I was excited about Windows 8. And even more excited about Windows 8.1. Then I realized last night that Windows 8 has been nothing but a daily annoyance since I purchased the upgrade and installed it.

So last night, I upgraded to Windows 7. But first I backed up my computer. Always backup! Especially if you’re going to change operating systems. I think I have every important document, photo and file. But inevitably I have forgotten something.

I made a backup of my Windows 8 install. I used Clonezilla on a USB key to back up an external hard drive. Now I will have an image I can restore to if I decide to move back to Windows 8. It’s a safety net and security blanket. After I backup, I always verify the backup. The quickest and most reliable way I’ve found is to open three files from the backup.

Choose three different folders and open three files. It doesn’t matter what type of file, just choose three of them. Try a PDF, picture, Word document, text file. Whatever you have on hand, open it and make sure you can read the contents.

After I verified I had a good backup, I installed Windows 7.

First, since I didn’t have any blank DVDs, but I did have a spare 4GB USB key, I used that to install Windows 7. I downloaded YUMI and saved it to my desktop.

This wonderful little program will allow you to save more than one installer/bootable application to a single thumb drive. It doesn’t need any installation so it’s great for portable devices, but it does require administrative rights to install so it won’t work if you’re living in Windows lockdown.

Once launched, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see Windows Vista/7 Installer. Choose this option and point it to your Windows 7 ISO.

YUMI main window

YUMI main window

What if I have my license key but lost my DVD?

I can help with that. This page has links to the Digital River downloads Microsoft uses to distribute Windows 7.

To quote the site,

Are these illegal, cracked or pirated downloads?
Since this is an official download channel, you can be sure to receive setup files that are virus-free, secure, legitimate and untouched. Downloading the files from Digital River is absolutely legal and completely free of charge. Without a legally obtained product key however, any Windows 7 installation will only run for 30 days. Afterwards, it needs to be activated, or the evaluation timer be reset.

This will give you a legit, legal copy of the Windows software. But it will need to be registered to work for more than the trial period.

I have used this site to download Windows 7 Pro and Home Premium when I lost the DVD I had and they work perfectly with my existing license keys.

Now that you have your media and license key, point YUMI at your Windows 7 install and let it go to work. It will extract the files and write them to the USB key. Then you can boot from that USB key to install your files. I like to put a copy of my Windows 7 serial on the USB key so I don’t have to type it into Windows.

This process will take a few minutes and YUMI will tell you when it’s completed.

Now you’re ready to install Windows. Reboot your computer, boot from the USB key. This will bring you to the YUMI menu. If you have more applications installed, you’ll see more options. The Windows 7 installer will run normally. Choose your options and watch the progress bars.

Go get yourself a drink. This will take a while.

Now that Windows 7 is installed. You need to install your drivers and software. But you have no network connectivity. You could go hunting for restore media or combing through driver lists on your computer manufacturer’s website, but I have a better way.

Get connected

Download 3DP Net.

3DP Net detects ethernet card automatically. and provides the newest or the most suitable driver. It supports off-line installation.


What does that mean? It means when you run it, it will automatically detect your network card, wired or wireless, and install an appropriate driver for it. It may not be the best driver. But it will get you online.

I’ve used this countless times on laptops and desktops from HP, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba and it has never failed me. It always installs a driver I can use.

Now I’m connected. Next up, I need the drivers for the rest of my hardware.

Drivers wanted

3DP has you covered there too. Download 3DP Chip

3DP Chip will enable you to enumerate devices and download the latest device drivers with few simple clicks.


This program will do just what it says, it will detect your hardware and link you directly to drivers for it. Run this to install your video, audio, bluetooth, camera or any other driver for your system. It will even find you better network drivers.

Now you have a network connection and the proper drivers for your hardware. Wasn’t this easier than searching manufacture websites or forums for your specific video card, or those unknown devices that could be anything?

Install software

Now that you have Windows installed and drivers for all the devices, it’s time to actually do something with your computer. You need software. Since Windows ships without many important tools, it’s time to install them.

I used to spend time going to Adobe’s site to install Flash and Acrobat Reader. Then I’d get java from their site. Then install Google Chrome. Then… you get the idea.

But there is a better way. I use Ninite and so should you. How is it better?

Select. Download. Install.

Select. Download. Install.

First, it will allow you to choose the applications you want from a large list. Everything from Dropbox to Steam is there. Choose what you want and it will download a single installer.

Run that single installer and it will go out and download the newest version of each application. But the best part of all, it doesn’t install any of the extra junk.

You won’t end up with extra browsers or toolbars. There will be no tools or extras that the vendors like to add into their software. You’ll have only what you asked for, nothing else.


Now I can enjoy my freshly installed computer. I have a nice fresh operating system with all of my drivers. I’ve run Windows Updates or as I call them the rest of Windows.((There is a way to automate this as well but it’s outside the scope of this post since many people don’t find it necessary and if you’re only installing one computer it’s not worth the time it takes to prepare.))

Now that I have Windows setup as I like it, I setup Google Chrome to sync my settings from my account. I’ve logged into Dropbox and let it complete it’s initial sync. Take this time to set up any mail clients or add your printer, scanner or camera software.

Get your computer setup exactly as you’d like it. Then do one last backup of it. Use Clonezilla to make another full backup of your computer.

That way, in the future, instead of having to go through these steps again, you can start from here. With Windows installed and activated, up to date as of your last backup date, with your software and drivers installed.

And if anything were to go wrong, like a virus or hard drive crash, I’ve got my computer setup and can take the time to restore the image instead of installing Windows from scratch.