Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7

We continue our look at moving from previous versions of Windows to Windows 7. Yep, there are many Windows XP users out there who continue to enjoy it. But they are hearing about Windows 7 a lot lately and all the really cool new features it offers, from desktop improvements to how you do things easier like networking, organization of files and better performance. You want a piece of that action, but there are some things you still don’t know about it, like. Can I upgrade to Windows 7? Will my current hardware work with Windows 7? What about my personal settings, will those survive the move to Windows 7…from Windows XP?

Files to Transfer 

Well, I want to find out too, since I have friends who are still running Windows XP. So what I did was, setup a scenario which involved Windows 7 and Windows XP to find out if it was possible or even easy to make the move to this major upgrade of Windows. Now, back to those questions:

Can I upgrade to Windows 7 from Windows XP?

XP to 7 Upgrade

I checked and the answer is no, see the screenshot above. Good news though, Windows XP users will definitely qualify for upgrade pricing. The reason why Microsoft has decided not to support a Windows XP upgrade path to Windows 7 stems from the complexity involved. The Windows Team wants the best possible experience, because of the significant changes that have occurred since Vista, there are just too many variables involved that can potentially make the upgrade experience an unsatisfactory one. So, a clean install is the recommended and only way to get Windows 7 installed on your system for Windows XP users. Don’t worry yet, I know you have files and settings you don’t want to lose, I am going to take a look at getting those over.

Will my current hardware work with Windows 7?

That depends on what you have. Windows 7’s official requirements call for the following:

  • 1 GHz 32 or 64 bit PC
  • 1 GB of RAM (2 GBs for 64 bit systems)
  • 16 GBs of free hard disk space (20 GBs for 64 bit)
  • DirectX 9 compliant video card with 128 MBs of video RAM
  • Internet Connection for access to additional services and activation of appropriate software

If you are in the above line up, you should be good to go. Some persons will be able to get away with some unofficial hardware configurations. I for instance have been running Windows 7 on 512 MBs of RAM. But I have a customized setup not requiring all the features of the OS. So your mileage will vary. Many have described Windows 7 as a significant release of the OS that actually improves the performance of your PC.

Will my applications work with Windows 7?

Now this is a tough one. Windows is known as the operating system that tries its very best to make it easy to run your old applications on the latest version. But there is always the possibility of compatibility issues. Windows 7 in particular just like Windows Vista will likely have problems with applications that also had problems in that version. Please note though, this does necessarily apply to all applications, there have been successful reports of applications that did not work in Vista, now working just fine in Windows 7. To help users evaluate their current setup, Microsoft recently provided the Windows Upgrade Advisor which analyzes and checks your system for potential software and hardware conflicts. Its a great starting point for Windows XP users who want to move to Windows 7. With over 1.2 billion Windows PC configurations though, there will certainly be hiccups.

Before you even pop the Windows 7 disk into your disk drive, you can do a few things. Like check the manufacturer of your devices for updated drivers or information about Windows 7 support. For applications you can do the same by checking the developers web site for updates or new versions.

What to do if its not compatible?

You have a few options:

  1. Wait until a new version or update is released.
  2. Acquire another brand that works with Windows 7.
  3. Don’t bother with the upgrade at all.

Number 2 and 3 in particular might be tough decisions to make considering that the application or device is already working just fine in Windows XP. But users must understand that upgrading to Windows 7 is not just upgrading for upgrades sake. The operating system is easier to use, more reliable and definitely more secure. The day will come when you won’t receive updates for Windows XP anymore and that current device will most likely become unsupported when a problem does arise. This is not a scare tactic, its just how the hardware and software industry works. There is always a new version in the works to replace the old one. This is all theoretical though, so don’t worry.

For potential customers of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate, Microsoft is providing a feature called Windows Virtual XP, which enhances the application compatibility experience in Windows 7. This is great especially for business customers who might still be running legacy applications on Windows XP. Another great thing about Virtual XP is, you can run your legacy applications side by side within Windows 7 without having to interact with the Windows XP operating side of things. It’s a powerful utility for users and businesses who want to maintain compatibility while transitioning to the latest. To learn more about Windows Virtual XP, check out my experiences with it here

In the screenshot from earlier, the Compatibility Report suggest that we use the Windows Easy Transfer utility. And that is what we will now do. Lucky for us, Windows 7 already comes with the Migration Tools on the disk. To find it, just navigate to x:supportmigwiz, ‘x:’ represents the name of your disk drive. In this folder, you will see a collection of files, the important one you need to look for and double click is ‘migsetup‘. This will launch the setup program for Windows Easy Transfer software that will be installed on your Windows XP computer.

XP to 7 Upgrade 1

XP to 7 Upgrade 2

Preparing to install the Windows Easy Transfer software on Windows XP

The last time I used Windows Easy Transfer to move files from Windows 7 to a new Windows 7 PC, I discussed the different options available for transferring your items to a new computer.

Easy Transfer wizard

Windows Easy Transfer wizard

Old Computer

Identifying the PC from which you are transferring files

  • An Easy Transfer cable is specifically designed to work with Easy Transfer to move your personal data from an old PC to a new computer.
  • Network which is the method I will be using for this tutorial, requires that both PC’s have a network port installed and using a CAT5 cable to connect both computers.
  • If you have an external hard disk with sufficient space, you can let Easy Transfer backup your data in a single file.

    External Hard disk option

    Using an External storage device is faster and convenient

    Our choice specifically this time will be ‘An external hard disk or USB flash drive. Its particularly best when moving large amounts of data from Windows XP to Windows 7 since there is no upgrade path and the restoration will be much smoother.

  • Scanning PC Accounts to be transferred

    Scanning data and accounts to be transferred

    Backup to External Resource Save Files and Settings

    Choosing the location where the Easy Transfer file will be saved, optional password

    Saving Items

    Saving data and settings

    Success Success2

    A successful backup of your files and settings!

    So we have backed up everything. The next step now involves installing Windows 7. One thing Windows XP users must note, your applications will not survive a clean install and will require reinstallation. So please make sure you have those program disks available when you are ready to do so.

    You have two options, you can launch Windows 7 setup in Windows XP or you can boot from the Windows 7 disk. If you plan on booting from your disk, ensure that your BIOS is set to boot from its optical drive. If you decide to launch setup from within Windows XP, you must select ‘Custom (advanced)‘ option. What does this entail?

    Migrating to Win7 Migrating to Win7 2

    Preparing to do a clean installation of Windows 7

    Migrating to Win7 3

    Preparing the partition on which Windows 7 will be installed

  • Selecting Custom installs a new copy of Windows. This option does not keep your files, settings, and programs. The option to make changes to disks and partitions is available when you start your computer using the installation disc.

    Installing Windows 7 over Windows XP will move files and folders to a folder named Windows.old. You will be able to access the information in Windows.old, but you will not be able to use your previous version of Windows.

  • Installation

    Windows 7 has definitely made it clear about moving to it from Windows XP and the pre-requisites necessary. Its a clean install, applications will not be available and you should of course backup before attempting the migration. Since we have done all of these necessary things, we will go ahead and start the installation. The installation is typical of a clean install, if you don’t know what that is like, please refer to my experience here

    So, after completing the installation, you would like to restore those personal files and settings. Connect your external drive or wherever you backed your Windows Easy Transfer file to. Launch the Windows Easy Transfer wizard – Start > type: Transfer > hit enter.

    Restore 1 Restore 2

    Selecting the Restoration method and identifying your computer

    Restore 3 Restore 4

    Connecting and navigating to where your Easy Transfer file is stored

    Restore 5 Restore 6

    Enter your password if you created one and select what to transfer

    Restore 7 Restore 8

    Restoring your data

    Restore 9 Restore 10

    After restoring your data and settings, you can view a report of what was transferred, along with what you will need to reinstall.

    Restore 11

    …and finally, a restart to apply necessary settings.

    Follow the wizard and navigate to the location where the Easy Transfer file is stored. Enter your password if you had created one and the wizard will complete the restoration of files and settings. You can check the Easy Transfer Report when it is finished, which will detail what you will need to reinstall, along with what was restored. After this is completed, you will be asked to restart your computer.


    …and there you have it, a successful migration from Windows XP to Windows 7

    Windows XP users should note that applications that once came bundled with Windows XP are not included in the OS such as Email and video editing software. You can download third party equivalents or download and install Windows Live Essentials which includes updated successors to these programs. There are commercial solutions available from Company’s such as LapLink that promise to provide a way to easy migrate personal files, settings, applications and drivers to Windows 7 if you really must avoid the clean installation process. You can learn more about that here


    Windows XP users can take confidence in the migration experience that Windows 7 provides. Yes, there are some requirements that are involved and appropriate planning of course can help to overcome some of the hurdles. The experiences promised at the end is definitely worth it!


    Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor – Find out how ready your Windows XP system is for Windows 7.

    External hard disk – these can come in very handy. If you have lots of data stored on your Windows XP PC, you will need a good amount of storage to back it up. External hard disk these days are very affordable and you can pick up a 500 GB below US $80.

    Have those program disks nearby – After completing the migration, you will need to reinstall all your necessary programs. Common apps include office productivity suites, finance software and any other favorite applications you often use in Windows XP.

    Check for updates – after completing the installation, check for updates for the operating system, computer and your applications. This will improve stability, security, performance and compatibility.

    Have security software installed. There are many free antivirus solutions out there, your existing one for XP is most likely not compatible with Windows 7. Antivirus programs tend to work specifically with the operating system version. You can find a list of available antiviral programs for Windows 7 here


    Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

    How to install Windows 7 on your Netbook using a USB Key


    How to Install Windows 7

    How to Upgrade to Windows 7

    Using Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 7

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