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Upgrading an operating system may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 can be performed in a few hours assuming you’ve followed this guide and have done some prep work ahead of time. Before you go out and purchase Windows 7, you should first run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. This tool will let you know if your system meets the minimum requirements and whether or not you may run into any software or hardware incompatibilities. Proper preparation will go a long way in making sure your upgrade process is successful.
Minimum System Requirements for Windows 7:
- 1GHz 32-bit or 64-bit CPU
- 1GB RAM for 32-bit or 2GB RAM for 64-bit (I highly recommend 2GB minimum)
- 16GB available hard drive space for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit
- DirectX 9 Compliant video adapter with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
Additional requirements may be needed to utilize certain features. Obviously the better your computer the better performance you'll get from Windows 7.
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Upgrade Advisor and Other Necessary Materials
In this section, I cover running the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor as well as other materials you'll want to gather before proceeding with the upgrade.
1) Download the Windows Upgrade Advisor - available here.
2) Install the Upgrade Advisor tool by double clicking on the download file (likely called “Windows7UpgradeAdvisorSetup.exe”) and following the prompts.
3) Run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor shortcut from your desktop.
4) Click the Start Check button and wait for the report to be completed (Figure 1).
6) Note any issues that crop up. One likely issue that you may find is incompatible hardware. This just implies that Windows 7 doesn’t natively support some piece of your hardware. You will need to go to the hardware manufacturer’s site to download a Windows 7 compatible driver. If your computer does not meet the hardware requirements, you may not be able to install Windows 7. You will need to determine if you can upgrade your computer. Check with your computer manufacturer to see what options exist for upgrading.
Assuming the upgrade advisor passed, you'll want to round up a few more things before you get started.
- Media for Windows 7 – take a look at my article “Windows 7 Editions – What’s the Difference” for help on picking the right edition for you.
- Media for Applications already installed – including those that you may have downloaded from the internet.
- Windows Easy Transfer (available here) – this tool will be used to save your files and settings before the upgrade.
- External Hard drive or other type of media - we will use this to store your settings and files.
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Preparing for the Windows 7 Upgrade
This section covers using the Windows Easy Transfer tool to back up settings and files.
1) Double click on the File transfer file you downloaded (likely called “wet7xp_x86.exe”) and follow the prompts to complete installation. Note that the transfer wizard does NOT move your applications – only settings and your personal files stored under your profile (documents, video, music, etc.)
2) Click the “Windows Easy Transfer for Windows 7” shortcut under Start, All Programs.
3) Click the Next button on the first page and then click “An external hard disk or USB flash drive” (Figure 2).
4) Click “This is my old computer”.
5) The tool will now scan each user’s profile. After the scans are complete, clear the check box for any user account you don’t want to transfer data for and click Next. If you wish, you can customize what gets backed up for each user profile by clicking the “Customize” link for any of the profiles or shared items.
6) Enter a password or leave it blank and click Save. Depending on how much data will be moved, it may take a while to create the save file. When it is finished click Next. Write down the name of the file and the location so you can easily find it again once the upgrade is complete. Click Next and then click Close.
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Upgrading Windows XP to Windows 7
In this step, we’ll perform the upgrade to Windows 7.
1) Insert the Windows 7 disc into your DVD drive. Setup should start automatically.
2) On the first page, click “Install Now”. If your computer is connected to the internet, I recommend getting the latest updates for installation.
3) Review the license terms and click “I accept the license terms”. Click Next.
4) On the page asking what type of installation you want to do, select Custom (Figure 3).
5) Choose the C: when asked about the partition that contains Windows XP. Windows 7 will retain the original Windows folder but will call it Windows.old. Click OK.
6) Follow the prompts to continue the installation.
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Post Installation Cleanup
This section covers restoring our settings and files created by the Easy Transfer wizard.
1) Once Windows 7 is installed and you are able to log in, click the Start button, then Computer. You can now browse for your Easy Transfer file that you saved back in the first section. Double click on your Easy Transfer package.
2) If you chose to use a password when creating your Easy Transfer package, enter it when prompted.
3) On the next page, you can choose which accounts get transferred to Windows 7. Keep the defaults and click Transfer.
4) Once the transfer is complete, you can view a report of what applications were installed on your XP system by clicking the “See a list of programs you might want to install on your new computer” link.
5) Click the Close link when you are done and restart your computer if prompted.
6) After logging back into Windows, you will need to install any applications that you want installed under Windows 7. You will need to check with the manufacturer if you aren’t sure about how to install a specific application. Just be sure to install your security software first – anti-virus and firewall especially - to ensure your computer remains a safe computing environment.
Hopefully you had a smooth transition from Windows XP to Windows 7!