How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows Vista

how to install vista

Performing a Clean Install of Windows Vista is the preferred installation method. An alternate method available is an “Upgrade” installation. I do not recommend upgrading. Too many things can go wrong with an upgrade and I have seen this many many times with all Windows operating systems over the years. A Clean Installation gives your system ‘clean’ file paths which will create a much faster and reliable installation. Here I will show you exactly how to install Vista.

The instructions below will apply to those that would like to:

Do a clean installation on a computer without an existing operating system.
Replace an existing operating system and replace it with Windows Vista.
Install Windows Vista on a separate partition.
Note: These instruction will work fine for both 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows Vista.

Getting Ready to Install Vista:

I would recommend, even before purchasing Vista, that you check that all of your ‘needed’ hardware and software will function in the Vista environment. Download the Vista Upgrade Advisor to check your hardware. The Vista Upgrade Advisor will help you identify and possibly resolve any Vista compatibility issues that may exist in your computer system.

Be sure that you update all drivers (video card, monitor, sound card …etc.) for all of your installed devices.

You will need to check with the software maker to find out if it is going to be compatible with Vista.

Clean Install Over An Existing Operating System:

Before performing a clean installation of Windows Vista, be sure that you have backed up any data that you would like to keep. A clean installation of Vista will mean erasing all data and starting from scratch. Use your preferred backup method. If you need backup instructions for Windows XP, click the link below:

Manually Backup Windows XP

Configure your BIOS to boot from the DVD:

  • When you insert your Windows Vista Installation DVD, it should automatically launch. If it doesn’t launch, try restarting your system with the DVD inserted in the DVD drive. If it still won’t launch, you will need to configure your BIOS to make your current installation boot from your DVD drive. To gain access to your systems BIOS you will need to refer to your particular systems operating instructions. However, most of the time, by pressing the F2 or the Delete (one or the other, not both) key repeatedly once your system boots to the “logo screen” will give you access to “Setup”. Also, many systems have a boot menu that lists something like:
  • Press F12 for setup
  • If this is your case, simply press F12 when given that prompt. In any case, once you are in setup, configure your DVD drive to the top of the boot order. Save the change and exit setup.

Begin your Clean Installation of Windows Vista:

Place the Windows Vista installation DVD in to your DVD drive, then reboot your system to allow the DVD to launch. At your first prompt, press any key to continue the process. Click Next and then click “Install Now” when prompted.

You will now be at the “Get important updates for installation” page. It is highly recommended (if you have an Internet connection at this point) to go ahead and install any available updates to ensure a successful installation. Once you’ve received the updates, click Next.

You will now be asked for your product key information. Your product key is located on your DVD case. Insert your 25 digit product key then click Next.

Now, you should be at the License Agreement screen. Feel free to read through the whole thing but it is going to take you quite awhile. You must “Accept” the licensing agreement to continue. Click Next once you’re comfortable with the licensing agreement.

This next screen contains the main installation options. Select “Custom Install” (this is the correct option for a clean installation). Click Next.

Setup will now ask where you would like to install Windows Vista. You will see the available partitions on your system. You will need to select the “boot” partition (usually C:). If your boot partition has a previous version of Windows installed on it, you will want to delete this partition and the create a new boot partition. Create any additional partitions as desired, just be sure that each partition you create is formatted. Once you’re done, click Next.

From here, the prompts may vary depending on your particular system. Just follow the on-screen prompts to install Vista to your systems configuration.

Once Windows Vista installs the necessary files to run, it will restart twice. It is important that you leave the installation disk in the DVD drive until the Windows Vista is completely installed. After the first restart, you will be asked to insert any Username and Password that you would like to use and a Name for your PC. Additionally, you will be asked for the following information:
Time and Date settings
Current Location (home or office)
After all of your information is successfully received, Vista will boot a second time. After it boots successfully, you can safely remove the Windows Vista installation DVD.

Congratulations! I hope that you get many years of enjoyment out of your new Windows Vista operating system!

Important!: Make sure that you install proper anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to protect your new Windows installation.

After a Successful Installation:

When installing Windows Vista with another Windows operating system already installed. Vista will create a file called,  Windows.old” on your boot drive. Once everything is running fine on your new Vista installation and you are sure that you have your old data already backed up, it is safe to delete the Windows.old file. This file could be nearly 30 gigabytes in size. Just do a simple search for this file then right click and delete it. You will, of course, need Administrator privileges to do so.

If you receive an error that; “you do not have sufficient permission” when deleting this folder, the reason may be that you need to take ownership of the file and its contents, here’s how:

  • Right click the Windows.old file and then select Properties.
  • Select the Security tab.
  • Click the Advanced button.
  • Select the Owner tab.
  • Click on the Edit button.
  • Confirm at the UAC warning prompt
  • Select Change ownership.

Having Installation Problems?

I have heard of many people with SATA drives having difficulty loading Vista. This is due to driver issues. Try loading the drivers at the initial installation process. If you find that there are no updated drivers available for your SATA drive, you might consider purchasing a “Vista-ready” plug-in SATA card just to get the machine up and running with Vista. Otherwise, you can reboot your system a few times which will make the Vista installer give up and restore your previous operating system.

If you plan on using a third party software to partition and format your hard drive and then install Windows Vista, many have reported that it won’t work. You must use Vista “setup” on the installation DVD to create and format all partitions for Vista. Apparently there are some compatibility issues. However, for what it’s worth, I have seen one reported instance of someone using Partition Magic 8 successfully.

I have seen a few people having trouble getting Windows Vista to complete the upgrade process on older “Vista Ready” systems. In these cases, when it reboots the first time, it does not come back. It sits at a blank screen with no error messages. When you power down and reboot the system it asks which operating system you would like to load? It seems at this point the old operating system is the only workable one. A possible remedy for this particular problem is to upgrade the systems BIOS prior to attempting to install Vista. However, you need to be aware that the installation can seemingly “stall” after the first reboot. Take a glance at your hard drive light, is it blinking? It could be that Vista is still installing so give it some time to complete what it is doing and don’t assume right away that the installation has gone bad.

If your installation shows a message that there is a problem copying files. Some possible remedies are listed below:
Remove the installation disc and inspect it for scratches or dirt. Clean the disc with a soft clean cloth and then reinsert it in to your disc drive.
Be sure that the drive you have the installation disc in is the correct drive.
Ensure that the disc drive is functioning correctly. Contact the manufacture for troubleshooting instruction if necessary.
Scan you computer with an updated anti-virus software. Disable your anti-virus software prior to restarting the installation process.

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