First of all download Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser and run it on your laptop. It would scan your computer's hardware and tell you if that hardware is supported by Windows 7.
Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser:http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;displaylang=en
Also if you have some data on this computer, make a backup of it. But since you got the laptop as gift, I doubt you have anything of interest on the computer. You might want to note down some serial numbers of various software installed on the laptop. You can use Magic Jellybean or Belarc Adviser for this.
Magical Jellybean Keyfinder : http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/
Belarc Adviser : http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html
If you want to wipe the computer hard disk, you may consider using Active KillDisk or DBAN. This makes sure that all the data is removed from the hard disk. It is important because some computer manufacturers create a hidden recovery partition on the hard disk.
Active Kill Disk : http://www.killdisk.com/
DBAN : http://www.dban.org/
As suggested by dimrealm
before you start to do a clean install make sure you have Network Adapter device drivers on a portable device like USB pen-drive. Although Windows 7 installs all the drivers by itself on most of computers, yet there are some computers on which you manually have to install some drivers after the setup is finished.