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Upgrading to Windows 7 Could Be Heaven or Hell

Upgrading to Windows 7 Could Be Heaven or Hell

Windows 7 upgrades will be a cinch for most users who are now running Vista. But with older Windows XP PCs, it could get dicey, fast. Here's a no-nonsense Windows 7 upgrade guide covering pricing, installation options and that whole 32-bit versus 64-bit issue.

There's been enough written about upgrading to Windows 7 to fill a library, so you'd think PC users would understand the pros, cons and pitfalls by now.

Well, not quite. Most people get the gist of their Windows 7 upgrade choices, but some tricky nuances and possible snags continue to confound consumers.

C'mon, this is Microsoft. It has to be at least a little complicated. If upgrading were a smooth and easy process, that would be ... um well, that would Apple.

The Price You Pay

If you took advantage of Microsoft's pre-order upgrade program from June 26 to July 11, you paid $49.99 for Windows 7 Home Premium or $99.99 for Windows 7 Professional and you are waiting for the disks to arrive in the mail on Oct. 22, when Windows 7 officially ships.

If you missed the pre-order upgrade boat, the retail price of Home Premium is $119.99, Professional is $199.99 and Ultimate is $219.99.

What about new PC purchases? Microsoft has an offer dubbed the "Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program." Starting last June 26 and lasting through the end of January 2010, if you buy a new Vista machine, you qualify for a free copy of Windows 7. I imagine most buyers will want to have Windows 7 on new PCs after Oct. 22, but if you prefer Vista you at least have the option to upgrade to Windows 7 for free.

The upgrades will be provided after Windows 7 ships on Oct. 22 and will be offered either by DVD or download, depending on the Microsoft partner.

Most PCs running Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate qualify for a free Windows 7 upgrade, but all buyers should check with the retailer or PC maker to make sure their new Vista machine qualifies.

The Easy Way to Upgrade

So you've got Windows 7 in hand. Now what?

In some cases, upgrading will be as simple a loading the Windows 7 DVD, typing in a code and waiting about 45 minutes. Such a plug-and-play type installation (called an "in-place upgrade") is by far the most hassle-free way to get Windows 7 on your PC. You don't even have to back up your data (though you still definitely should). You will be running Windows 7 and all your applications, programs, settings, and photos and files will be as they were before.

But even with in-place upgrades there's a slight catch. They only apply to those PCs running Vista, with at least 20GB of free disk space - although that should not be a problem for most users given the amount of storage on today's hard drives.

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