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Windows 7: A Clarification on XP Upgrades

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on January 29, 2009

A number of commenters on my column on Windows 7 expressed dismay that Microsoft does not plan to provide an upgrade path from XP. I want to clarify just what that means, since I seem to have caused a bit of confusion.

It does not mean that Microsoft won’t offer upgrade pricing. The company has not yet said anything about Windows 7 pricing, but I expect that anyone moving from either XP or Vista will be eligible for upgrade pricing, that is, a substantial discount from the full retail charge.

What it does mean is that XP users will not be able to to install Win 7 as an upgrade that will leave all of your programs in place. Instead, you will have to back up your data and settings, do a clean installation of win 7, then reload your apps and restore your data.I expect there will be some sort of migration tool to make this somewhat easier.

For the record, here's Microsoft's full statement on the subject: "Microsoft remains committed to making the transition to Windows 7 easier for all customers. With tools, guidance, and the work we're doing with industry partners it is our belief that this will be an improved process . Furthermore, we expect most customers who upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 will be doing so through the purchase of a new computer, thereby making the upgrade virtually effortless. That said, Windows XP customers planning to upgrade to Windows 7 will need to perform a clean installation."

This is unfortunate, but I think Microsoft had good reasons for the decision. First, the upgrade from XP to Vista was very difficult and often unsuccessful and people trying to upgrade of XP to 7 would likely face the same or greater difficulties. And the overwhelming majority of consumer and small business PCs running XP mpst likely lack enough memory or processing power to run 7 effectively, even though it appears to be somewhat less demanding of hardware than Vista. (Corporations typically use a different procedure for installing a new operating system that avoids the upgrade question. They back up the data, load the machine with a disk "image" that includes the operating system and standard applications, then restore the data.)

Reader Comments

Emir Aboulhosn

January 29, 2009 1:55 PM


Your readers can try using PCmover to upgrade from Windows XP to 7 even if its on the same machine.

We are have tested PCmover with Windows 7 and I am happy to report that it successfully migrates any PC (even as far back as Windows 2000) into Windows 7.

When migrating to a new OS on the same PC, users simply need to use an external drive or DVDs to create their PCmover snapshot which will store their programs, files and settings.

Following their clean installation of Windows 7, they run PCmover, load the snapshot from external drive or DVDs, and all of their programs, files and settings from will be moved to their Windows 7 PC. It's really that easy.



January 29, 2009 5:01 PM

With MS's History, can you say pass?


January 29, 2009 6:20 PM

I just did an install of Win7 beta over an existing Win XP, and I didn't have to format or anything. The installation just moved the old windows folders to "windows.old", that is "Windows", "Documents and settings" and "Program Files" are now placed in this folder.

I think this is nice, because I prefer a clean registry. I can always reinstall my apps, but the data is what's most important and that is preserved in this way. So I didn't need an external disk, just ample disk space.

Of course, I pretty much know what I am doing so I know how to recover settings from the different apps I used before. And I'm only slowly reinstalling, because I only want to reinstall what I really need. So this might not work for everyone.


January 31, 2009 9:28 AM

This is pathetic, considering the MS userbase are still on XP. With Ubuntu Linux I can upgrade to the latest version with one click of the mouse, wait twenty minutes, and then get straight back to work with all my settings in place and all my data where it always was.
And don't forget to pay for this foul up, paying for an upgrade from Vista, which was a truly terrible OS, has to be the final insult to customers.

Try a different way, and apply some 21st century thinking to a 21st century problem, not the same old tired methods of the proprietary past.


February 2, 2009 1:55 PM

Don't forget all the old files will be problematic in your new systems. I recently re-installed XP and decided to throw Office 2007 or whatever on there. Well then I had limited compatibility between my older files and new files. I was also shocked to find that some basic functionality was seemingly gone, and I looked everywhere for it.

Windows 7 will be the same, indeed that is Microsoft's business model. Keep bloating and changing so the user must buy new copies all the time.

And don't forget any corporations upgrading will need to provide extensive training, as all the apps will be re-arranged and no one will know how they work or even how to do basic things with the new apps.

When you look at the total cost of long term ownership, including those three IS guys whose job it is to get an implement the patches every Tuesday, plus all the extra costs three years later when you are forced to upgrade, there is no doubt that Ubuntu corporate solutions are going to be getting some attention. Oh, sorry, are getting attention:

Ken Wilson

May 5, 2009 3:55 PM

"we expect most customers who upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 will be doing so through the purchase of a new computer"

Really?! buy a new computer is their solution. With who's money? I'm all for it as long as it's their money.

9 of 9 people in my Family have XP.
All have computers that can easily run Windows 7. I know, I built them.

Thousands of people at where I work already have computers that can run Windows 7. But they are all on XP.

No need to purchase a new what do they do?

Lame, get real and provide an upgrade path to Windows 7 for XP.

Mike Korkowski

May 7, 2009 10:42 AM

This is insane. #1 at home I have hundreds of programs. At work I manage a small network we havea about 10-15 workstations. These users have many, many programs with very specific settings that took weeks, months, and years to set up. CAD, MsOffice are just for starters, Autocad, Outlook, Jobboss many, many others. With very specific configuration settings. I know clean installs are the best, and my policy is with a "new" machine I tell the users that they must back up all their files because we don't migrate the problems, however that only happens every 5 years and by that time they are sick of slow computers and lagging. What if the machine is pretty new and all set up for PRODUCTIVITY? Business needs to move and keep moving. We cannot blow up our whole office because of upgrade problems! That is why business is on XP. It works and is reliable and is liked by users. To me this is the same crap as Vista. Instead of fixing it they are saying do it this way. The business model is flawed and has defintely inhibited their revenue. The ooo shiny new OS is not getting people to buy. We want relablility, and we like old stuff. why should we throw it out if it gives us value just becasue it is older?


June 27, 2009 9:16 AM

No one is forcing any of you to upgrade... If XP is working for you, why don't you stick with it until you are ready to do a clean install?


July 12, 2009 10:36 PM

I for one will be getting Windows 7, you peeps use whatever you want makes no difference to me :)


September 14, 2009 12:50 PM

I believe Microsoft makes again a big mistake. 2/3 of the PCs have still Windows XP spatially in Business area. They will not buy a new PC just for upgrading to Windows 7 and therefore they will not upgrade to Windows 7. Sorry Microsoft. Windows 7 will have the same destiny like VISTA.


October 5, 2009 1:08 PM

Is it it true that when I do a clean install for W7 from XP, I will therefore have to re-install my MS Office and forfeit one of the three maximum installs?


November 8, 2009 10:49 PM

XP to 7 needs a clean install ? What if your app was on an old (5 years) CD that is no longer readable (for whatever reason) and the company that made the app no longer exists so you cannot get another CD - not from anywhere. Great forward thinking from the kiddies at MS.

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