Windows 7 Migrate from XP (or Vista)

Microsoft Windows 7 Migrate from XPMigrate from XP to Windows 7

When migrating from XP or Vista to Windows 7 a fresh installation of Windows 7 gives the best chance for a glitch-free operating system.  However, if you already have Vista then it’s possible to merely upgrade and thus save the hassle of transferring user settings.

Remember that there is no direct upgrade path from XP to Windows 7, you either need a two stage upgrade (not recommended), or else a clean install of Windows 7 on the old XP machine (best).

Windows 7 Migrate from XP (or Vista)


The Road to Microsoft Windows 7

Rather like asking for directions to a house, your route to Microsoft Windows 7 depends on whether you are starting from Vista or XP.  The next decision is the vehicle, do you need the Home Premium Edition, Professional, or one of the other Windows 7 editions?  The key is to match not only your present edition, but to get the correct 32 or 64-bit version.

If your journey starts with Vista, then the key decision focuses on an in-place upgrade versus a clean install.  A half-way house could be a dual boot, and then migrate your settings with Microsoft’s User State Migration Tool (USMT).  Another consideration if you start from XP is to what extent will your existing hardware support Windows 7?  Beware of graphics cards which can’t display Windows 7’s Aero Graphics.  Mind you, the chances are that if the graphics card is that old, then other components such as CPU and memory won’t be suitable for Windows 7.  On the other hand, you may have bought a new machine when installing Vista, in which case hardware compatibility is unlikely to be a problem when you migrate to Windows 7. 

As with all quick fixes, an in-place upgrade will come back and bite you.  The old Vista baggage always seems to get in the way.  Some programs expect the operating system to be particular number, e.g. XP’s major version is five, whereas in Windows 7 it’s six.  If you have IE7, then upgrading to Windows 7 with its IE8 may cause problems with browser add-ons.  Another gotcha is drivers for some portable devices.  Perhaps the most insidious problem is that if anything goes amiss, then rightly or wrongly, you blame legacy stuff from the old Vista system.

There is no doubt that the best long-term solution is a clean install of any operating system.  Pay up-front with time and effort to backup the old system, reformat, build Windows 7 from scratch, then restore your data from the backup.  If you have a second machine, then a variation of the swing technique may help.  Here you copy existing data to the second machine – maybe a laptop, verify the data is intact, then rebuild the first machine with Windows 7 and swing back your data from the second machine.

32 or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7

If you are buying a new computer specially for Microsoft Windows 7 you need to ask yourself, ‘What to I do about 64-bit hardware, software and drivers’.  With Vista most people stayed with 32-bit kit, and consequently bought 32-bit versions of Vista.  Now with Windows 7 if you are looking for a new computer then you would at least consider a 64-bit processor.  Unusually for the next generation of an operating system, Windows 7 will have fewer compatibility problems on the same hardware as its predecessor Vista.  Thus my guess is that if you are upgrading from Vista then you will keep the same kit even if you go for a clean install.  However, if you are upgrading from XP to Windows 7 you may consider buying a new computer system and that could be 64-bit rather than 32-bit.

Naturally, computer specification starts with the CPU; a 64-bit processor means 64-bit versions of the operating system, and a search for 64-bit drivers for peripherals.  My experience of software is that all applications that work on 32-bit processors also work on 64-bit processors.  However, there is a caveat, many software manufactures don’t recommend, or support, 32-bit software on 64-bit machines.  That said, some supply 64-bit versions of their programs.

The situation with Microsoft’s own Office software is instructive, and fairly typical of what to expect.  Microsoft supports this Office suite of 32-bit programs on 64-bit versions of Vista and Windows 7.  The only incompatibility problem is trivial, the internet fax does not work on 64-bit hardware.  Incidentally, when you install such 32-bit programs on a 64-bit operating system their files are stored by default under the ‘Program Files (x86)’ folder.

Upgrade from XP to Windows 7 – Surprise

Microsoft doesn’t encourage, and they don’t support a physical upgrade from XP to Windows 7.  However, it would be possible to upgrade a computer from XP SP3 to Vista SP1, and from there to Windows 7.  Some gurus actually recommend this upgrade path for business who don’t want to disrupt their users’ desktops, but I am not one of those supporting such a double move.

