When I upgraded my office computer to Windows 7, I installed a new hard drive and left the original hard drive in the case as a second drive. That’s the easiest way to make sure that no files are left behind during the upgrade, since they can be copied into place from the old drive.
It also makes it easier to handle last-minute glitches. When I needed quick access to the system as it was before the upgrade, I could accomplish that in just a few seconds: I shut down the computer, unplugged the SATA cable from the new hard drive and plugged it into the old hard drive, and just that easily, the computer was firing up Windows from the old hard drive – from its perspective, nothing had changed from what it had been. I took care of the unfinished business, plugged the cable back into the new drive (and reattached the second cable to the old drive) and the upgrade proceeded.
I had overlooked a license issue. Adobe Acrobat 8 and 9 are licensed to a particular installation of Windows. If you plan to upgrade onto a clean hard drive, the old license has to be “deactivated” from the Acrobat Help menu on the old computer or the license won’t work on the new hard drive. There’s probably a way to accomplish that by calling Adobe tech support, but it’s easier to do it from the program.
If you’re an iTunes user with music purchased from the iTunes store, keep the same thing in mind. Apple allows those songs to be played on five computers. If your iTunes installation on the new hard drive is number six, Apple won’t let the songs be played. If you deauthorize the program on the old hard drive, you’ll be able to start up right away on the new one.
There are other programs with similar requirements. (Examples: Adobe Photoshop and Creative Suite; the backup program ShadowProtect. Microsoft Office does not have any “deauthorize” routine – instead, it requires a phone call but it’s typically very easy.) There’s always a way around it – the companies presumably have a way to be merciful when a hard drive crashes before a license can be deactivated. Just keep it in mind as you think through the checklist for upgrading a computer.