Upgrading XP to Windows 7

Because you can’t upgrade over XP, there are some steps you’ll want to take before you install Windows 7 to make the process easier. This game plan also works if you plan to do a clean or custom install on a Windows Vista system.
* Make an inventory of the software you’ll want to reinstall on Windows 7. This may be a good time to do some housecleaning. Identify the programs you really need and plan to keep them, and cast off those you don’t.
* Download, install and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor at www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx. This will scan your PC and point out compatibility issues with hardware and software. You may have software that won’t run on Windows 7, and you’ll need to upgrade to a newer version of that program, or obtain a patch if available.
* Download and save to a CD, DVD or external drive any software patches you’ll need. Do the same for any Windows 7 drivers that are available for your key hardware, video and audio adapters, printers, mice, keyboards, scanners, etc.
* Research and identify the security software you’ll want to install. Don’t expect the antivirus or antispyware programs you bought two years ago to work on Windows 7. Microsoft has a Web page that lists developers with compatible security titles at www.microsoft.com/windows/antivirus-partners/windows-7.aspx.
* Make a backup of your documents, music, videos and photos, to an external drive. Check the help files for your e-mail program to see how to export your mail folders, then save those to the external drive as well. If you’re really cautious, make a disk image of your entire system using software such as Acronis TrueImage, Norton Ghost or Norton Save & Restore so you can recover your Windows XP setup in case something goes horribly wrong.
* Check the system requirements for Windows 7 to see if your PC is powerful enough. Although Microsoft says 1 GB of RAM will work with the 32-bit version, I’d recommend you have at least double that. Install your RAM or any hardware upgrades before you install Windows 7.
* Once you have Windows 7, you can start the installer from within XP. It will do additional compatibility checks, then reboot the system to begin the installation. I’d recommend doing the Custom install, because it does provide a secondary copy of your data files.
* When the installation is complete, install the latest Windows 7 drivers, then the antivirus software you’ve selected and let it update its malware definitions.
* Manually run Windows Update to check for any patches and fixes.
* Before you install any of your software, live with this installation for a while. Play around with Windows 7, learning its differences before you have to rely on it for real work. Give it a few days before installing your software, and copying data back to the hard drive.
Once your installation is the way you like it, consider using the Backup and Restore function in Windows 7 to make an image of your existing hard drive. You can use this later if you need to start over from scratch – and it will come in handy when Windows 8 rolls around in a few years!

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