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Plan way, way ahead with Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Run Microsoft's free upgrade checker to learn whether your PC's equipment is ready for the next version of Windows.

Windows 7 is still three months away, but Microsoft has already cranked up the marketing machine with the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. Before you take the little bit of time and trouble to download the 6.2MB file and let Microsoft scan your PC, be sure to visit the official Upgrade Advisor page.

There you will see Microsoft assert that if your system runs Vista, it will run Windows 7, "in general." Another blanket recommendation from the company is that if you're currently using Windows XP, you should buy a new PC with Windows 7 preinstalled. Microsoft even offers links to a shopping helper and lists of Windows 7-ready systems.

Well, so much for running the Upgrade Advisor. Out of curiosity, I ran the advisor on my 4-month-old 64-bit Vista Home Premium notebook. First, I made sure all the machine's peripherals were plugged in. After only a few minutes, I was informed that I could do an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate. (You'll find information about the various versions of Windows 7 on Microsoft's site.)

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor report
Let Microsoft determine whether your PC can run Windows 7 via the Upgrade Advisor. Microsoft

My PC got green checkmarks in all categories but one. The report prompted me to download Windows Mail and Parental Controls. Following the link led to the Windows Live Essentials download—for Vista.

Since most of the Live Essentials missing in Windows 7 are built into Vista, I wasn't sure what I was being prompted to download, or whether this would allow the Live Essentials apps to be retained in an in-place upgrade to Windows 7.

No matter what the Upgrade Advisor's advice, I won't take the scan's results very seriously. There are bound to be a few upgrade glitches that don't become apparent until after Windows 7 actually ships. But the advisor does provide Microsoft with a good amount of anonymous (I trust) information about your system, and it gives the company yet another marketing opportunity, so it's has that going for it.