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Number of Files on Your Computer
The amount of files, folders, applications, and data that you have on your computer will play the biggest role in determining how long it takes to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. When you upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, Windows must copy all of your old files from Vista, and transfer them for use in Windows 7. Plus, Windows 7 must go through a full install. This is normally not a fast process. For example purposes, a simple upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, if transferring no files, can take up to 45 minutes. So, if you have 5,000 songs on your computer, transferring could take quite a bit longer.
A better example of this would be hard drive capacity. If you have a 500GB hard drive, and 400GB are full, you are looking at an all day upgrade, possibly longer. 400GB is a lot of data to copy. Understand this, if you were to simply copy a 7GB file to a flash drive, that would take approximately 25 minutes. However, that does not involve anything technical, such as making the files usable by a new operating system.
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PC Hardware Performance
PC hardware performance can also play a role in determining how long does it take to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. Processor, RAM, and hard drive speed can all have some effect on the upgrade process.
Your computer's processor, clock speed, cores, threads, and more, determine how fast your computer is able to complete certain tasks. Thus, if you have an older Pentium 4 processor, the upgrade is probably not going to be lightning fast. But then again, if you have an older Pentium 4 processor, most likely nothing goes lightning fast. The complete opposite of this would be if you have a newer Core i7 Processor. The newer technology is an obvious advantage in overall PC performance, which includes situations like this.
RAM is much more technical than many people would even care about. But for the most part, RAM makes running processes smoother. RAM also comes in several speeds, such as DDR, DDR2, DDR3, etc... RAM does not play a huge factor in how fast you will be able to upgrade from Vista to 7. However, 4GB of RAM will probably assist the upgrade slightly more than 1GB of RAM.
When you are doing an upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, there are a tremendous amount of files that are being copied to specific locations on your hard drive. Hard drives come in several different speeds. For example, most desktop computers have a 7200 RPM hard drive. Some high-end PCs have a 10,000 RPM hard drive. The 10,000 RPM hard drive is capable of copying files at a faster rate. Alternatively, most laptop computers have a 4500 RPM hard drive. This would be significantly slower than the high performance 10,000 RPM hard drive.
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Current PC Optimization
Things like disk defragmenting, disk cleanups, and other maintenance tasks can effect the speed of a Windows Upgrade. Disk defragmenter organizes/optimizes all of the files on your PC. Thus, if you commonly ran disk defragmenter while using Vista, your computer's files are likely organized, and will transfer at a somewhat quicker rate. If you had Vista for two years, and never once ran disk defragmenter, the complete opposite may happen.
Doing a Windows Disk Cleanup deletes several types of unnecessary files from your PC. These files can accumulate over time. Thus, regular disk cleanups can save you a significant amount of hard drive space. If you never used disk cleanup, or any other maintenance tools, while using Vista, there are several junk files on your PC. These extra junk files just make up for more stuff that Windows has to copy during the upgrade process.
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Specifically, it's probably going to take quite a while. With all of the above factors considered, you're looking at a time frame of anywhere from an hour to days. If you believe that something may have went wrong, or the upgrade process has froze, use your PC's hard drive capacity as a guide. If the PC has an 80GB hard drive, and you're on day two of the upgrade process, something went wrong. If the PC has a 1TB hard drive, with 750GB full, and you're on day two of the upgrade process, you are probably right on track.