When it comes to upgrading to Microsoft's latest operating system Windows 7, there's been so much written on the subject, you may well be thinking that you'll breeze through the process. However, there are some tricky nuances and possible snags that continue to confound consumers. We look at just what you may need to consider.

The price you pay

If you took advantage of Microsoft's pre-order programme, you will have paid £49.99 for Windows 7 Home Premium or £99.99 for Windows 7 Professional and you'll be waiting for the disks to arrive in the mail on October 22, when Windows 7 officially ships.

If you missed the pre-order boat, the retail price of Windows 7 Home Premium Edition is £149.99, while the Professional version costs £219.99 and the Ultimate Edition is priced at £229.99.

What about new PC purchases?

Microsoft has an offer dubbed the 'Windows 7 Upgrade Option Programme'. It started on June 26 and will run through the end of January 2010 and basically if you buy a new Vista machine, you qualify for a free copy of Windows 7.

I imagine most buyers will want to have Windows 7 on new PCs after October 22, but if you prefer Vista you at least have the option to upgrade to Windows 7 for free.

The upgrades will be provided after Windows 7 ships on October 22 and will be offered either by DVD or download, depending on the Microsoft partner.

Most PCs running Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate qualify for a free Windows 7 upgrade, but all buyers should check with the retailer or PC maker to make sure their new Vista machine qualifies.

The easy way to upgrade

So you've got Windows 7 in hand. Now what? In some cases, upgrading will be as simple a loading the Windows 7 DVD, typing in a code and waiting about 45 minutes.

Such a plug-and-play type installation (called an 'in-place upgrade') is by far the most hassle-free way to get Windows 7 on your PC. You don't even have to back up your data (though you still definitely should).

You will be running Windows 7 and all your applications, programs, settings, and photos and files will be as they were before.

But even with in-place upgrades there's a slight catch. They only apply to those PCs running Vista, with at least 20GB of free disk space - although that should not be a problem for most users given the amount of storage on today's hard drives.

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