Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Now that Windows 7 has been out for some time we'll revisit the exceptionally common question: should I upgrade?
Is it worth up grading from Vista to windows 7? If so what cost and can I do it without causing problems? how do I do it?
My recommendation for how to do it is simple - reformat and reinstall - and I'll explain why I always recommend that.
Whether you should upgrade isn't quite so simple, and falls into the "it depends" bucket.
Overall I'm pretty happy with Windows 7, and based on the rate of questions and problems I'm hearing about, it's doing fairly well for other people as well.
I'm a strong believer in "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
What that means in this context is simply this: if your computer is working, working well, and you're doing what you need to get done with it, why take any additional risks at all? I don't care if you're running Windows 98, XP or Vista - if it's working for you (and of course that includes being safe and secure), then I would not upgrade.
Similarly, if your hardware isn't up to the minimum required by Windows 7 (perhaps even better than the minimum) then of course it's not really an option and I don't recommend trying to upgrade. If, for some reason, you find you do need to reinstall your OS, then reinstalling the one you already have is typically the best choice.
If you dislike Vista because of user interface changes, Windows 7 is not likely to help; it's much more like Vista than XP. If that's a serious issue for you, then you might consider actually downgrading to XP, for as long as that's available. (Though, of course, my real recommendation is to learn to accept the new interface, since presumably at some point Windows XP will no longer be an option for any number of reasons.)
If you have "older peripherals" - things like printers that have been around for a few years, you'll want to ensure that they're actually supported by Windows 7 before deciding if it's right for you.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you're getting a new machine and want Windows, then by all means get Windows 7 preinstalled. That's a particularly easy recommendation since pre-installed OS's bypass a number of the issues people might run into with an upgrade. (Though don't forget to insist on installation media.)
So, what if you have a machine that's beefy enough for Windows 7 (if you're running Windows Vista, that's likely a given), your peripherals are supported, and don't mind or perhaps even prefer the Windows 7 UI?
If you're willing to shell out the cost of the upgrade (which will vary based on the edition you want and your location - check local retailers or online), I would consider the upgrade if:
you're about to reformat/reinstall your machine for some other reason - like resolving a software issue, or just periodic "cleaning stuff up". A reformat/reinstall is, as we'll see shortly, my preferred upgrade approach. Since it's a bit of work, it's worth considering if that's what you're about to do anyway.
Windows 7 has something you want that Vista does not. Maybe its Home Groups, maybe it's Media center, maybe it's something else that was introduced or improved in Windows 7.
you just want to. Perhaps you some other specific reason, perhaps you just want the latest and greatest. The important point here is that as long as your machine meets the requirements I'm not going to wave you off and say you shouldn't.
As I've alluded to above, I feel strongly that the safest approach is a reformat/reinstall - or rather:
Backup your computer
Reformat your hard disk (as part of the Windows 7 setup process)
Install Windows 7 from scratch
Reinstall your other applications.
Restore your data
As you can see that's a bit of work. But in my experience, it's the safest approach, and has the highest probability of resulting in a working machine with all the unnecessary stuff that accumulated prior removed.
There are two additional alternatives:
Tools like LapLink's PC Mover, (with which I've had no direct experience). For a fee they will "move" your installed programs and data from your prior version of Windows to your new Windows 7 installation. I believe that by doing so, you elect not to take on the "cleaning out stuff you don't need" portion that I find so valuable in a reformat/reinstall.
Run an upgrade installation, if it's even available. If you are running Windows XP, this isn't an option, but if you're running appropriate versions of Windows Vista you can have the Windows 7 installed upgrade in place, preserving all the installed applications, data and settings. In my experience, if there's going to be a problem with an upgrade, this is where it occurs.
The bottom line is that Windows 7 is a fine operating system, and I'm quite happy with it. I have no hesitations recommending it, with the caveats above.