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How to Upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/18/2010

Are you still using Windows XP? It is possible to upgrade to Windows 7, but the process is a bet more involved than it is for users who already own Vista. This guide will help you through the process of upgraded from XP to Windows 7.

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    Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7

    So, you have decided to take the leap and upgrade to Windows 7. Good choice! Windows 7 provides numerous advantages over Windows XP. It is a more modern, more secure operating system.

    However, upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 is not as easy as upgrading from Vista. This is because Windows XP and Windows 7 are very different operating systems in a number of ways. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 is possible, but you will have to follow this guide carefully in order for the upgrade to be successful.

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    Step 1: Run Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

    Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor 

    If you are running Windows XP, your computer could be as little as a year old or it could be six years old. Computer hardware advances rapidly, and it is possible that an older computer will have hardware which will not work properly in Windows 7. Old programs may also fail to work in Windows 7 and will have to be replaced with updated versions or different products. Fortunately, you can determine just how much you will have to give up in the transition to Windows 7 before you make the leap by downloading and installing the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

    Once you have downloaded and installed the program, start it and then click on the Start Check button. The upgrade advisor will begin a comprehensive search of your computer's hardware and software and compare what you have installed to a database of information compiled by Microsoft. This process will take at least a few minutes, and can take quite a bit more than that on older computers. Be patient and allow the program to finish.

    Once the search is complete, look at the list of information provided. If no problems were found, you are good to go! However, if any conflicts were found you will have to resolve those before you install Windows 7. Attempting to install Windows 7 anyway may result in a failed installation or cause Windows 7 to be unstable once it does install.

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    Step 2: Backup Your Files and Programs

    Because Windows 7 is so different from Windows XP it is not possible to simply import your existing files, folders, settings and programs into Windows 7. You will have to do this manually by using an external hard drive and a program called Windows Easy Transfer, which can be downloaded and installed free from Microsoft.

    Once installed, launch Windows Easy Transfer and click Start. Click on All Programs and then click on Windows Easy Transfer for Windows 7. You will be asked to select an external hard drive to which information can be transferred (if you do not have one connected, do so now). Click on This is my old computer and wait for Windows Easy Backup to scan your computer for files and settings that need to be saved. You will next have to select the user accounts you want to retain information for (all are selected by default). Then you need to enter a password, which protects the backup file. Finally, click Save and wait for Windows Easy Backup to notify you that your files and folders have been saved for transfer.

    Note that Windows Easy Transfer is able to transfer files, folders and settings, but it does not transfer your programs. You will have to reinstall your programs manually after Windows 7 has been installed. In addition, if you have media (like music and movies) which is protected by DRM licenses those licenses cannot be transferred. You will have to re-register the media after you install Windows 7. Finally, you can't use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer files from a 64-bit version of XP to a 32-bit version of Windows 7.

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    Upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7: A Guide to your Upgrade The choice to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 is a tough one. Windows 7 is obviously better than XP in numerous ways, but moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 isn't easy because the operating systems are very different. If you do decide to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 you will need to be careful and follow all of the steps required. Upgrading is easy to do as long as you understand the process.
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    Step 3: Installing Windows 7

    Windows 7 

    It is time to get into the meat of upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

    Begin the Windows 7 install by inserting the installation disk or, if you downloaded a Windows 7 installer, double-clicking the installer. Make sure that you have an Internet connection available - Windows 7 can be installed without it, but Windows 7 updates will not be automatically installed.

    An Install Windows prompt will appear. Click on Install Now. You will next be asked about receiving important updates. The default settings are best and will ensure that you receive the latest updates to your Windows 7 installation. You will next have to read (or skim, as most people do) the license agreement for Windows 7 and agree to it. After this, you will be asked if you want a regular or custom installation of Windows 7. Click on Custom.

    You will be asked onto which partition you would like to install Windows 7. Select the partition on which Windows XP was installed (usually C:). The Windows 7 installed will detect XP and prompt you with a Windows.old box - click Ok. The installation from this point is just like any other Windows 7 installation. Follow the on-screen instructions and it will soon be complete.

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    Step 4: Moving Your Settings and Files to Windows 7

    When Windows 7 installs you will not have any of your previous information available. You will need to use Windows Easy Transfer to place it into Windows 7.

    Click the Windows 7 Start button and then click on Computer. Find your external hard disk drive listed under storage devices. Find the backup file you created and enter the password. Make any changes to the files you would like to transfer on the menu that appears and then click Transfer. The Windows Easy Transfer program will inform you when the transfer has been completed.

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    Finishing Installation

    Once you have transferred files and settings you can begin to reinstall programs that had been installed on Windows XP. Installing these programs is really no different from installing a new program that you had just purchased. You might also have to install drivers for some of your computer's hardware. Windows 7 will automatically install basic drivers, but drivers for video cards, webcams, printers and other devices may still need to be installed. The best source for drivers is online, as the installation disks you have may only contain drivers for Windows XP.

    That's it. You have upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7 and now can enjoy Microsoft's latest operating system.