Looking for tips, tricks and best practices for installing Win7
June 10, 2011 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm reformatting my system and installing Windows 7 my computer this weekend, and I'd like tips, tricks, best practices and the like for setting up a new system. It's been a while since I've "refreshed" a system, and I feel rusty. And my RAM might be failing/faulty. More details inside.

This system has been upgraded a few times over the past years, including more RAM, a new video card, and replacing a second hard drive, when the older one was failing. All this under one old install of XP. I bought some OEM installation discs for Windows 7 from New Egg last Christmas, and have been dragging my heals about backing everything up and reinstalling.

Since my machine isn't the newest and shiniest, I've been thinking of streamlining my system, before (with rt7lite or slipstreaming) or after installing Win7.

To make things trickier, my RAM may be failing (my computer crashes after running uTorrent for anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 days). the HCI Design version of Memtest found an error, but Memtest86 (run from a bootable CDr) found nothing.

In short:
1. Do you have any Best Practices for reformatting and installing a new OS, specifically Windows 7 OEM?
2. How and when should I check for faulty RAM?
posted by filthy light thief to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Check for faulty RAM before you go ahead and spend hours configuring things.


One thing I personally like to do, is move my profile, temp, swap, event logs and anything else that normally does "writing" to a secondary "drive". (That "drive" could actually be a RAID array itself, while the primary would be RAID 0 for performance).

Then I scour the net for "tips" sites and apply them as I encounter them... (IPv6? gone, 8.3-compatible NTFS filenames? Not necessary, etc.)
posted by jkaczor at 1:52 PM on June 10, 2011

Since you're going to be installing a lot of software/utilities this will be very useful. It lets you install multiple pieces of software automatically.
posted by pyro979 at 2:05 PM on June 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

On preview i see that pyro979 already suggested a similar tool.

I have found http://ninite.com/ to be a real time saver when setting up a fresh install of Windows.
posted by phil at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

It would really help us help you if you told more specifics about your hardware. CPU, GPU, motherboard model, ram.

2. Sounds like your RAM's already faulty, but it were me, I'd pop in a Ubuntu CD and let its memtest run overnight. I don't know what memory your PC takes, but 4 GB of DDR2 costs about $65. You probably use your PC enough that you can justify that.

1. If you see the Vista progress bar and get a screen demanding CD/DVD drivers then your disc is bad. I've had more disc problems (all burned ISOs, not pressed) with Win 7 than any OS I can remember. You probably won't encounter this. Beyond that, installing Win 7 is pretty painless. I can't think of any particular best practice to cite. Install OS, install any extra drivers, hit Ninite.com to grab all the commons, then do your thing.

If you're just installing the one machine I wouldn't bother with slipstreaming unless it's something you are already an expert professional at. You'd spend more time reading about how to do it than it would take for Win 7 to update itself. It only really saves you time when you're making an image to install to a lot of machines.

In my opinion, unless you are tragically limited with disk space, I wouldn't bother with rt7lite either. I don't think you'd see any noticeable performance benefits.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:02 PM on June 10, 2011

>If the CPU isn't a dual core you might not want to bother with Windows 7.

There are lot of reasons to want Windows 7, and almost none of them require dual core. The only thing I can think of is the eye-candy, and with a decent video card, that's not an issue. Given reasonable speed (say, 2+Ghz), and no less than 2G of memory (more the better), Win7 runs just fine.

My demo laptop (don't want it to glitch in front of the client) is a P4M-2.5, 2G memory and a Geforce 2Go video card. High end 4-5 years ago. Runs Win7 Ultimate very nice.
posted by kjs3 at 7:25 PM on June 10, 2011

In my experience, any box that runs XP will run Windows 7 with about equal responsiveness. You will need a halfway decent GPU before 7 will deign to let you turn on all the Aero compositing stuff, but you can Google for workarounds that will let you try running it even on crappy old Intel integrated graphics.

Best practice would be to buy yourself two nice new 1TB internal hard disks (and a PCI SATA card to connect them to, if your PC is too old to have SATA on the mobo), then put your existing XP hard disk in an external USB enclosure and stick it in a drawer.

Create a 100GB (93GiB = Windows GB) partition on one of them as C: drive, install Windows in that, and it will run bloody quick.

