FAQ: Making a Smooth Move from XP to Windows 7

How do I know if my XP machine can handle Windows 7? Run the "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor," which as of July, was in beta. Start here, download and install the advisor, then run it.

The advisor will give you a bottom-line appraisal of your XP-based hardware and give you the green light, tell you the machine won't make it as is or spell out what you need to beef up.

Can I buy the cheaper Upgrade edition of Windows 7, or do I have to fork over a small fortune for the "full" version? Yes to the first, no to the second.

Windows 7's Upgrade editions, such as Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade -- $120 suggested list -- check to see if there's a legitimate, activated copy of Windows on the PC before it lets you proceed. At the least, Windows XP and Windows 2000 qualify here. (Even older editions, such as Windows 98 may be eligible -- Microsoft's not been clear -- but it's very unlikely that hardware that old will take the Windows 7 strain.)

I'm running XP Home now. What are my Windows 7 choices? You can upgrade to Home Premium ($120), Professional ($200) or even Ultimate ($220) if you want.

If you were smart, you bought your upgrade during the two-week sale that Microsoft ran from June 26 through July 11, when Home Premium was priced at $50, Professional at $100. Unfortunately, those discounts are done.

I'm running XP Professional. What are my Windows 7 choices? Same as if you were running XP Home now: You can upgrade to Home Premium ($120), Professional ($200) or Ultimate ($220).

What's the process going to be like? We won't know for sure until Microsoft makes final Windows 7 Upgrade discs available, but the company will help you back up and then restore settings and data with the Windows Easy Transfer utility it includes on the Windows 7 DVD.

The process is too long to spell out here, but Microsoft posted a step-by-step back in January, while BlogsDNA added screenshots to those instructions.

What should I do before I start the upgrade? Tops on our list: Make a disk image of your XP machine as it exists now so that, if you later decide Windows 7 isn't worth the disc it's written to and you want to revert to the ancient XP, you can do so without a lot of hassle.

There are scads of free and for-a-fee backup programs for XP, some of which create a disk image, a bit-for-bit copy of the hard disk. Among the free choices are Macrium Reflect and DriveImageXML, which run on XP and let you create an image on a CD/DVD, external drive or flash drive.

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