I got a copy of Windows 7 last week through one of Microsoft’s partner programs. On Saturday I had a lovely day converting my primary office computer from Vista to Windows 7. There are a lot of ways to do that – I’ll tell you what I did, because I may suggest the same thing to some of you.

The plan was not to format my existing hard drive and run the risk that I hadn’t backed up something important. Instead I bought a new 750Gb hard drive from Western Digital’s Caviar Black line (fast, compatible, sturdy, under a hundred dollars) and hooked it up as drive 1, with my existing drive cabled as drive 2. USB drives and devices were left plugged in – a printer, webcam, external hard drive, USB headset, and more.

16minutes I booted from the Windows 7 Professional 64-bit DVD to start the setup. From the moment I hit the Enter key to start the installation on the empty, unpartitioned, unformatted 750Gb drive, it took exactly sixteen minutes until I was looking at the installed Windows 7 desktop. Sixteen minutes! When I think of the hours I’ve spent with Windows XP, formatting drives and watching files copy and waiting for hourglasses, that seems slightly surreal.

Every single device was working, with the exception of an old Epson Perfection 2400 scanner. The video card, the sound card, the USB devices were all identified and drivers had been installed. Epson had a 64-bit driver for the scanner which brought it to life in short order.

In some sense, then, the installation of Windows 7 took an hour or so – to install the drive, install Windows 7, and clean up the last unidentified driver.

And then came the hard part.

spiral-clock I spent more than six hours installing programs and copying data into place from the old drive. My program CDs are organized and I keep track of passwords and serial numbers and licenses, so I didn’t run into the problems many of you will have. But there is no getting around the hours required to install Microsoft Office, Quicken, Quickbooks, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop Elements, J River Media Center, and the other programs that are part of my world. Every program had to be updated; many of them require multiple updates. All the documents and photos and videos had to be copied from the old drive to the new one. There were many, many places to click OK and then walk away for ten minutes before coming back to click Continue or Finish or Restart.

I’ll tell you more about the details of Windows 7 in the next few months. This was a success story from one perspective – Windows 7 is moving like lightning and I’ve already discovered a few new things that are quite nice improvements over Vista. I haven’t had trouble installing or running any program and in many respects I’m up and running just like before. (Except for the task bar, which is very strange. I’m really not sure if you’re going to like the task bar.)

I think many of my clients will expect me to help them upgrade their existing computers and I’m pretty sure the economics of my hourly rate will mean that won’t be a good idea. Some of the work of installing programs and moving data is inevitable regardless of whether you get a new computer or upgrade an old one, but it takes even longer on an old computer and the result is less satisfying.

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