Migration to Windows 7

Migration isn’t just for the birds. It’s the process you go through to make all of your day-to-day tasks—the ones you’re accustomed to doing on Windows Vista or XP—function on a new Windows 7 installation.

If you haven’t yet installed Windows 7, one way to determine what will work and what won’t is to use the free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (UA) . UA does nothing more than construct a laundry list of warnings, each pointing out a potential problem with products it knows Windows 7 doesn’t like. In many cases, you can remedy such issues by installing free updates from the respective manufacturers. But don’t expect anything more; UA is useless for products not on its compatibility list.

For instance, UA might bring to your attention that your printer, antivirus software, backup software, CD burning software, and perhaps your Bluetooth adapter are all unsupported on Windows 7. So, this means you’ll definitely need new versions of your antivirus and backup software (see Chapter 6) and your CD burning software (Chapter 4). You’ll also need to check with the manufacturers of your printer and Bluetooth adapter to see whether they’ve released native Windows 7 drivers (in nearly all cases, native Vista drivers will do). If there aren’t yet compatible drivers and you don’t want to wait, you’ll need to replace those devices.

Beyond that, you’ll need to actually try any mission-critical software or hardware with Windows 7 to see if it’ll work. To make sure you’ve covered all your bases before you commit to the new OS, you can either set up a dual-boot system or install Windows 7 in a virtualized environment, both explained earlier in this chapter.

What follows is a brief roadmap and some tips to help you get up to speed with Windows 7 quickly.

Coming from Windows XP?

Disorientation is probably the prevailing sensation among those users coming to Window 7 from XP or earlier versions of Windows. Here’s where you can find some of the more elusive entities you may have grown accustomed to:

Add or Remove Programs

This is still in Control Panel, but now it’s called Programs and Features.

Aero Glass interface

Windows 7 features the same see-through Glass interface introduced in Vista, although the Desktop Window Manager (DWM) has been improved in this latest version to be more memory-efficient. See Chapter 5 if you’re having trouble getting Glass to work.

Address Bar

The path box in Windows Explorer doubles as an address bar, so if you want to type a path or copy the current path to the clipboard, click just to the right of the text, and Explorer will show you a familiar, backslash-equipped folder path in an editable text field. See Chapter 2 for a complete tour of the new Windows Explorer.

Display Properties

Right-click an empty area of the desktop and select Screen resolution. Or, in Control Panel, open the Display page, and on the left side, click Adjust resolution.

File Types window

Sorry, you don’t get one of these in Windows 7. The best Microsoft could do is the nearly useless Default Programs page in Control Panel. If you want to edit your context menus, you’ll need File Type Doctor, explained in Chapter 3.

Menus in Windows and Internet Explorer

Microsoft took the menus out of both Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer, and replaced them with tool ribbons and drop-down buttons that do pretty much the same thing. But you can always press the Alt key on the keyboard to temporarily show the old, familiar menu bars in either application. See Chapter 2 if you want to make it permanent in Windows Explorer.

Network Connections

As explained in Chapter 7, the Network Connections window has been subjugated and buried in Windows 7. In Control Panel, open the Network and Sharing Center page. On the left side, click Change adapter settings.

Start MenuRun

You can use the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu to run any program; just type the filename (e.g., control.exe) and press Enter.


The familiar System Properties window that has been around since Windows 2000, and the only way to change your PC’s name on your network, is now buried under the Advanced system settings link on the new System page in Control Panel. Alternatively, you can type SystemPropertiesAdvanced.exe in the Start menu’s Search box and press Enter to open this window.

And there’s more; see the next section for some goodies that are unfamiliar even to Vista users.

Coming from Windows Vista?

Since Windows 7 is a incremental update to Vista, your transition should be pretty easy. Aside from some minor changes to the way the registry is handled on 64-bit systems (see Chapter 3), most of the changes are skin-deep:

Action Center

It’s taken too long, but Microsoft has finally acknowledged that people hate the barrage of pop ups, reminders, warnings, and confirmation windows that has been thrown at them all these years. But instead of simply eliminating them, Microsoft has consolidated them into the Action Center. So you now know where to go if you want to be reminded to activate Windows, find and install antivirus software (that should’ve come preinstalled, mind you), and download a gigabyte of updates to fix all the bugs that have been found so far.

Device Manager

Device Manager (devmgmt.msc) is still present in Windows 7, but there’s a new icon-based tool in Control Panel called Devices and Printers. Right-click any device in the Devices and Printers window to access features and tasks specific to that device. See Chapter 6 for more information.


The Homegroups feature doesn’t replace traditional file and printer sharing, it only augments it, and then only when everyone on your network is running Windows 7. See Chapter 7 for details.

Libraries & improved search

At first glance, Libraries aren’t much different than the specialized folders found in earlier versions of Windows: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. (Although the cutesy “My” prefix is absent here, it’s still used for the folder names, like My Pictures.) But these folders are now accompanied by a background database that improves searches and connects to the Homegroups feature for improved media sharing. See Chapter 2 for ways to improve searches and customize your Libraries, as well as a way to get rid of the Libraries entry in Windows Explorer if you don’t like the clutter.

Nifty window management shortcuts

Microsoft has added a bunch of keyboard and mouse shortcuts to improve window management in Windows 7. For instance, grab a window title bar and shake vigorously from side to side, and Windows will minimize all windows but the one you’re holding. Or if you’re using multiple monitors, hold the Windows logo key and the Shift key while pressing the left or right arrows to move the active window to a different screen. (Without holding Shift, one press only docks a window to the side of the active screen—you’d need three presses to do the same thing.) For more shortcuts, see Chapter 2.


The Vista Sidebar is gone, at least on the surface. Sidebar gadgets are now simply called Gadgets, and they can be placed anywhere on the desktop. It’s unsettlingly similar to the horrible Active Desktop that was lumped into Windows 98, but greatly improved.

Taskbar & Jump Lists

The taskbar in Windows 7 now holds icons for running applications and shortcuts to start new applications, side by side. (Previously, shortcuts were confined to tiny, annoying dockable toolbars.) Right-click a running task to pin it to the taskbar so it sticks around even after you exit the program.

Right-click a taskbar icon (representing a running application) in a previous version of Windows, and you’ll see the same boring system menu that appears when you click the top-left corner of any open window. In Windows 7, you’ll see a customized jump list with a list of open windows (if there’s more than one), as well as frequently used locations—folders, if it’s Windows Explorer, or websites if it’s Internet Explorer—and tasks, like opening a new window.

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