Best way to Upgrade Vista to Windows 7?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'placeyourbet777' writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have Windows Vista Home Premium on my laptop and I'd like to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate, as my computer is getting very slow and outdated. Is it possible for me to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 and make it work using 64-bit? Thanks in advance. "

My response:

The simple answer is that, yes, you can upgrade Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Ultimate. However, there are some conditions, as well as things to consider before you make the leap, namely:

1. The upgrade path must be valid

2. The 32-bit or 64-bit architecture must match for an "upgrade"

3. How you upgrade: using "Upgrade" or "Custom" (clean) install

4. Which type of Windows Install media you use

The Upgrade Path Must Be Valid

To upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7, the versions must be the same or higher. For example: you can upgrade from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium (which is essentially equivalent), but you cannot upgrade from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Basic (which is a step lower). Microsoft has published a document on the Windows Vista upgrade paths available.

The Architecture Must Match

There are two methods to upgrade to Windows 7: using an "upgrade" or a "custom" install. If you choose to do an "upgrade", the architecture must match. In other words, if you have Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit, you can only upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit and you cannot upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. If you want to upgrade to 64-bit, you need to do a custom (clean) install. A clean install means you will need to reinstall all your programs.

Using the "Upgrade" or "Custom" Install Option

When you start the Windows 7 installation (and when upgrading from Vista), you will have two options to choose from: you can do an "upgrade" or a "custom" (clean) install. The upgrade option only works under certain conditions, whereas a custom (clean) install does not have any conditions. An upgrade will allow you to keep all your installed programs, documents, etc on the hard drive without having to reinstall anything. On the other hand, a custom (clean) install requires you to reinstall your programs.

As previously stated, you can do an upgrade only if:

a) you use the same architecture

b) the upgrade path is valid

Which type of Windows Install Media Will You Use?

Windows 7 OEM or "System Builder" media is by far the cheapest option and can save you a lot of money. For example, Windows 7 Home Premium System Builder DVD from Amazon is $92 at the time of writing this article. If you purchase the Windows 7 System Builder DVD media, you can only do a clean install of Windows 7 from the get-go. If you want to do an upgrade, you will need to purchase the "full" version of Windows 7. The price for that on Amazon is currently $240.

There are a few limitations to the System Builder / OEM installs. OEM installs are not transferable, cannot do an "upgrade" from older versions of Windows (I.E. only a clean / fresh install is possible in the future), and offer no free support from Microsoft. If you're okay with that (and most people are), then by all means, go OEM.

The Preferred Method: Clean Install

I always recommend doing a clean install under any circumstance because it means less of a chance of something going wrong down the road. In other words, I suggest you purchase the Windows 7 System Builder DVD and install Windows 7 from scratch.

Before you proceed with the installation, you will need to backup all your files and folders to an external hard drive so you can reinstall them later. Or, you can virtualize your Windows Vista machine and use that as a 'live' backup once Windows 7 has been installed.

Additional Support: From Dennis

If you need additional support backing up your files, or virtualizing your old Windows Vista machine, I am able to assist you over remote desktop support. Simply contact me using the contact form and we'll set up a time to meet and discuss your options.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.3 (13 votes)