How-To: Install Windows 7 RC as a Dual Boot, Over Vista, or From Scratch

Justin Kerr

The May 5th launch date for the Windows 7 RC has come and gone, and amazingly, it went off without a hitch. The download servers held up, product keys have been free flowing, and Microsoft is once again proving to the world that they have what it takes to be the number one OS. To veteran Maximum PC readers, downloading and installing the new Windows 7 RC is a piece of cake, and they have probably been up and running for days. For newcomers however, the process can be a bit overwhelming. In the following guide, we will review the steps from start to finish on how to get the Windows 7 Release Candidate up and running in less than an hour.  The entire process is free, and the only risk involved is your time, and the possibility of developing an unnatural love affair with an operating system that you’re wife probably won’t understand.

Read on to learn how to setup a dual boot with your old OS, upgrade from Vista, or even just make a plain old clean install.

What You Will Need

A PC with the following Minimum Specs:

  • 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) / 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available disk space (32-bit) / 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • DVD-R / RW Drive & a Blank DVD

CDBurnerXP (Works in XP or Vista) or other DVD ISO burning software (Free)

Windows 7 RC 32 Bit or 64 Bit (Free)

A Windows Live Account (Free)

1.) Download The RC

The first thing you will need to do is navigate on over to the Windows 7 RC download page , and grab yourself the updated ISO. You will notice that it will give the option of picking either the 32 or 64 Bit version of the OS. As with Vista x64 , the future is in 64 Bit computing, but you need to have compatible hardware, and the advantages don’t amount to much if you have less than 4 gigs of ram. If your not sure if your processor is 64 bit or not, feel free to take the test by downloading and running GRC’s SecureAble.

Navigate to the bottom of the page, select your edition, then hit GO.

Next you will be asked to enter your Windows Live account information, if you don’t have one, not to worry, you can create it for free . After signing up, or signing in, you will be presented with your Windows 7 product key. If you planning on installing more than one copy of Windows 7, or even a mixture of 32 bit and 64 bit, don’t worry about trying to scam yourself additional product keys. As of right now, you can activate as many copies as you want with a single key, and both editions will work with either key.

Next all you need to do is hit Download Now to start the downloader.

Next we will look at the post download process.

2.) Burn The ISO to a DVD

If you haven’t done so already, you will need to download and install an ISO burning software utility which will turn the file you downloaded, into a bootable install disk. If you don’t have Nero or another CD burning utility already, I suggest CDBurnerXP . It works in both Windows XP & Vista, despite the name, and is a free, full featured burning utility.

Just select Burn ISO from the main menu, insert a blank DVD, and hit Burn.

3.) Upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7 (Windows XP Users Need Not Apply!)

Windows XP isn’t elegable for an in place upgrade, and I’m not so sure that a bad thing. The in place upgrade transfers settings, and files, but given the drastically different architecture of the two OS’s, even if Windows 7 tried, the result probably wouldn’t be what you were hoping for. It is possible to use the Windows XP file and settings transfer wizard, but this will need to be backed up manually, and you will need to skip ahead to the clean install step.

Upgrading a Windows Vista installation on the other hand is ridiculously simple. Just insert you new DVD, click Install Now, then sit back and let Windows 7 will do the rest. A three click OS install? Take that Steve Jobs! It might be worth pulling out a mighty mouse if you can find one for this step just to rub it in.

Do a Clean Install or Dual Boot of Windows 7

If your doing a clean install of Windows 7, make sure that you have backed up all the information on your primary drive, and restart with the DVD in your optical drive. A clean install will be required if you are a Windows XP user, or if the computer doesn’t have a primary OS. Even if your running Vista however, I would still recommend going with a clean install. It’s a well-known fact that upgrades, rarely work as well as a fresh install.

During the boot up press any key to continue when prompted.

When you reach the first options screen select Custom

The next screen will give you a summary of your hard drive and partitions. Here you can select one of two options.

1.) Select your primary partition then click Format then Next

2.) Select a secondary partition or drive then click Format then Next.

The advantage of going with option number two is that you can run Windows 7 in a dual boot setup. Windows 7 will automatically configure a boot manager and will allow you to pick from your old OS, or Windows 7 at each startup. You can select either a secondary hard drive, or make another partition to go with the dual boot approach. Want to know how to make a new partition from your existing hard drive, without destroying your existing data? We’ve got a guide for that too. Also keep in mind, if you select a secondary drive that doesn’t contain an OS, you don’t need to click format. In this example, Windows 7 will simply be installed on the drive alongside your data.

Windows 7 will now install itself, and you won’t need to make any other choices. Just sit back, and enjoy the ride.

After you’re reboot you will be prompted to enter your CD key which you obtained during step one.

After you’re reboot you will be prompted to enter your CD key which you obtained during step one.
You can optionally uncheck the box next to Automatically activate Windows when I’m online if you plan on wiping this installation out in less than 30 days. This will save you having to activate or look around for the key before getting yourself up and running. That’s about the only advantage however, since activations aren’t limited at this point.

Install Windows 7 From a USB Key

Want to learn how to install Windows 7 from a USB key? Find our guide here.


Microsoft has done an amazing job of using the beta, and RC of Windows 7 to create awareness for its new OS. As a result, many of the major hardware manufacturers have already developed very mature and stable Windows 7 drivers to satisfy the early demand. We strongly encourage anybody who is interested in a sneak peek of the future to give the RC a try, and we are hoping this guide will remove the barrier of entry for even the most modest of users. The RC will be available for download until at least June 2009, and you won’t need to worry about it expiring until March 2010.

What are your impressions of the Windows 7 RC?

Around the web