The only true sense in which you can upgrade from XP to Windows 7 is a license upgrade.  In terms of licensing and hence cost, you can buy an upgrade license to move from XP to Windows 7.  While I can see that the administration would be straight forward for large companies, I am not sure how this upgrade scheme works for individuals.

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New Concept – Hard-link Migration

Lookout for hard-link assistance to migrate settings from XP to Windows 7.  The key package is the new User State Migration Tool (USMT) in the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010.

The concept behind hard-link migration is that the files stay in the same place on the machine.  Actually the files are stored in a hard-link migration folder, which is then immune from deletion when the XP operating system is removed.  During the Windows 7 install the setup program updates the file locations with hard-links.  The benefit is that transferring settings is much quicker because the files stay in the same place on the disk.  Tests indicate that you can perform a fresh install of Windows 7, complete with all your XP files and settings in just 40 minutes.

Hard-link Migration Practicalities

  1. Run the ScanState command-line with the /hardlink option.  ScanState then saves the user state to a hard-link migration store.
  2. You then install Windows 7 and any other applications.
  3. Once the new Windows 7 operating system launches, you can run the LoadState command-line tool and restore the user state stored in the hard-link folder.

Hard-link migration is particularly useful for XP because there is no good path to upgrade directly to Windows 7.

Handy Windows 7 Migration Tools

  • Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor
  • Windows Easy Transfer – Built-in to Windows 7
    Click Start Orb, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then click Windows Easy Transfer.
  • User Settings Migration Tool (USMT)
  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit

Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit

If you are unsure if a computer can be successfully upgraded, then call for the aptly named, Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit.  As with most of these Microsoft toolkits, MAP is freely available from Microsoft’s download site.

MAP uses the built-in WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), thus it’s secure and does not require you to install additional agents.  The toolkit collects and organizes the operating system resources and device information and creates a report in Word or Excel on the suitability of migrating to Vista.  A Windows 7 version (MAP 3.3?) is coming soon – about May 2009.

The hardware assessment compares the installed hardware with its database, and if migration is not recommended then it tells you what to upgrade.  There is a separate device assessment which reports on the availability of each installed driver.  Incidentally, you can scan multiple computers, even ones not part of your domain.

MAP works on modern Microsoft Windows systems for example:

  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP Professional
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2003 including R2
  • And even Windows 2000 Professional or Server

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Your Journey to Window 7 – The Big Picture

When ever you are considering replacing a computer, and especially if you are going to install a new operating system version, stand back, take the opportunity to look at the big picture.  Grapple with the hard question, do we need to upgrade to Windows 7 – at all?  Instead, should we go thin client and deploy Terminal Services or Citrix, or could we go totally browser based?  My brain is at stage one of assimilating that one day I may run my email, Word Processor and Spreadsheet from the internet.  In which case, I may not need a powerful operating system.

Do You Believe in TCO? (Total Cost of Ownership)

At first I believed that Total Cost of Ownership was all hype.  My initial problem was that I did not trust the man who first introduced me to the TCO concept.   Suffice to say that I am now convinced of the cash benefits of reduced down time due to operating system errors.  Another benefit which is harder to cost is greater user productivity and less frustration due to programs hanging. 

Test Network and Pilot Group

Nothing polarises techies more than test networks and pilot groups.  Half say, ‘Guy you are preaching to the converted, surely everyone has a test network?’  The other half whinge, ‘Guy you are in cuckoo land, we have no money for a test network’.

To those who think I am in cuckoo land I wish to say that I hate spending money.  Thus investigate using VMware or Microsoft’s Virtual PC.  As for the pilot group, if all else fails, you can double up as the pilot group or install Windows 7 on a few trusted user’s machines.

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Summary of Windows 7 Migrate from XP

If you start with an XP operating system, then the best migration path is to start anew with Windows 7.  Backup the old XP stuff, reformat, and begin with a fresh installation of Windows 7.  Then restore the old XP settings and stuff to the Windows 7 operating system.  It is possible to perform an in-place upgrade from XP to Vista, and then from Vista, upgrade to Windows 7.  But I don’t recommend that two stage upgrade; furthermore, as time moves on don’t think this double-move strategy will become popular.

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Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade, Migrate, Install