Vista users looking to upgrade to Windows 7 when it's finally released will have the luxury of an ‘in-place upgrade', in which the new OS overwrites the old one, preserving their installed applications, preferences, and data. However, XP users aren't being given this option and will instead have to do a clean install. We look at just how complicated upgrading to Windows 7 from XP is likely to be.
A precedent for providing in-place upgrades for earlier generations
When Microsoft shipped Windows Vista, it offered XP users the choice of an in-place upgrade or a clean install, but users of earlier Windows versions could do only a clean install. So the requirement for Windows XP and earlier users to do a clean install of Windows 7 follows that precedent.
But when Microsoft shipped Windows XP in late 2001, it gave not only users of the predecessor Windows 2000 but also users of the earlier generations the in-place upgrade option.
In some ways, the situation then was similar to that situation today. Microsoft Millennium was a technical failure that customers avoided, causing Microsoft to quietly reissue Windows 98 SE and unofficially pull Millennium from the market.
Windows 2000 was also a problematic upgrade for many - it replaced the OS kernel and much of the architecture, which meant it needed newer hardware and was incompatible with many peripherals and applications. So most users stuck with Windows 98 or 98 SE, and Microsoft eased the path to XP by allowing in-place upgrades for them all.
Technically, the shift from Windows Vista to Windows 7 is small, so it should be easier to support an in-place upgrade from XP to Windows 7 than it was from Windows 98 to Windows XP. But Silver cites the performance and security issues that an in-place upgrade preserves as a reason that Microsoft may have chosen not to do so this time.
Silver contrasts Microsoft's situation with that of Apple, which lets users do an in-place upgrade three versions back (from Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, 10.3 Panther, and 10.4 Tiger) to the current Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. "This is an area - efficiency, ease, and success of upgrade - where Apple has an edge," he says, due to its greater control over the hardware and the more focused reach of the OS.
Windows 7 video guide
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