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Why upgrade? Before you consider upgrading your version of Windows to a newer version, please weigh some of the pro's and con's before you take the drastic step of wiping your hard-drive clean and inserting the Install CD.
Upgrade or New ("clean") install? Microsoft has long provided the option (usually less expensive) of "upgrading"--sometimes called an "in-place Install"--an existing version of Windows to a newer version. This method offers the advantage of retaining your installed programs and files, user settings, Favorites and Address Books, and the various "tweaks" you've made to personalize your computer...things like themes, desktop settings, and wallpaper. Upgrading, therefore, is the easiest method of obtaining a newer Windows. The chart below lists the possible upgrade paths: find your current version on the left, and then look to the version you are considering on the right--a "yes" means a direct upgrade is possible.
*some upgrades are not possible depending on the version of Vista you're wanting. Please click here to see details.
The other method is to do a "clean" install of the new Windows version.
This requires more steps than upgrading does, as you will have to
reinstall the programs (and games!) you use, and you will have to
restore your data and files from the backup you made (In some cases you
can use tools, provided by Microsoft, called the System Transfer Tool or
User State Migration Tool. Or you can purchase specialty software.)
Most techs will recommend this method, however, because of the
simple fact that by leaving everything in place, you are leaving all the
bugs and quirks, and all the junk, on your current system as
well. A clean start is best--just make sure you have a
tested/working backup of your system state before you start the
install of the new version of Windows, and make sure you can locate
the install CD's for all your programs (and games) as you will have to
install them into the new O/S.
Special commentary on upgrading to the new Vista: because Vista is so new, and many manufacturers haven't released drivers for their latest devices yet (and certainly haven't gotten around to their older models...), and because Vista has such stringent hardware requirements, I recommend that you seriously consider buying a whole new machine--one that has Vista already installed--to ensure hardware compatibility (and I recommend you chose one with two Gigabytes of RAM). If your machine is quite new--a year, or less--please, please, please run the Vista Upgrade Advisor tool...and pay serious heed to any incompatibilities it finds. It checks your machine for incompatible hardware and software. Find it, and other Vista advice, here.
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