How to install a clean version of Windows 7

Installing a clean version of Windows 7 on your desktops may be easier than upgrading from Windows XP or Vista. Migrate to Microsoft's newest OS with these steps.

This is the second article in a two-part series on upgrading to Windows 7.

There are several ways to install a clean version of Windows 7 on enterprise desktops. And regardless of the method, the process may be easier than upgrading from Windows XP or Windows Vista.

For older machines, it may make sense to replace the hard drive with a larger hard drive with Windows 7 installed. This can be done in the followings steps:



  1. Identify the drive type (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) or Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA)) in the user's computer.
    If a drive bay is available, install the new drive in an available port. If the new drive is a PATA drive, check whether this new drive is "master" or "slave" -- it is best to install the new drive on the same cable, and it may require changing the drive already installed to slave and the new drive to master. If cable select was set on the old drive, set the new drive to "Cable Select" and switch cables, making the new drive the master, as determined by the cable order.

  3. Install Windows 7 to the new drive.
    Use a drive image or an installation DVD, and be careful to install to the new drive -- this will involve formatting and partitioning the new drive. If you install from an enterprise image file or from an image on the network, approved applications will probably also be installed as part of the clean install.

  5. Reboot the computer.
    If necessary, set the new drive in the BIOS to be the boot drive. If files or user settings need to be transferred, they can be moved from the old drive (still installed in the system). After desired settings and applications are transferred, the old drive can be removed or recycled, although you may decide to leave the old drive in the system.


    Follow the first two steps in the upgrade instructions, backing up the system settings to an external drive or over the network.

  7. Install a new copy of Windows to an existing drive.
    For the clean install, use an image that contains the approved settings and applications created by the IT department. This can be installed from a DVD or from a network file. Once the clean installation is completed, restore the user's settings from the "Easy Transfer" file.

    Your may choose not to restore the user settings because they contain components not approved by your enterprise.


    Use a new computer with Windows 7 already installed, or use a computer onto which you have installed an approved Windows 7 image. Using Easy Transfer or another method, move settings from the user's old computer onto the new one.

When to perform a clean install
A clean install for Windows 7 is recommended in the following scenarios:

  • The user may have installed unauthorized applications that you don't want to keep on the user's system.


  • The user's computer may have viruses or other malware that you don't want to keep on the system.


  • The user's operating environment may have become bloated, just from regular use. A clean install should make an old computer run like new.

Although the user may be unhappy that some of the interface components (such as wallpapers) have not been installed, some of them could be restored without changing the overall operation of Windows 7 -- or threatening the security of the system.

More on migrating to Windows 7

Checklist for upgrading from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7

When run under Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2, the administrator will have the ability to block unauthorized applications from being installed. The added control of the overall Windows 7 user pool should improve enterprise system operations.

The Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, available from Microsoft, should simplify some of the steps required to install Windows 7.

Tools from companies like Symantec can help create images of user drives and transfer user settings from an old computer to a new computer with Windows 7 already installed (or to a replacement computer with the updated Windows 7 image).

Furthermore, it may be necessary to prevent users from installing or running certain applications. For example, this author ran a registry defragmentation program written for Windows Vista and XP on an early version of Windows 7. The application wasn't smart enough to determine that the OS was not Windows Vista and made it impossible to relaunch Windows 7. Some applications may still not be able to fully support Windows 7. Now that you may have the ability to block installation and running of unauthorized applications, this type of catastrophe could be prevented.

A variety of methods can be used to perform either a clean install or an upgrade of Windows 7. Determining the best move for your enterprise is an important first step -- and different systems and departments may take different approaches.


 Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and consultant based in Northridge, Calif. He has been editor at technology publications, has written seven books, and is a Microsoft Systems Certified Administrator. He runs and maintains networks, analyzes and reviews new technologies, and consults on storage and system-related issues. He can be reached at [email protected].

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