General discussion

Upgrading from Windows 7 to 10, worried about all my stuff

Mar 13, 2020 2:58PM PDT

Hi. I know that I can still make a free upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. But I'm concerned about what will happen to my programs, music collection, photos and folders if I switch on my laptop. How can I safeguard the files that I want to keep? I'd appreciate suggestions and advice from you and other members and I'd like to know about the experiences of people who've made the switch. I'm also wondering if security programs such as Webroot or Norton 360 will protect my laptop from any viruses or malware since Microsoft has ended support for Windows 7. Thank you in advance for any insight, advice and help. Take care.

--Submitted by Dwight H.

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Reply to: Upgrading from Windows 7 to 10, worried about all my stuff
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In a few words.
Mar 13, 2020 3:30PM PDT

"We only lose what we don't backup. Backup to a DVD, USB , or an external drive.

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"We only lose what we don't backup."
Mar 13, 2020 5:02PM PDT

So for the first part a full set of backups of the entire system or better yet clone that drive to a spiffy new SSD then upgrade the installed SSD. The old HDD goes into storage as your full backup that nothing can get to since it's not plugged in.

As to the second part of the question I am seeing PEOPLE are the cause of losses and not viruses. Malware is also something we install and I've seen Norton, and every name of protection fail as the user follows the "install instructions" that came with an infected too often TORRENTED app or game to "disable virus protection to install."

So the protection starts at the keyboard.

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Say yes to the SSD
Mar 20, 2020 3:47PM PDT

Bob, Of course an SSD is the answer these days. Good call!

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What is SSD?
Mar 23, 2020 7:38PM PDT

Just to remind you of some of your lower-tech audience, but could you spell out technical terms upon first use? Thanks! Also, there is advice to back up to USB. I thought USB was a method of connection. Does it mean to use USB to back up to another hard drive?

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Mar 23, 2020 8:00PM PDT

SSD = Solid State Drive
For practical purposes you can think of it as a very fast drive that's a little more expensive than a standard hard drive, usually called HD or HDD, for Hard Disk Drive. To give a little more details, an SSD is like a high capacity, fancy thumb drive or SD card, that stores its information on computer chips instead of a spinning disk, like a hard drive. It provides a few more hardware features that will help it last longer than either of those. And, it has the connections to be a simple replacement for your current hard drive.

SSDs used to be far more expensive. They have come down in price to where an average user can get a usable size for under $80. Still more expensive that a hard drive of the same capacity, but an SSD is much faster for many tasks. Most people perceive a noticeable improvement in the performance of their computer,.

USB is a connection type, but in this context, when people say, "Copy to USB" they mean copy to an external drive that is connected to your computer by a USB cable. Most people use their external drives primarily for archival purposes, so there's rarely a need to spend the money for an SSD for the task. The big advantage of a USB drive is that you don't have to open your computer to use it. And, it can be easily plugged into another computer, if something happens to yours. And, they tend to be relatively inexpensive. Just a few dollars more than a bare drive.

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Back it up
Mar 20, 2020 3:46PM PDT

Best thing to do is to get a removable drive of the same capacity as your hard drive and make a verbatim copy of your hard drive. When you install Windows 10, it asks you whether you want to keep your programs and data. Of course, you will check the checkbox that says YES, emphatically. The latest Windows 10 1909 has installed or updated trouble-free for me numerous times, unlike the early versions whose install could leave you with an unusable system, as happened way back with my laptop. Still, take the precautions.

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I completely agree with R. Proffitt
Mar 20, 2020 3:57PM PDT

Clone to a new SS Drive first and store the original drive as back up. No antivirus or Windows upgrade or update will keep you safe and always protected. Security is never any better then the common sense of the person clicking and keying. If they have no common sense find them a different position or a completely locked down workstation. Most upgrades to Windows 10 go well and so does the programing but ask first about specialty programing. Some else has already tried it. Windows 10 upgrade failures are mostly caused by antivirus or anti malware programing. REMOVE them first. Many business HP computers need to have the Setup folder deleted from drive C: first

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Safely upgrading to Windows 10
Mar 20, 2020 4:00PM PDT

You'll find sound guidance on this free upgrade from Ed Bott at .

Before attempting the upgrade to Windows 10, make sure you've got plenty of free space on your "C" drive at least 32 GB. And remember that an in-place upgrade must be to the same bit version of Windows 10 as your Windows 7 - 32 bit to 32 bit; 64 bit to 64 bit. If you want to change from Win 7 32 bit to Wind 10 64-bit, you have to install from scratch and you will have to reinstall your applications (and likely restore your data from a back up).

