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Performing a clean install of Windows 7

Updated on December 8, 2009


Windows 7 has recently been released from Microsoft as the newest desktop operating system available for computer users.

Most end users will either purchase their system with Windows 7 pre-installed or will have an existing system running either Windows Vista or Windows XP and they will upgrade to Windows 7.

The main difference is the completion of that upgrade task.

A Windows Vista upgrade can be performed in place which allows all of the currently installed applications, settings and system configuration to be directly carried over to Windows 7.

Windows XP users must perform a clean installation of the Windows 7 operating system. They will not be able to complete an in place upgrade directly to Windows 7. Without backing up their data, users settings and re-installation of all of their software it is for all intents and purposes a custom (advanced) installation of the operating system.

This walkthrough will outline the steps of performing a custom (advanced) install of the Windows 7 operating system to a virtual machine as if it were a bare disk (no operating system).

Additionally for those of you that might be studying for your 70-680 TS: Windows 7, Configuring exam, this walkthrough will provide you with some of the information that you should know for the Installing, Upgrading, and Migrating to Windows 7 - Perform a clean - Setting up Windows 7 as the sole operating system section of skills being measured.

A majority of these steps are the same ones performed for an installation on a Windows XP system.

The first step would be to start up the system after verifying that the DVD drive is available first in the boot order so that the system can start up from the DVD and begin the Windows file load portion of the installation.

Once the file load portion completes the Windows Pre-execution Environment (WinPE) will load.

The Install Windows screen will appear next which will allow you to choose the language to install as well as the time and currency format and the keyboard or input method.

When you choose NEXT to continue you will then arrive at the second Install Windows screen where you can review the "What to know before installing Windows" information by choosing that option if you wish.

Additionally, if this were a repair / recovery attempt you could choose the "Repair your computer" option.

Since we are going to continue forward from here with the installation we would choose INSTALL NOW so that the setup routine can continue.

The next screen is the software license terms page where you would need to put a check in the "I accept the license terms" in order to continue.

The next screen is where you choose your installation type. If we had an existing installation of Windows Vista and wanted to do an in place upgrade we would choose the UPGRADE option. Since this is a bare metal installation we would need to choose Custom (advanced) in order to continue.

Once the system does restart the next step is for the setup routine to make the initial registry configuration settings and from there start some of the initial services so that the remainder of the features and updates can be installed.

Once this is all complete, setup will restart the system again.

The next screen is where you would choose the available partition to install Windows. As you can see in the image there is only one available disk and partition to choose. Having said that, if there were additional disks available and other volumes to choose from they would be shown here.

Once you make your choice and hit NEXT the file copy to the hard drive portion of the installation begins and it will continue up to a certain point and reboot your system.

Once the machine restarts the installation routine will continue with setup starting Windows 7 formally for the first time.

The first interactive screen you'll reach after this restart is the Set Up Windows screen where you will enter a user name to use on the system and a name for the computer.

As you enter a username you'll notice the default computer name of PC becomes appended with what you are typing in the username space. You can keep this name for the computer or elect to change it as you wish.

Once you are all set entering this information you would choose NEXT to continue.

On the next Set Up Windows screen you will need to set up a password for the username you previously entered. You'll type it into the first field and then confirm your entry in the second field. Both will need to match in order to continue.

The third available field is for you to enter a hint that you might use to remember your password in the event you forget it.

For the purposes of the walkthrough we are going to clear that check box and not enter a key.

Windows 7 installations will allow you to install the operating system without providing a key for 30 days for testing and evaluation purposes. At the end of the 30 day period you will need to provide a key for the version of Windows you are installing and you will need to activate it.

The next page is the Help protect your computer and improve Windows automatically page. The default choice is made for you as shown below in the "Use recommended settings" selection that is highlighted. You can choose to keep this or configure one of the other two choices.

If you need additional information to make an alternate choice you can choose the "Learn more about each option" link.

For most home and casual users the default "Use recommended settings" option is best.

The next page is the Review your time and date settings where you can set the time, date, and adjust your time zone before continuing.

The next screen allows you to configure your computer's current location. Because the installation routine detected that the system was on a network connection, it is asking you to define the network type.

The three different options are shown in the image below with a short explanation of each.

In most cases on a home network the Home network option is an acceptable selection and the one we'll choose to continue.

If there are other systems on the network (as shown in the last image below) and a HomeGroup is already setup and running, the setup routine will ask you to select what you want to share in the HomeGroup and it will also ask you for the password for the existing HomeGroup

We will choose the SKIP option to continue as I do not want to add this virtual system to my HomeGroup.

If there was not already a HomeGroup present the setup routine would have prompted us to create the first one.

That is the final configuration step. From here the system will complete the install with these final settings and bring you to the desktop.

The next time you log off or reboot the system you'll see the familiar login screen where you need to enter your username and password for each subsequent login.

This concludes my Installing Windows 7 installation walkthrough - I hope you found it a good investment of your time.

I am always interested in your feedback and hearing about other topics that you might like to read about so please feel free to contact me directly by email at


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