Upgrading vs. Clean Installation

Upgrading vs. Clean Installation

Windows Vista provides upgrade paths from Windows Vista, Windows XP Professional, and Windows 2000 Professional. If you are using Windows 98, Windows 95, Windows 3.x, or another operating system you need to choose a clean install.

During an upgrade, existing user settings are retained, as well as installed applications. If you perform a clean installation, the operating system files are installed in a new folder, and you must reinstall all of your applications and reset user preferences, such as desktop and application settings.

You need to choose a clean installation of Windows Vista in the following cases:

  • No operating system is installed on the computer.
  • The installed operating system does not support an upgrade to Windows Vista.
  • The computer has more than one partition and needs to support a multiple-boot configuration that uses Windows Vista and the current operating system.
  • A clean installation is preferred.

The most basic advantage of a clean installation is that all of your systems can begin with the same configuration. All applications, files, and settings are reset. You can use a single disk image or answer file to make sure that all of the desktops in your organization are standardized. In this way, you can avoid many of the support problems that are caused by irregular configurations.


Installing multiple operating systems on the same partition is not supported and can prevent one or both operating systems from working properly.

Upgrading from Windows 2000 or Windows XP

Windows XP Professional and Windows 2000 provide the easiest upgrade path to Windows Vista because they share a common operating system structure and core features, such as support file systems, security concepts, device driver requirements, and registry structure.

If you upgrade or install Windows Vista on a Windows XP–based computer that uses NTFS, the installation process automatically upgrades the file system to Windows Vista NTFS. If you install or upgrade to Windows Vista and the current file system is FAT, you are asked if you want to upgrade to the NTFS file system.


You cannot upgrade computers that run Windows NT 4.0 or Windows NT Workstation 3.51 to Windows Vista. You must do a clean installation of Windows Vista.

Using the User State Migration Tool

The User Sate Migration Tool allows you to save and restore users' settings and files to minimize the time required to configure users' computers after installing Windows Vista. You can use USMT when performing clean installations, migrating from computers running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, or Windows XP. You can run USMT from the Windows Vista installation DVD.

You can only restore these settings on computers running Windows Vista.; you cannot use USMT to migrate to Windows Vista 64-Bit Edition.

By default, USMT saves the majority of user interface settings such as desktop color schemes and wallpaper, network connectivity settings such as e-mail servers and proxy servers, and some files associated with Microsoft® Office. You can customize the .INF files the tool uses to save only the settings you want to migrate to Windows Vista.