QR Code Business Card

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7


This article is intended to guide you through a successful Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade and migration. In writing this guide, I am assuming that your XP machine is a typical configuration, and that you are installing Windows 7 on the same machine. This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information in this article is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and I post it here in good faith, there is always an inherent risk of damage or loss when performing this level of work with a computer. If you use the information in this guide, you do so at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss of data. I strongly recommend backing up your data and system settings before attempting any of the processes in this guide.

It is not possible to simply upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 because of the major differences in the structure and code between the two operating systems. An upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 really means backing up your data, wiping the hard drive, and installing a clean installation of Windows 7. This can seem a little complicated, especially if you have never installed or upgraded a Windows operating system. So please read through this guide carefully and thoroughly before you begin upgrading your computer. If at anytime you feel like you may be getting in over your head, consider taking your computer to a trained and certified professional.

Before you begin

  • Gather all of your software installation disks and product licenses; including drivers for any attached devices such as printers or scanners.
  • You will need an external hard drive with enough available space to store your data during the upgrade.
  • Download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft’s website.
  • Download the Easy Transfer Tool from Microsoft’s website.
  • Put on a pot of coffee, grab a good book or a movie or a good game, because upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 can take a few hours.

You will also need

  • Internet Access in order to activate Windows 7 and download Windows updates.
  • If you intend to run Windows XP mode, you will need an additional 1 GB of RAM and 15 GB of available hard drive space. Windows XP Mode is a kind of virtual computing environment in which you can run programs designed to run in Windows XP. For more information, please visit Microsoft’s website.
  • Windows 7 installation media and a valid license key, and if you are upgrading from a previous version of Windows, you may be required to provide  the product key for your previous version of Windows.

Window 7 System Requirements

In order to install and run Windows 7, your computer must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • 1 GHz or faster AMD or Intel 32 or 64 bit single, dual, or quad-core processor. 32 bit systems can support up to 32 cores, while 64?bit versions can support up to 256 processor cores.
  • At least 1 GB of RAM for a 32 bit system, and at least 2 GB of RAM for a 64 bit system. The more RAM, the better. By experience, I recommend typically 8 GB of RAM in a 32 bit system and 16 GB of RAM in 64 bit systems. More, if the computer is going to be used for graphical or media production.
  • At least 16 GB available hard drive space for a 32 it system, and 20 GB available hard drive space for a 64 bit system.
  • A graphics card that supports DirectX 9.

Running the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

The Upgrade Advisor is a Microsoft tool that will scan your computer system and report back any compatibility issues that will need to be resolved in order to successfully upgrade to Windows 7. In most cases, this will mean downloading Windows 7 compatible drivers and software updates.   Before you begin your upgrade, you should know if your system is going to pass the compatibility test, and download the required Windows 7 compatible drivers for your system before hand so you have them ready when you need to install them.

By now, you have downloaded the Upgrade Advisor. Now install and run the advisor, After reviewing the report, be sure to save a copy of it to the external hard drive.  Before you run the Upgrade Advisor, make sure that all of your devices are connected to the computer and turned on. After the scan is complete, you van read through the report to see what corrections need to be made to your computer in order to support Windows 7. You should save a copy of this report and store it on the external drive.


Backing up Your Data

I prefer to use a two-step approach to backing up and migrating user data. The fist step is to use the Windows Easy Transfer tool available for downloading from Microsoft’s website The easy Transfer Tool is a very straight-forward utility that will guide you through the entire process to back up user profiles and system settings and store them on an external drive. Since we are upgrading to a very different platform than Windows XP, most of your XP settings will not apply, but your user profiles and some of your preferences will be included in the backup. The next step is to manually backup personal data files, images, music, videos, and so forth, and store them on an external hard drive. The reason why I take this two-step approach is that I have seen the Easy Transfer Tool fail. It doesn’t happen often, but finding out that a backup failed after you have completed wiping your drive and installing Windows 7 is a very unhappy experience.


Note: If you are migrating from a 32bit version of Windows XP to a 64bit version of Windows 7, and you are using a 64bit version of the Windows 7 DVD, then you will not be able to use migwiz utility on the DVD because it is a 64 bit version. You need to download the 32 bit version of the Easy Transfer Tool from Microsoft’s website.

