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Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade explained

Prepare your system for Microsoft's new OS

With Windows 7 now available, hundreds of PC users will be upgrading to Microsoft's new OS. However, the upgrade for those running Windows XP will be more complicated than for those running Vista.

Will my software & peripherals run on Windows 7?

Microsoft finally fired up its Windows 7 Compatibility Center, a searchable database that you can ping to see what software and hardware is up to Windows 7's standards.

The most conspicuous absentees on the software side include security programs: You'll probably have to upgrade to a new edition of your favorite (and pay the price).

Microsoft has set up a page that lists the security software compatible with Windows 7. Another option: The for-free Microsoft Security Essentials, which went live late last month.

Okay, my system is up to scratch. What next?

Your first step should be to make a disk image of your XP machine as it exists now so that, heaven forbid, if you later decide Windows 7 isn't worth its disc and you want to return to XP, you can do so without a lot of hassle.

There are lots 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.

Disk image done. What about my data?

Good question. Since the Windows XP-to-7 upgrade - Microsoft calls it a 'custom' install during the process, others dub it a ‘clean' install - will delete all your data, you need to back up the files you want to access later.

Windows 7 includes a migration utility called 'Windows Easy Transfer' that backs up files you select. Frankly, most users will take that tack to shunt their stuff from old to new.

Microsoft has an old, but still valid set of instructions on how to use the utility on its support site. Print out the page for reference when you do the upgrade.

But if you do it yourself, sans Windows Easy Transfer, you'll have more control.

You can back up data using any number of backup programs to a variety of media, including CD, DVD, a flash drive or an external hard drive.
A simpler method, though, is to simply copy the files from the XP machine; that means you'll need more space - backup software typically compresses the data - but on the plus side, you can just copy it back to the computer once Windows 7 has been installed.

Remember: Even if you use Windows Easy Transfer, you'll need a backup destination, like an external or flash drive, CD or DVD.

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NEXT PAGE: Other locations to back-up your data

  1. Prepare your PC before you swap to Microsoft's new OS
  2. Will your software and peripherals run on Windows 7?
  3. Other locations to back-up your data
  4. Copying your browser's data
  5. Do I have to reinstall every app I have on XP?

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