Here are answers to some common questions about upgrading to Windows 7 from our Windows 7 frequently asked questions page. (And if you need more information and guidance on installing and reinstalling Windows 7, check out this page on the Windows 7 site.)

What's the difference between the upgrade and full versions of Windows 7?

When purchasing Windows 7, you can choose either an upgrade version or full version. Both upgrade and full versions include the same features. Upgrade versions require that Windows XP or Windows Vista are installed on your computer before installing Windows 7. Full versions don't require a previous version of Windows to be installed on your computer.

What is an upgrade installation?

An upgrade installation replaces your current version of Windows with Windows 7 and your files, settings, and programs are kept in place on your PC. You can perform an upgrade installation using either the upgrade or full version of Windows 7.

What is a custom (clean) installation?

A custom installation replaces your current version of Windows with Windows 7 but doesn't preserve your files, settings, and programs (it's often referred to as a clean installation for this reason). For installation instructions, see Upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 (custom installation). You can perform a custom installation using either the upgrade or full version of Windows 7.

How do I get Windows 7?

You can purchase Windows 7 at retail locations or online. If you have a mini notebook or other PC that doesn't have a DVD drive, you can purchase and download Windows 7 online at the Microsoft Store.

I'm running Windows XP on my PC. Can I upgrade to Windows 7?

You can buy the upgrade version of Windows 7, but you'll need to perform a custom installation. This means that you should back up all of your files to an external location and gather the installation discs or setup files for programs that you want to use with Windows 7. For detailed instructions, see Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

I'm running Windows Vista on my PC. Can I upgrade to Windows 7?

You can buy the upgrade version of Windows 7. In some cases you can upgrade directly to Windows 7, but in other cases you'll need to perform a custom installation. The following table shows which editions of Windows Vista can be directly upgraded to Windows 7:

If you're running this edition of Windows Vista

You can upgrade to this edition of Windows 7

Windows Vista Home Basic

Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows Vista Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows Vista Business

Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows Vista Ultimate

Windows 7 Ultimate

If you're currently running a 32-bit version of Windows Vista and want to install a 64-bit version of Windows 7, you'll need to perform a custom installation. Also, if you're currently running a 64-bit version of Windows Vista and want to install a 32-bit version of Windows 7 (less common), you'll need to perform a custom installation. For detailed instructions on performing a custom installation, see Upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 (custom installation).

Can I use upgrade media to install Windows 7 on a computer that doesn't currently have Windows installed on it?

Windows 7 upgrade media was designed to be used on a computer that has Windows XP or Windows Vista installed on it. You can use upgrade media to install Windows 7 on a computer that doesn't have Windows XP, Windows Vista, or any version of Windows installed on it by starting (or booting) your computer from the Windows 7 DVD and performing a custom installation. However, you won't be able to activate Windows 7, which validates that you have a genuine copy of Windows and allows you access to all the features. For more information about activation errors, see Windows 7 activation error: invalid product key and Windows 7 activation error: 0xC004F061.

We recommend that you install Windows XP or Windows Vista before installing Windows 7 using upgrade media. Before you attempt to install Windows 7 using upgrade media on a computer that doesn't have Windows on it, see Installing and reinstalling Windows 7.

Can I format my hard drive, and then install Windows 7?

If you purchase the full version of Windows 7, you can format your hard drive, and then install Windows 7. If you purchase the upgrade version of Windows 7 and want to format your hard drive, you'll need to start (or boot) your computer from the Windows 7 DVD, and then perform a custom installation. You can click Drive options (advanced), and then format your hard drive. Don't use a program from another software manufacturer to format your hard drive before installing Windows 7. If you are using upgrade media and format the drive before starting the installation process, you won't be able to use the upgrade product key to activate Windows 7. For more information, see Installing and reinstalling Windows 7.

What is the Windows 7 Family Pack?

The Windows 7 Family Pack is a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium that you can install on up to three PCs in your home. It includes both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 installation discs. The Family Pack contains the upgrade version of Windows 7, so all three computers must have Windows XP or Windows Vista installed on them before installing Windows 7. For more information, go to the Special offers webpage.

 

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