Speaking of back ups, everybody who advises you to first back up your data is right on target. This is especially essential when using a laptop computer. So, at a minimum, copy all of your essential files to an external hard drive or, if your laptop has a CD/DVD drive, to CDs and/or DVDs -- or to USB flash drives. If possible, you'd be savvy to back up your entire existing hard drive (or SSD) to an external drive. Acronis True Image ( -- no free version but you can frequently get good deals at, Macrium Reflex (, AOMEI Backupper Standard (free - can all be used to make a back up image -- or better still, a clone of your current drive.

Once backed up -- because things can go wrong sometimes -- you should be able to upgrade without incident or any loss of data. Depending on the manufacturer of your laptop, there may be a free upgrade to Windows 10 at the manufacturer's site. Otherwise, use the Media Creation Tool at to do the upgrade. You'll want to pick "Using the tool to upgrade this PC...." During the process you should select "Keep everything" which will retain your applications and data including your Windows profile.

Good luck. I've updated more than a dozen PCs including a few laptops to Windows 10 and it's gone pretty smoothly.

By the way, if you don't like the new Start Menu, Start10 from the good folks at enables you to retain a Windows 7 style Start Menu. They offer a free 30-day trial of this $4.99 application.

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Two things to add to this
Mar 21, 2020 8:22AM PDT

1. The Windows 10 Desktop is so similar to Windows 7 (and to the later versions of Windows Cool that the learning curve will be very brief,

2. It is likely that you will need to update some of your device drivers. The drivers for laptop touchpads have been a frequent hassle, as are printer drivers, but there are often other devices where your old drivers will not be compatible with Windows 10. Compatible drivers can generally be obtained from the manufacturer of the devices, but you may need to know who that manufacturer is -- it isn't necessarily the manufacturer of your laptop. It is likely, however, that the manufacturer of your laptop will have an area under "Support" where you will be able to obtain these drivers based on the model number or serial number of your laptop.

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Painless transition
Mar 20, 2020 4:14PM PDT

After vacillating for an extended period I decided in January to upgrade my desktop to Windows 10 because of the impending end of support for Windows 7. I planned to use the free upgrade covered in various blogs but because of concerns about losing application and data I actually went and bought a new laptop with Windows 10 installed. I then duplicated all my major applications and data onto this laptop so if there were any issues with the upgrade I would have the laptop available to continue on.
As it turned out, the upgrade process was painless and at the conclusion all applications and data were there but I now had a Windows 10 desktop and the appearance was very similar to when it was a Windows 7 desktop

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Think it's a lot more involved than just backing up
Mar 20, 2020 4:53PM PDT

Of course you should do regular back ups. A System Image is of course best for the Windows partition. Files and data can be copied back, but Programs should be installed and not just copied back. The Registry must be resolved properly and just copying programs, instead of installing, won't do this.

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Accessing Win 7 programs in Win 10
Mar 20, 2020 5:32PM PDT

Win 10 install should create a folder called Windows.old in your new Win 10 partition (CHappy. This is a full image of your old Win 7. To be on the safe side you can create this folder (name it Windows.old) on external media and do a full copy of Win 7 to it before doing Win 10 install. Again, this folder should be a full image of your old Win 7. Now install Win 10. After Win 10 is up and running well (fully updated) copy full Windows.old to new Win 10 partition (CHappy (if not put there by Win 10 install) Once done, open Windows.old folder on C: and there will be a Program Files and Program Files (x86) folders in there (these are your Win 7 programs). Find the program(s) you want to run and find the executable (.exe) for that program. Create a shortcut and send it to the Win 10 desktop. Running the just created shortcut should make your program run. I've used this method for many legacy programs and they've all worked.

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The majority of your software should work
Mar 20, 2020 6:21PM PDT

Another nag to set up a backup system that you actually use. Personally, I use back up all my machines to a NAS and subscribe to a cloud backup service. Highly recommended. They both work without any intervention from me.
I upgraded three machines. The first went in without issue. The second, a CPU upgrade that Win 7 refused to work with forced an upgrade. I took the opportunity to upgrade my hard drive, too, so that was a fresh install, and restored my data from the old drive. The third locked up during the upgrade. I ended up having to format and reinstall from scratch and restore from my backup. So, backups are important.
I don't remember any software that didn't make the transition. I'm pretty sure everything I was using on Win 7 continued to work on Win 10.
I also always recommend Open Shell to new Win 10 users. Personally, I can't stand the cluttered Win 10 Start menu. Open Shell lets you easily retain the Win 7 menu, or customize it to your taste.

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Agree with most of what you said but.........
Mar 21, 2020 9:33AM PDT

I would not, ever ever ever, backup to a cloud. For at least 2 reasons:
1. If your network or provider goes down and you get to the cloud you can't access your data. And who knows for how long it'd be down. I think in these very crazy times that has to be a big real concern. Backups should be done regularly on a partition by partition basis (IMHO) only to an external drive or other external medium. And never to a logical partition on the same internal disk (doesn't matter if HDD or SSD) which has your Win operating system (CHappy on it. If that drive craps out you lose everything, including any backups and images.
2. I won't take the chance that anyone but me can see or compromise my data. And on the cloud there is a small possibility of this happening. It's small but is real. Just my personal skepticism here.