A few points you should be aware of before using the Easy Transfer Tool:

  • When you are transferring your profile from one computer to another, it works best if the user profile name on the new computer is the same as on the old computer. For example, If I logged into Windows XP using ‘James’ as my user name, I should use the same user name on the new computer. You don’t necessarily have to do this, but it helps cut down on potential file permission issues.
  • Windows Easy Transfer doesn’t move your programs, only your files and settings.
  • Don’t use the File and Settings Transfer Wizard in Windows XP to move your files. It isn’t compatible with Windows 7, and if you use it, you won’t be able to restore your files in Windows 7.
  • Windows Easy Transfer can’t transfer files from a 64-bit version of Windows XP to a 32-bit version of Windows 7. If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows XP, but you plan to install a 32-bit version of Windows 7, you’ll need to copy your files manually to an external location before installing Windows 7, and then move them back after Windows installation is completed.
  • Windows Easy Transfer moves your music and video files, but doesn’t migrate the licenses for content protected by digital rights management (DRM). This means that you’ll need to re-obtain rights to DRM?protected files from the online store that provided them after you finish installing Windows 7 and restoring these files to your computer.
  • Move files Manually – You can manually move your files to an external drive if you choose. This is especially useful if you have files stored in other areas of your hard drive that the Easy Transfer utility might miss, or if you just want to migrate your files and not any system settings. By default, Windows XP stores user date in profile folders located in “C:\Documents and Settings”

After Windows 7 is installed, you can use the Easy Transfer tool Tool to migrate your data into your Windows 7 profile. I have posted instructions in the section titled ‘Restore files with the Windows Easy Transfer Tool’ below.


Installing Windows 7

Using a Windows 7 installation DVD, there are two approaches we can take to install Windows 7. The first approach, assuming that you are installing a 32 bit version of Windows 7 on a 32 bit version of Windows XP, or a 64 bit version of Windows 7 on a 64 bit version of Windows XP, is that you launch the Windows 7 installation DVD while booted into Windows XP. This has an advantage of giving you an easy option to running a System Compatibility check. Your computer would need to be online for this. This method will copy the core installation files to your computer and restart your computer in order to begin the installation process.

The other approach is to boot the computer to the Windows 7 installation DVD and launch the installation process without Windows XP. If you are upgrading from Windows XP 32 bit to Windows 7 64 bit, this is the only option available to you. Your computer must be configured to boot to a CD/DVD first before booting to a hard drive. Please refer to your manufacturer’s website for assistance in setting the boot order in your computer’s BIOS.

Note: During the Windows 7 installation, you will also be asked to enter your Windows 7 Product key, so make sure you have it on hand. Your Product key is typically located on the computer case, or in the case of laptops and netbooks, on the bottom of the case.

I have a detailed Windows 7 Upgrade and Installation Guide that will guide you through upgrading to Windows 7. Please use that guide to perform a custom installation of Windows 7 – Windows 7 Upgrade and Installation Guide

Reinstall programs and drivers

Windows 7 does a pretty good job at being compatible with older software, so you shouldn’t have too much issue reinstalling the software that you used on your Windows XP computer, onto your new Windows 7 computer. If you installed the 64 bit version of Windows 7, you may notice that most of your older software is not installed in the ‘Program Files’ folder, but instead, they are installed in the ‘Program Files (x86)’ folder, which is reserved for 32 bit programs. You will probably see a lot of your programs take on a Windows 7 appearance. If you do run into issues with running older software Windows 7, you can run the program in compatibility mode by right-clicking on the application, going to Properties, and selecting Compatibility Mode.

It is possible that some of the programs that you used under Windows XP will not run natively under Windows 7. But don’t worry, Windows 7 can run programs written for Windows XP in Windows XP Mode. Using Windows XP Mode, you can run programs that were designed for Windows XP on computers running Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions. Windows XP Mode isn’t supported on Windows 8. For more information about installing and using Windows XP Mode, please visit Microsoft’s website.

Restoring your files after the upgrade

Now that Windows 7 is installed and ready to go, you can now move your backed up files into your profile

Restoring your files with Windows Easy Transfer Tool is a very simply process. With Windows 7, all you need to do is connect the external drive where your migrated files are stored. Then click on the Windows Start orb and type easy transfer in the search box. The Windows Easy Transfer Tool will display in the results, and you can launch it from here. To restore your files, simply follow the steps and point the tool to your migrated files


Alternative Solution

Running Windows XP in a Virtual Machine – There are a number of reasons why running Windows XP is an excellent solution for anyone who needs to run Windows XP. Most common being the necessity of running specific programs that must run in Windows XP. What ever the reason, your installation of Windows XP, along with all of your programs and files, can be cloned and put on a virtual hard drive (VHD) using a simple and free utility called Disk to VHD, available in the latest Sysinternals suite. You can also install Windows Virtual PC, or one of my favorites, Virtualbox, and run your installation of Windows XP from there. If you have enough system resources, you shouldn’t even see a performance hit. More on how setup Windows XP inside a virtual machine later

Run the Programs in Compatibility Mode – If you have an older program that is running poorly or not at all in Windows 7, you can try to run it in Compatibility Mode. To change compatibility settings manually for a program, right-click the program icon, click ‘Properties’, and then click the ‘Compatibility’ tab. For more information on Compatibility Mode, please visit Microsoft’s webpage.


Congratulations, your upgrade is complete!  I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or concerns about this guide or upgrading to Windows 7, feel free to contact me via e-mail through the form on my Contact page.

Related Articles

This is a list of other articles I have written for Windows 7

Comments are closed.

Translate This Page:

Post Categories:

Post Archives: