Upgrading from XP To Windows 7? Here’s How to Do it Right

The upcoming Windows 7 release is fast approaching.

If you are one of the millions of users who skipped upgrading your Windows XP to Vista, it is time to start planning for your upgrade from XP to Windows 7.

Upgrading from XP To Windows 7? Here’s How to Do it Right

Microsoft has already announced that there will be no built-in (aka in-place) upgrade option from Windows XP to Windows 7. At first glance, this can appear to be the company trying to punish those users who did not upgrade their computers to Windows Vista. Upon further inspection, however, a different motivation appears.

The upgrade from XP to Vista was a complete break with the former paradigm. Windows Vista was designed from the ground up to be built differently than Windows XP. When the Vista operating system, codenamed Longhorn at the time, was being conceived, XP was still taking a lot of hits for being unstable and insecure. So, Microsoft decided to built a new operating system that would work in a totally different way to address these issues.

By the time Service Pack 2 rolled around for Windows XP, the OS was much more stable and secure than before. But, Vista was designed to be even more robust and safe not by eventually squashing all the known bugs, but rather by a radical new design that compartmentalized many functions.

When Vista was released, this new methodology broke tons of software and device drivers that were written for the old paradigm. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s frequent pronouncements of farcical release dates for Vista had lulled the computing community into inaction.

Like the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf, when Microsoft finally announced the real release date for Windows Vista, many manufacturers and developers didn’t bother to update how their software and drivers worked. Microsoft failed to pick up the gauntlet and produce the necessary workarounds and fixes to keep popular devices and software from breaking. The result was that Vista became the operating system that everyone hated, even after many of those issues had been resolved.

Even if this had not been the case, a change as big as the one made in the Vista operating system was destined to cause some problems. Fortunately, this time around, things will be different.

For starters, the development community is raring to go regarding the launch of Windows 7. Unlike with Vista, there have been no false starts out of Redmond, and Microsoft has miraculously hit virtually every target set for the Windows 7 release.

Secondly, Windows 7 is built on top of the same computing architecture as Windows Vista. If not for the tarnish on the Vista name, Windows 7 would most likely have been sold as Vista 2.0. Developers, hardware manufacturers, and software companies have all had the last several years to develop and perfect their products on the Vista model.

Since that is the same model Windows 7 uses, updating to the new OS has been much easier and quicker. It all adds up to the fact that there should be a few problems with installed software that functions correctly under Windows Vista.

In fact, if early indications are correct, Windows 7 should be launched to glowing reviews, and happy customers. It may even go well enough to start erasing memories of their notions of Vista. And therein lies the reason Microsoft will not be providing an official in-place upgrade path from XP to Windows 7.

The upgrade from Vista to 7 will be relatively easy. The upgrade from XP to 7 will have the same perils that the original upgrade from XP to Vista had. Customers still running XP are likely to still be running plenty of software programs that have not been updated to the latest Vista compatible versions, and those programs have a solid chance of breaking down.

Likewise, old hardware that has been abandoned by its manufacturer and still has no updated drivers will also not work with Windows 7. If Microsoft provided an upgrade path from XP to Windows 7, the blame could be laid on their doorstep with users demanding to know why the upgrade did catch (or fix) all of these same problems.

Instead, Microsoft has made it so that to run Windows 7, the owner of a Windows XP computer will have to install a fresh copy of Windows 7 (clean install). After that, the user will have to install their software again.

This provides two huge advantages. First, the dozens of programs and utilities installed over the years, that have long since ceased to be used won’t be reinstalled, which will make the final system cleaner. Second, software that is not compatible with Windows 7 simply won’t install.

A levelheaded consumer will simply accept that their version is too old and either upgrade or find an alternative. Whereas, a user whose software was migrated, but does not fully function properly would instead demand that Microsoft fix “what it broke.”

How To Upgrade Files and Settings from XP to Windows 7

Installing most software programs is not a difficult task. Granted, for a user with a lot of software and utilities installed, it can be time consuming, especially if the program takes a lot of configuration to run well.

However, the big issue with upgrades is transferring all of the user’s files and settings. If everything was stored in My Documents, it wouldn’t be so hard, but users and software developers stopped playing by those rules years ago.

The good news is that there is a way to migrate your files and settings directly from Windows XP to Windows 7. While it won’t move your actual software installations, Microsoft’s Windows Easy Transfer will migrate your files and settings for you.

Windows Easy Transfer was originally developed to help users who bought a new computer get all of their files and settings transferred to the new machine, but it works just as well to handle a Windows XP upgrade to Windows 7.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Backup

Obviously, you will want to start with a full system backup. An image of your drive that can be re-installed if things go horribly wrong is a good idea to have too.

2. Install Easy Transfer

To use Easy Transfer, simply install the Windows XP version on your PC first. The software comes with Windows 7, or it can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website.

3. Save Old Files & Settings

Run Easy Transfer and save your files and settings to an external hard drive or USB drive. How much space you need depends on how much data you need to transfer. Choose This Is My Old Computer and then click on Advanced to select all of those “unusual” locations that you have your files saved.

4. Install Windows 7

Next, proceed with your Windows 7 installation — clean install that is.

5. Migrate Old Files & Settings

When you have finished installing Windows 7 and the initial software installations, run the Easy Transfer utility for Windows 7. This time, select This Is My New Computer and the utility will bring over all of your files and settings. Chances are, it won’t get 100% of everything, but what is left should be relatively painless to bring over to your new Windows 7 PC.

Now you can enjoy your new up to date OS installation. All with no “Skipping Vista Penalty.”

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