How to Upgrade Safely from XP to Windows 7

November 18, 2010, By Christian Cawley

If you made the right decision with your computer buying a few years ago, you would have skipped upgrading to the much-maligned Windows Vista and instead stayed with Windows XP, or else purchased Vista-compatible system and downgraded to XP.

Despite the years of trouble-free computing you would have received in the interim, there is a downside – opting for XP at this stage means you can’t upgrade to Windows 7 in the traditional way. Settings and documents can be lost if you begin installing Windows 7 and choose the upgrade option, leading to a new operating system that is missing your favourites, emails and potentially much more than this.

However while Microsoft omitted to make the upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 easy, they do provide a wizard to ease the transition – however this will require an external storage device, a second computer with an Easy Transfer cable connection or a network drive. There is also a way of configuring your PC to avoid losing these files ever again!

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7

Because of the differences in the file structure between Windows XP and Windows 7, the transfer files and settings wizard should be used. Microsoft provides a tool called Windows Easy Transfer which allows you to move files and folders to an external drive, before installing Windows 7 and then moving the data back. It isn’t the most streamlined solution, but it works.

Before getting started, don’t think that upgrading XP to Windows Vista and then onto Windows 7 gets around this problem – it can in fact cause many more.

To get started using the Windows Easy Transfer wizard, insert your Windows 7 disc and browse to the Support/Migwiz folder. Double click migsetup.exe to launch the wizard.

The best option for saving your settings is to employ an external hard disk drive or USB flash drive with a suitably large capacity, so click Next and then An external hard disk or USB flash drive. In the next screen, select This is my old computer – this will prompt the wizard to scan your computer. After scanning is complete, add and remove items as you see fit from your profile and the Shared Items that have been detected.

To continue, click Next and enter your password, then click on Save to find and save date to your chosen storage location.

When this is done, browse to the root directory of Windows 7 and double-click setup.exe. Click on the Custom option as you are upgrading from XP to Windows 7 (the Upgrade option is for upgrading from Vista). Select the Windows XP partition as the installation location, the click Next. Installation will take a while, so return when it is complete. Upon completion, reboot your PC to start Windows 7.

Once booted up, go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Windows Easy Transfer. Select An external hard disk or USB flash drive and then This is my new computer – you will then be able to browse to where your transferred files were saved. Select the file, click Open and then Transfer – your files and settings will then be migrated!

Things to Note Using Windows Easy Transfer

Although your documents and settings will be transferred, you might have lost save games and you will certainly have lost all installed applications. As such you should take steps to ensure you have all required install discs, and save any progress in favourite games to a different location.

Simple Alternative to Windows Easy Transfer

By using your PC or laptop more intelligently, you can avoid even having to use Windows Easy Transfer. My personal tip is to configure a hard disk drive partition as a new location for My Documents in Windows XP. Once the partition is formatted, go to Start and right-click My Documents to choose Properties. In the Target tab, select Move… – your My Documents folder can then be moved to the new partition, which you must browse to.

This method is particularly effective if you save to a separate physical disk to the one Windows is on. As long as you make regular backups of emails, contacts and your browser favourites and bookmarks this method will save you resorting to Windows Easy Transfer.

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