Many Windows XP users have decided to skip the Windows Vista operating system due to countless problems reported in the early days of its release. Especially performance related issues where the main culprit why many Windows XP users decided to wait for Vista's successor instead.
The release of Windows 7 is not that far away anymore. Microsoft did already make announcements regarding the possible upgrade opportunities. In short; Windows XP users will be able to buy an upgrade edition of Windows 7 but will not be able to upgrade the operating system itself to Windows 7. They need to do a clean install of Windows 7 on their computer system.
This essentially means that no data will be taken over automatically to the new operating system. Experienced Windows XP users should not have a problem installing Windows 7. They also should not have a problem backing up and moving their data to the new operating system. Inexperienced users on the other hand may wonder how they can move their pictures, music, emails and applications to the new operating system.
If you are running Windows XP on a computer system currently and want to upgrade to Windows 7 you basically have a few choices which largely depend on the storage capacities of the computer system. The easiest way would be to backup all data, format the hard drive and install Windows 7 afterwards. Some users might not like this solution. They could alternatively create and install Windows 7 on a second partition to create a dual booting operating system until all data from Windows XP has been moved to Windows 7.
We covered Windows Backup Software and Hard Drive Backup Software before here at Ghacks. Both applications can be used to backup the data of a hard drive. This obviously requires another storage device with enough hard drive space to transfer all of the data. It might be a good idea to backup the data even if you have the intention to install Windows 7 on a different partition. This might be less important for individuals but should be essential for business computers.
Installing Windows 7
We recommend to install Windows 7 on another partition or hard drive at the beginning. This will essentially create a dual-boot system with the option to switch between Windows XP and Windows 7. This is the easiest way to keep the Windows XP data for the time being as Windows 7 will not overwrite or tamper with the data of the Windows XP installation.
The other option would be to format the partition containing Windows XP and install Windows 7 on the (now) empty partition. The data of the Windows XP partition would be gone for good if it would not have been backed up first.
The third option is to install Windows 7 on the Windows XP partition without formatting the hard drive first. Most computer savvy users do not recommend this option as it can lead to all kinds of troubles and problems. It has virtually no benefits as the programs and applications of Windows XP cannot be used in Windows 7 without reinstalling them.
Moving data from Windows XP to Windows 7
Microsoft has created a tool called Windows Easy Transfer which can be used to transfer data from Windows XP to Windows Vista. The application should also work in Windows 7 as Microsoft recommends it in the Windows 7 installation guide. The software can be used to transfer data over network, usb cable or disk to another operating system. It will copy files like music or pictures but also emails and settings to the new operating system.
If Windows 7 has been installed on a second partition or hard drive data can simply be copied by dragging and dropping it to the new partition. Some data might need to be imported, for example web browser bookmarks or emails. Please note that it is usually not possible to move installed applications to the new operating system. It is necessary to install them again when the new operating system is running.
If backups have been created the data can also be restored or extracted from the backups to the new operating system.
Inexperienced users will find it troublesome to move data from their old operating system to Windows 7. Microsoft should make sure to include a step by step guide prior to the release of Windows 7 that explains how to migrate the data to the new operating system.
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.