Houston We Have a Problem 09



Upgrading to Windows 7


You could argue that Microsoft is doing Windows XP owners a big favour by not providing an easy upgrade path to Windows 7. To begin with many XP computers will be too old, slow or underpowered to run Win 7, but there’s a more fundamental problem. Windows operating system upgrades rarely go smoothly and there is always a good chance that problems afflicting the old system, and that includes malware, spyware and viruses, will be carried across to the new operating system.


For XP users that are determined to upgrade, and confident that their hardware is up to the job (run the free Windows 7 upgrade advisor program at http://tinyurl.com/no4xb7 to check), there are basically three options. If you have enough disc space you can leave XP where it is and install Windows 7 in a newly created partition. If you are feeling brave (or very stupid) you could first upgrade from XP to Vista first, then upgrade to Windows 7. Option 3 is to perform a ‘clean’ install, which basically means wiping the hard drive, installing Windows 7 then re-installing all of your programs and data files.


Method one is for advanced users only. Do not under any circumstances attempt method two, it will go horribly wrong! For most people method three is the way to go, and Windows 7 makes it reasonably painless, by first offering to backup all of your essential data (documents, pictures, media etc), critical settings (email and web accounts and so on) and Windows preferences. A utility program on the Windows 7 installation disc called Easy Transfer, copies everything to an external hard disc or USB drive. Once that’s done, and after you’ve installed Windows 7, simply run Easy Transfer again and import all of your data and settings from the drive. There’s an easy to follow tutorial at http://tinyurl.com/l7w32c


What Easy Transfer cannot do is move your programs, you’ll still have to re-install those from the original discs and downloads but the good news is that most applications, designed to run under XP should run on Windows 7, either straight away, or in XP ‘compatibility mode’. 


Easy Transfer can certainly save you a lot of work but it can’t help if the upgrade goes disastrously wrong and there’s no easy route back to XP so there is a very good case for taking a belt and braces approach. The failsafe method is to make a disc image or ‘clone’ of your XP hard drive so if the worse comes to the worst simply install the clone drive and revert back to XP. To do that you’ll need a second hard drive of the same type and similar or greater capacity, plus a disc-cloning program such as Acronis True Image or Symantec Ghost.


The alternative – and I would do this as a matter of course -- is to make a separate backup of all of your documents, photographs, media files, address book and anything else you value on to an external hard drive. Don’t forget to copy any program installation files that you have downloaded from the Internet  -- easy to overlook – and everything else that only exists on your PC and you cannot bear to be parted with.


Finally, a quick mention for LapLink PC Mover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant. This is a utility designed to move not just files and settings but also programs from XP to Windows 7, without using an external storage device. It’s new and it sounds promising but you may want to wait a while and let others find out if there are any drawbacks, but whatever method you use, the single most important piece of advice is to backup anything you don’t want to lose first.




© R. Maybury 2009 2010


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