100GB is bags of space for everything you could possibly want to stick on your computer except a media collection. So once Windows 7 is up and running, use its Disk Management tool to make a 900GB D: partition on the second 1TB drive; that will be where your photos, music and videos go.

Now you can make E: out of the remaining 100GB on the second drive, and F: out of the remaining 900GB on the first one. Use E: to back up stuff from C:, and F: to back up stuff from C:; since most of your computer's time will not be spent accessing backups, this scheme doesn't cost you the operational speed you gained by short-stroking C: in the first place.

But before you do any of this, you want to resolve that RAM error. It might be an actual RAM fault - if you have a tool that consistently fails when you run with only stick A installed but consistently works with only stick B installed, replace stick A.

If you can't consistently and predictably associate a RAM test failure with a particular RAM stick, then the failure is probably actually caused by (in descending order of likelihood) a power supply fault, bad capacitors on the motherboard, other mobo fault, CPU cooling fault, plug-in card fault (perhaps a corroded edge connector - try cleaning it up with a pencil eraser) or CPU failure.
posted by flabdablet at 11:57 PM on June 10, 2011

Sorry: use F: to back up the media collection on D:.
posted by flabdablet at 12:02 AM on June 11, 2011

Oh, yes: turn indexing, System Restore, page file storage and any antivirus background scanning off on both the backup partitions. You don't want Windows touching those at all unless you are backing up or restoring.
posted by flabdablet at 12:06 AM on June 11, 2011

I did it recently to a 1.5 gigahertz celeron processor laptop and it works just like Windows should. Windows 7 once installed rates how effective the O/S "experience" will be on that hardware setup and this unit barely rates on the scale (can't Aero but so what). The video hardware on it does not support Windows 7 but I don't use the unit for DVDs.
I suggest going to your processor manufacturer's website where you can download and run an evaluation utility similar to the Microsoft Windows 7 one on their site. It will tell you if your video hardware is up to snuff for 7.
If it isn't and you still want to watch DVDs then just download and install VideoLan Player... a great solution for codec problems, etc.

Windows 7 requires formatting using the NTFS file structure. My unit was FAT32 so I wound up doing a complete install instead of an upgrade.
posted by No Shmoobles at 12:44 PM on June 11, 2011

Response by poster: BeerFilter: It would really help us help you if you told more specifics about your hardware. CPU, GPU, motherboard model, ram.

Ah, right. Here's what I think are the key bits, culled from Direct X Diagnosis (found via Yahoo Answers, which can actually be useful from time to time)

Processor: AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 3800+, MMX, 3DNow (2 CPUs), ~2.0GHz
Memory: 3072MB RAM

Card name: NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS
Display Memory: 512.0 MB

Motherboard: I think it's a GIGABYTE GA-M51GM-S2G AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX AMD
posted by filthy light thief at 6:52 PM on June 12, 2011

Response by poster: As for backing up my data, I have ample space. I went a wee bit crazy, and have at least 7tb of storage, 4 in external drives.

And thanks for the answers so far! I haven't gotten off my arse this weekend, but I've started to sort my files to upgrade this system in the near future.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:55 PM on June 12, 2011

I expect you'd get a Windows Experience score somewhere around 3.5 with that system, which is more than enough for Aero and video playback but a bit soggy for gaming.
posted by flabdablet at 1:42 AM on June 13, 2011

Oh, and given that you don't have more than 3GB RAM, there is no point at all installing the 64 bit flavour of Windows 7. I've never seen a 64 bit Windows app display a real-world speed advantage over its 32 bit equivalent when running in a 3GB box; nor does Windows itself run file transfers etc. any faster in 64 bit mode. On the other hand, 32 bits is still a winner on compatibility; even in 2011 you might still run across the occasional device that doesn't have a 64 bit Windows 7 driver available.
posted by flabdablet at 1:46 AM on June 13, 2011

Your hardware is getting longish in tooth but it should run Win 7 just fine.

If that is in fact you motherboard (you can run Speccy {direct dl} and click on Motherboard and it will probably tell you if there's any real doubt) you've got some decent room to upgrade that machine if you wanted to extend it's life. It'll take up to 16GB of DDR2. You'd probably be pretty nice with 4GB. You could also upgrade the CPU a good bit and it would take a real gaming video card with it's PCI Express slot. MeMail me if you like.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:20 PM on June 13, 2011

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