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In the days of XP and Vista, a user can always install XP or Vista "on top of" the previous version Windows. So then all the settings and applications will work as before. The machine probably will run slower that way, since there was a lot of things that got installed previously.

For Win 7, both the Upgrade and Full version, it seems that this option is removed? If you install "on top" of a previous Windows, it will be renamed as "windows.old" and never be used? So the install "on top" option is removed?

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To upgrade, you must start the Windows 7 installation from within a running (& compatible) copy of Vista. If you boot the CD you can only do a clean install.

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Here is the Microsoft explanation.

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this seems like a Vista explanation? –  動靜能量 Oct 22 '09 at 20:48
    
Ooops, my bad. Here is a better link: mydigitallife.info/2009/08/10/… –  CGA Oct 22 '09 at 20:57
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From everything that I've heard/read there is an in place upgrade path for Vista to Windows 7. However, if you're coming from XP there is no in place upgrade option.

There is a migration assistant available for user profiles and settings. This won't migrate any programs that you have installed, you'll need to re-install after you've got Windows 7 up and running.

Take a look here for a run through on the settings migration process. Also take a look at this Lifehacker article, it also includes a link to an Ars Technica article on Upgrading to Windows 7.

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