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I said NAS and cloud
Mar 21, 2020 10:55AM PDT

I started to type something up, but this thread isn't about backup. So, short version:

1) If the infrastructure goes down to the point that I can't get at my cloud backups for an extended period of time, then chances are I have much bigger problems to deal with.

2) Data security is always something to consider. But, for the average user, the convenience of off-site backup is worth far more than the tiny security risk. If a thief can break into a cloud backup system, chances are they have much bigger fish they're going after.

And, my advice included also backing up to a local NAS, in addition to the cloud. Backup truism: If your data isn't in at least three places then it's not really backed up.

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I have made a full system back up of my Win 7 drive
Mar 20, 2020 8:54PM PDT

But because of legacy software, and hardware, I decided to make my computer a dual boot system. A Win 7 login drive, and a separate Win 10 login drive. I know not everyone can or wants to do this, but it was the perfect solution for me.

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Should be OK
Mar 21, 2020 9:30AM PDT

I have done several of these upgrades and the previous data and programs survived just fine. At the beginning of the process your PC will be scanned and any incompatible programs will be noted and you will have to uninstall them first - such as Microsoft Security Essentials. I do copy people's My Documents folders and any other special folders they may have just a precaution but so far all of their data has been preserved.

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Do A Clean Install Of Windows 10
Mar 21, 2020 9:57AM PDT

Your existing drive gives you a "full" system backup which you can store away just in case it's ever needed. If possible, also copy all your music, documents, photos, videos, etc. to a portable /external hard drive.
Once that's done, clone your existing drive to a new SSD, then install the new SSD as your boot drive. Then go into Windows and do a reset, i.e. tell Win 10 to wipe everything out and reinstall itself from scratch. This will give you the cleanest possible version of Win 10. Then you can easily add back in all that data you saved onto a portable/external drive. Cheers!

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The safe way to a problem free transsition
Mar 21, 2020 10:34AM PDT

Hello Dwight. You have received a lot of good advice. I have done so many of these that I have lost count. I have tried every way, from
installing over Windows 7 and keeping the programs and data to doing a clean
install from windows to doing a clean install from a USB drive.
As pointed out, you need to purchase an external drive and save all your data to it. Make a list of your installed programs and if some
were purchased, make sure you have the product keys. If you don't have the
keys, download Belarc Advisor. This program will do among other things, make a
list of all the installed programs and display the product keys.
Now you will need Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool, to download an ISO image of Windows 10 that matches your version of Windows 7. See
this link
Once you have the Windows installation created on the USB you will boot from the USB to do a clean installation of Windows 10. Search how
to choose the boot drive for your laptop if it doesn't automatically boot from
the drive, which it probably won’t. Choose a new or clean installation and
choose to keep nothing. This is the best way to insure that you have a clean
installation. Trying to keep your programs fails all too often, because Windows
has to rewrite all the registry information that controls your software from
Windows 7 to the new installation of Windows 10 and errors happen that can
cause problems that you can't resolve without reinstalling Windows.
Don't worry about drivers. If it is a Windows 7 era laptop, the manufacturers have most likely supplied drivers to Microsoft that are imbedded in the installation files. The rare instances that there is a problem are usually solved by doing a driver update for the device from Device Manager or from the manufacturer.
Now you can decide which software programs that you want to install and which files that you need to move back to your Laptop.
This may seem to be the hardest way, but in my opinion it is the best way. As a suggestion, when you get your PC set back up the way you want,
make an Image backup and save it to your external drive. Update it periodically
and then you will never have to spend a lot of time to recover if you have a catastrophe, such a Ransomware attack. Just make sure that you leave the USB external drive unplugged when you aren't using it as Ransomware attacks will encrypt the files of all attached drives.

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Why not do a duo?
Mar 21, 2020 12:17PM PDT

I have both win 10 and win 7. All of the above have given great advice. Another way to play safe is to copy whatever you want on win 7 and paste it to win 10. I know it could be tedious, but it also gives you the chance to delete some files you don't want to carry over to win 10. Good Luck.

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Because WIn 7 is still unsafe
Mar 21, 2020 12:23PM PDT

The main point of upgrading is because Win 7 is no longer being supported. That's true, even if you're dual booting. It's more hassle with little improvement in safety.

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Upgrading from Windows 7 to 10, Worried About All My Stuff
Mar 21, 2020 6:16PM PDT

Hi Lee and the entire CNET Community Members:
I want to take this opportunity to thank you and all the community members for your responses and valuable info and insights. I am ready all the advice carefully with the awareness and importance that I need to backup all my files and programs. I have an external hard drive that I will be using to backup everything before upgrading from Windows 7 to 10. Thank you again everyone. Stay safe and healthy. Take care. D. Hardy

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