Windows Installation Types

Before you start

Objectives: familiarize yourself with the terms and common procedures when dealing with Windows installations.

Prerequisites: you have to be aware of various installation sources available.

Key terms: operating system installation, Windows installation, clean installation, in-place upgrade, migration, dualboot, installation source.


Clean Installation

To do a clean install we can either wipe out an existing operating system on existing partition and then install Windows, or we can install Windows on a brand new partition. To do a clean install we simply boot from Windows CD/DVD, or we can boot our computer to the network, copy files and simply run setup.exe. When we do a clean install on the new computer, we can copy our existing user data to the new computer after the installation. We can also use tools such as User State Migration Tool (USMT) to migrate user data information, along with user profiles, to the new installation. After that we can install any applications that we need to run within our new installation.

There is a way in which we can preserve our old Windows installation when doing a clean install. Let’s say that we have a single computer with a single hard drive that has existing Windows OS, user data and applications. When we start the installation, we won’t choose the upgrade option. Instead, we will choose a new installation. Also, we won’t format our partition. In this case, our new Windows will be installed to a new directory, leaving our old installation of Windows intact. Depending on the version of Windows we’re using, we might not be able to still use the old version of Windows, but the thing is that our old configuration is preserved. Existing operating system files will be copied to a folder called Windows.old. We can not roll back to previous operating system but we can access all files from previous OS. After the installation we can migrate our user data to the new installation and reinstall any our applications. We can use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer all user settings and data from the old installation to the new installation. Also, we can use the User State Migration Tool (USMT) for additional migration options. If we do a clean install on the same computer as our existing computer, we have to save user data and files before performing the installation.

Of course, during install we can also choose to reformat partition on which we want to install new Windows. In this case we delete all system files and all user data from our computer, and then install new version of Windows. Clean installation is the most recommended method for Windows installation. Clean installation is sometimes also called Custom installation.

In-Place Upgrade

The second type of installation is In-place upgrade. An in place upgrade takes an existing installation of Windows and upgrades it to a new installation. Our existing installation of Windows is overwritten with the new installation of Windows. In-place upgrade will maintain all of our users, applications, settings and files. New version of Windows is reconfigured to be aware of our data files and any applications were installed. Still, before we do in-place upgrade we should back-up all files and settings from previous OS. We should also disable antivirus software because it can interfere with the installation process. With In-place upgrade we have a computer that is similarly configured to our previous computer, but the difference is that we’re running a new operating system. Note that using this method our old operating system installation is no longer available.

Also, we can’t always use In-place upgrade. For example, In-place upgrades to Windows Vista are only allowed from XP Service Pack 2 or Vista (different Vista editions). If we have Windows 2000, we can’t do an in-place upgrade to Windows Vista. Also, we can’t upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Typically, we can only perform an in-place upgrade to the next higher version of Windows. If our new version is two versions away from our old version, we will typically have to do a clean installation. Also, we can’t upgrade 32-bit to 64-bit operating system or the other way around. We can only upgrade 32-bit to 32-bit, or 64-bit to 64-bit operating system. When it comes to Windows editions, we can perform in-place upgrade from one edition to another as long as we are moving up in editions. We can ‘t move downwards in editions. For example, we can upgrade from Home edition to Home Premium, but we can’t downgrade from Home Premium to Home. If we wan’t to downgrade, we have to do a clean installation.

Since all applications are preserved we might have application compatibility issues, so we have to check our applications against a new Windows installation. We can do an in-place upgrade using Windows CD/DVD or by connecting to a share.

Migration

The third way to install Windows is a migration. A migration involves two Windows installations. One Windows installation is the source and other is the destination. What we want to do is migrate user files and settings from the source to the destination installation. Migration can be performed either using the Side-by-side or Wipe and Load method. Side-by-side migration is used when Windows installations are on different computers. Wipe-and-load method is used when we only have one computer. If that is the case we can temporarily upload user settings on some other computer, wipe out existing computer and than do a clean install on that computer. After the installation we can download saved settings from previous installation to complete the migration process. To do migration we can use User State Migration Tool or Windows Easy Transfer.

Dualboot

Dualboot or multiboot refers to a computer that has more than one operating system installed. Each operating system can be used at different times but not simultaneously. For example, we can dual-boot between Windows XP and Windows 7, or multiboot between Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Reasons for multiboot can be software reasons. For example, if our hardware can support Windows 7 we can install Windows XP in a multiboot environment so we can utilize applications that work on Windows XP and which are not compatible with Windows 7. When using dual-boot or multiboot we have to remember that each OS must have its own partition or hard disk. When we configure our computer to multiboot it is also important to install operating systems in the order they were released. For example, if we dual-boot between Windows 7 and Windows XP, we have to install Windows XP first and then Windows 7.

Upgrade or Full Installation Media

We also have a choice in the type of operating system installation media. We can purchase an upgrade version of the operating system or a full version. Upgrade versions are typically cheaper than the full versions. Upgrade versions are for users that already have a previous copy of Windows installed on their computer, and who want to install the newer version on the same computer. Full versions are sold to those who do not yet have a copy of Windows, or who have versions that do not qualify for an upgrade version. Full versions of the operating system can only be installed using a clean or new installation. With upgrade versions we might be able to choose between either an in place upgrade or a clean installation, or we might be forced to perform a clean installation. For example, if we want to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, we can use an upgrade version of the operating system and perform an In-place upgrade. However, if we want to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, we will be forced to do a full (clean) installation, since this is a two version upgrade. Also, in this case we would typically qualify for the upgrade pricing, although we have to do a full installation. If we want to move from Vista to Windows 7, we can use the upgrade pricing. In general, a one step or two step upgrade in versions typically allows us to qualify for the upgrade pricing. In other words, upgrade versions are typically available for purchase if we have up to two versions lower than the new version. A three step upgrade to a different version forces us to purchase the full version of the new operating system. Also, a one step upgrade allows us to choose between either an In-place or a full installation. If we’re moving from one version up two different versions, we are forced to perform a full installation, even if we are using the upgrade version of Windows. We can only perform an in-place upgrade if we are moving only one version up.

Backup

Before doing the upgrade on the installation we should do a full system backup of our current system, especially if we are doing an in place upgrade. The backup gives us a way to recover and go back to our original installation if something goes wrong with the new installation. Also, if we are doing a clean install, we can use the backup to restore user data to the new installation.

Remember

To do a clean install we can either wipe out an existing operating system on existing partition and then install Windows, or we can install Windows on a brand-new partition. The clean installation requires migrating our data, as well as reinstalling all of our applications. In-place upgrade will maintain all of our users, applications, settings and files. In migration we want to migrate user files and settings from the source to the destination installation. Migration can be performed either using the Side-by-side or Wipe and Load method. Dualboot or multiboot refers to a computer that has more than one operating system installed. It is important to install the operating systems in the order they were released. Before installing Windows we should check if the hardware meets Windows requirements. Things to also consider is file system. For example, Vista must be installed on a partition that uses NTFS. Vista or Windows 7 can read a FAT16 or FAT32 partition, but cannot be installed on one.

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