Upgrade From Windows XP to Windows 7
I've heard good things about Windows 7, and I want to upgrade my XP system as soon as I can. What's the best way to move from Windows XP to Windows 7?
How to Upgrade From Windows XP to Windows 7
First, the bad news... you can't directly upgrade an existing Windows XP installation to Windows 7. Microsoft is reserving that option for people who have an existing Windows Vista installation, but they are not providing an "in-place" upgrade option for the millions of XP customers who have decided to skip Vista. So you have only three options:
- Wipe Windows XP from your PC (reformat) and install Windows 7
- Install Windows 7 alongside Windows XP (dual boot) and run either as needed
- Upgrade Windows XP to Vista, then upgrade Vista to Windows 7
Option 3: Double Upgrade Insanity
Let's start with Option 3, just to get it out of the way. You wouldn't really buy Vista to keep for only a couple of hours, would you? Also, putting your operating system through the rigors of two major upgrades greatly increases the risk of an inoperating system. There's one exception I'll make, and here's the scenario: If formatting your hard drive would cause you to lose files or software that's not replaceable, and you already have a copy of Vista laying around, and you're willing to risk the fallout, then doing a "double upgrade" might possibly make sense.
But don't tell anyone that I recommend that. Avoid the waxy buildup, install a fresh copy of Windows 7 on a newly-formatted drive, and you'll avoid a gigabyte of trouble in the long run. Now, let's move on to the two sane options above.
Option 1: Reformat and Install Windows 7 (Total Wipeout)
Reformatting is a big deal. In Latin, it's tabula rasa. In English, that means EVERYTHING on your hard drive will be erased -- all your documents, music, photos, software, and the operating system will be gone. So before you reformat your Windows XP drive, you may wish to save applications, user data, and customized settings to be re-installed under Windows 7 later. The Migration Wizard (a.k.a. Windows Easy Transfer) is a utility on the Windows 7 installation DVD that will help you do that.
Navigate the Windows 7 DVD folder tree to the \support\migwiz folder and run the migsetup.exe program. It will scan your Windows XP installation drive for things that can be migrated and show you a list of them. You can de-select things you don't want to migrate, and add things that you may be storing on other drives. When you are ready, the wizard will compress and store all the selected things in one file on a drive of your choice. Obviously, you should choose a drive other than the one to which you plan to install Windows 7. An external hard drive, flash drive or writable DVD would do the trick.
If you bought a "full" version of Windows 7, it's OK to format the drive first. But if you got an "upgrade" version of Windows 7, Windows XP must be running when Windows 7 is installed or product activation will fail. So do not format your hard drive before starting to install Windows 7.
Insert the Windows 7 DVD, start Setup, and when it asks if you want to format the target drive say "yes". The "Quick Format" option is much faster than a full format and adequate. Setup will erase everything on the target drive before installing Windows 7, ensuring the cleanest, most glitch-free installation possible. Now re-install all the things you saved with Migration Wizard, and you're up and running with Windows 7.
Option 2: Dual Boot Setup with Windows 7 and XP (Peaceful Coexistence)
You may want to keep your existing Windows XP installation just as it is. Some Windows XP applications will not run under Windows 7. If you have plenty of disk space, you can divide your hard drive into two partitions and install Windows 7 on one of them while keeping the Windows XP installation intact on the other. Then, when you boot up or restart the PC, you can choose which version of Windows to run. That's what I did on my laptop when I installed the test version of Windows 7.
You will need to create a new partition on your hard drive, and perhaps resize the existing partition to make room for the new one. Terabyte Unlimited's Bootit NG utility makes this a breeze, and you can use it for 30 days free of charge. See my related article Changing Disk Partitions for some other tips and options to help you partition your drive.
Once your new partition is created, insert the Windows 7 DVD and run Setup. Select the new partition for installation. Restart the PC after Windows 7 is installed and you will be given the option to start Windows XP or Windows 7. This option will appear whenever you restart or power up the PC.
Note that if you boot up your computer with Windows 7, you're not prevented from accessing the files on the XP partition. You can simply point your program to the appropriate drive and folder to access files you need. On my laptop, I already had a D: drive (for the factory restore image) and the CDROM was tagged as the E: drive. So my Windows 7 files appear as the F: drive when I'm running Windows XP. If I boot up Windows 7, the XP files are on the C: drive.
Have you installed Windows 7 on an XP system? Thinking about it? Post your comments and questions below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 29 Jul 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Upgrade From Windows XP to Windows 7 (Posted: 29 Jul 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved