfer, make sure you're connected to any network drive you want to use, or that you have a removable disk or recordable DVD ready. To transfer files and settings, you'll need plenty of storage. You can save settings files to a floppy drive, but most data files will be too big. The following steps describe how to use Windows Easy Transfer.

    NOTE: As an alternative to working with the Vista DVD, you can choose the Start → Accessories → System Tools → Windows Easy Transfer to start the wizard. At this point, you can begin with step 3 of the following procedure.

    1. Insert the Vista DVD. If your computer doesn't automatically start running the DVD, open an Explorer window, navigate to the DVD, and double-click the setup.exe program. Windows displays the Welcome to Microsoft Vista screen.

    2. Click the Transfer Files and Settings from Another Computer link. Windows starts the Windows Easy Transfer Wizard.

    3. Click Next. If your computer is running any applications, Windows Easy Transfer displays a list of them and asks to close them.

    4. Click Close to close all of the open applications. Windows Easy Transfer asks whether you want to start a new transfer or continue an existing transfer.

    5. Click Start a New Transfer. Windows Easy Transfer asks which computer you're using.

    6. Choose My Old Computer. At this point, you have three transfer options.
      * Use a Windows Easy Transfer USB Cable. This option lets you transfer data directly between machines, even when you don't have a network setup.

      * Use a Network. Use this option when you want to store the settings in some other location. A network share is the best option in most cases. When using the Connect Directly to Your New Computer Through a Local Network options, both computers must be active at the same time and you use a key to encrypt the data exchange. However, you can also choose to use an intermediate location, such as online storage, by selecting the Use a Shared Network Location option that both computers can access. Both computers must be able to access the shared location directly, even if they have no direct access to each other. In this case, one computer can save the data to the common location and the other can pick it up later. You use a password to encrypt the data file containing the settings. You can use this option when installing Vista on another partition of the current machine.

      * Use a Type of Removable Storage. This option lets you save your settings to removable media including CD, DVD, USB flash drive, and external hard drive. This option works very well for moving common settings between machines for multiple installations. You can also use it as a method of making regular backups of your settings. This is also the option you should use when you plan to make a clean install of Vista on your machine. As with the Shared Network Location option, you must supply a password for encryption purposes when using this option.

      NOTE: You must use a CD-RW or DVD-RW disk when using the CD or DVD option. You can't use write-once media such as DVD+R.

    7. Choose one of the types of data transfer or storage. Since the direct connections are straightforward (you begin transferring immediately), the procedure continues with the stored options described in the previous step.

    8. Choose a location to store the information. You can choose a local drive, networked drive, Universal Naming Convention (UNC) location, or even an online location. Click Next. Windows Easy Transfer asks which settings to save.
      * All User Accounts, Files, and Settings. Saves every setting on your system that Windows Easy Transfer recognizes. Depending on your application, you may need to perform a separate save. For example, Windows Easy Transfer won't save your Firefox bookmarks. Use the Firefox features to save your bookmarks separately. In general, if an application provides a separate setting saving utility, it makes sense to use it.

      * My User Account, Files, and Settings Only. Saves only those settings that are related to your account on the system. This setting does preserve your user settings, but it won't save those associated with the Administrator account.

      * Advanced Options. Lets you decide what to save. This option can become quite complex, but it offers the greatest flexibility in saving your settings. If you want to be safe, use the first option in this list. However, if you've been using your system for a long time and want to clean up settings you no longer use, this is the option to try. You should also view this option as a means to verify what Windows Easy Transfer actually saves for you. If you don't see some very special setting in the list, you'll want to save it separately.

    9. Choose one of the settings options. When working with Advanced Options, you'll normally need to wait several minutes while Windows Easy Transfer collects all of the settings and displays them to you. Choose the individual settings and click Next. You can use the Add Files and Add Folders links to add more files and settings to the list. No matter which of the settings saving options you choose, Windows Easy Tranfer will begin collecting and saving the settings it's designed to save. Be patient, even on a fast machine this process is long and slow (think about going to lunch).

    10. Click Close when you see the final dialog box.
    For details of how to apply your saved files and settings to your new installation of Windows, see "Applying Your Files and Settings" later in this chapter.

    Stop Any Antivirus Software or Disk Utilities

    Stop any antivirus software or disk utilities before running the Windows installation, because the installation process needs direct access to your hardware and the antivirus software might see that access as an attack and prevent it. The exception to the rule is the built-in Windows software. For example, you don't need to stop Windows Defender. In addition, even if you haven't configured Windows Firewall to allow for any installation requirements, Setup will ask to configure it for you.

    Export Settings for Applications that Support It

    Many applications today provide a means to export your settings. For example, when working with Firefox, choose Bookmarks → Manage Bookmarks and then choose File → Export to save your bookmarks. Of course, this process only saves your bookmarks. You'll need a separate program, such as MozBackup to back up all of your settings. The point is that many modern applications provide some means to back up your settings. If you don't see a built-in feature to perform this task, then look online or ask the vendor about backup functionality. Generally, you're going to find that Windows Easy Transfer does a very good job with Windows, a mediocre job with Windows applications, and a poor (or nonexistent) job with thirdparty applications, so this separate step is very necessary.

    Continue to Upgrading to Windows Vista: Checking compatibility with the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT).

    Mark Minasi is a best-selling author, commentator and all-around alpha geek. Mark is best known for his books in the Mastering Windows series. What separates him from others is that he knows how to explain technical things to normal humans, and make them laugh while doing it. Mark's firm, MR&D, is based in Pungo, a town in Virginia's Tidewater area that is distinguished by having one -- and only one -- traffic light.
    Copyright 2007 TechTarget

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