To upgrade or not to upgrade. That is the question. But perhaps the answer is to grab Vista, but retain your old OS.

This article appears as part of the April 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents

Despite Microsoft's latest attempts to preach to the converted – offering discounts on additional installations to consumers who buy a full version of Vista – it's clear that the firm's new OS (operating system) costs a lot more than its predecessor.

It's also obvious that it's far less expensive to perform an upgrade than it is to buy Vista outright. But is this the wisest path for the average user? After swallowing PC manufacturers' 'easy upgrade' smooth talk, plenty of users face the prospect of upgrading their own PCs to Vista, and many of them wouldn't normally attempt anything so radical. We predict trouble.

In truth, the procedure isn't all that complex – but you do need to be properly prepared before you start. You also need to be sufficiently organised to have discs and installation keys for all the software you've bought – by no means a given.

We'd recommend making a compromise (at least at first) by dual-booting the two OSes. There are a number of reasons why this could be the best option.
You won't lose your data in the process – our workshop (right) shows you how to back it up in such a way that it can be accessed and used in both XP and Vista, which is an ideal scenario if you depend on a particular application and drivers haven't yet been written for it.

Nor do you need to worry about having the correct software discs to hand, or losing all your settings. And as if that weren't reason enough, it gives you the chance to experiment and get some practice at the installation process before taking the plunge and upgrading for real. Then you can overwrite your OS and pray that you did everything right before clicking install.

There's a detailed walk-through explaining how to dual-boot XP and Vista in the April 07 issue of PC Advisor.