I'm one of those people who skipped Vista, but upgrading from XP to Windows 7 isn't a supported path. For some old XP to new XP migrations, I used Laplink's PCMover program, and it was flawless. I was hoping Laplink had a new version that would support Windows 7 (they do), but I found something even more intriguing–the PCMover Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant (W7UA). Laplink's claim is you can do an in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. W7UA is available at pre-release pricing of $15, so I had to buy a copy and give it a try. It was well worth the money–W7UA literally saved me weeks of work getting my laptop "just the way I like it".
If you're a Visual Studio 2008 user, hold off on using this. The license information did not migrate (see below), and I've been unable to reinstall VS 2008 on Windows 7. I'm going to revert my machine and try an idea this weekend. I'll post updates here.
In an ongoing effort to resolve my issues with Visual Studio 2008 migration, I reverted my machine back to XP (using an image I made before starting the previous upgrade process). Come to find out, the license model for W7UA is "one and done". At the step where you enter your serial number, W7UA checks to see how many moves you have left on your license. I am currently unable to try my migration again. I'll contact Laplink and see if they can help me out on an additional move under the circumstances.
The process, in a nutshell
Basically, you install W7UA in Windows XP. You run W7UA, it searches for programs, settings and files it can migrate, and choose what you want to migrate. W7UA then creates a "moving van", which is a file of all the settings and whatnot. W7UA said it would need roughly 35MB free and take some time; it ended up needing 14 MB and 3 minutes. Once the moving van is created, you do a custom install of Windows 7–don't format the hard drive. The Windows 7 installer moved XP from c:\windows to c:\windows.old, then installs itself in c:\windows. You then install W7UA, and restore all your settings. Once the settings have been restored, your good to go. All told, it took about 2 hours or so to make the moving van, install Windows 7, then unload the moving van. A huge timesaver over a fresh install!
If you're interested in the manual, it's at http://www.laplink.com/documentation/pdf/pcmover/pcmua/PCmover_Win7UA_QSG_EN.pdf. The directions are very good, this post is more to recount my experiences at each step of the process.
So what happens if you just try and do an in-place upgrade without W7UA? All your old settings and programs are gathered in your windows.old folder, and Win 7 is installed as the bootable Windows. You then have to manually move your My Documents and other data files, and reinstall all your programs, as well as fiddle with all your settings again. The settings aren't such a big deal, since there are so many new ones anyway. But reinstalling all the programs can be very time consuming.
Before you begin
This is a one-way process. There is no going back to XP once you've upgraded in this manner. If you're dubious about Windows 7, I'd suggest imaging your system to an external drive. For imaging software, everyone knows about Acronis, but I'm fond of the free Easeus Disk Copy. Disk Copy is simple and you can't beat the price. If you're a fan of open-source tools, you can also check out PING. You also need an external drive large enough to hold your your image.
Make sure your hard drive has enough space for both Windows XP and WIndows 7 to exist simultaneously. You can delete the XP folder when you're done, but you need to get 7 installed first. If you're space constrained, you can choose to store the moving van on an external drive, too.
Gather up passwords! In many cases, user accounts won't map correctly (SQL Server 2005), or the password can't be migrated (Outlook 2007).
Remember that the contents of your start menu may be in more than one user's profile. Many programs install themselves into an "all users" profile, so you may need to corral the shortcuts into your own profile before migrating, or remember to migrate that user's profile, too.
Start the installation. You might be promoted to install a couple of C++ libraries. They are needed for W7UA to run.
You'll be asked to accept the license terms, and then confirm you understand W7UA won't be able to move everything because of EULAs or incompatible services. That's important to note–you may need to reinstall a few things after the migration, and you might want to collect the latest versions of video drivers while you can identify the components of your system.
This is the worst part of the installation, IMHO. I hate it when programs try an foist some additional crappy tools on you, and Laplink pulls a sneaky move here. If you don't want Ask.com to be your default search engine, and you don't want the toolbar, be sure to un-check the two boxes. This is followed by a second screen where you have to not accept the Ask.com terms to prevent toolbar installation. The second screen might be showing up due to an installer bug, so I hope they fix that. Pay attention here, because these screens mysteriously are not in the user guide.
Installation is complete, and you can now launch the program.
When W7UA starts, you'll be prompted to check for updates, and then again accept the statement that W7UA probably won't be able to move everything.
At this point, you can download an upgrade guide. It's a good idea to read it, because the next screen is labeled incorrectly.
BE CAREFUL HERE! The choices are backwards on the screen (correct in the user guide). You want to prep "OLD computer" first.
Laplink then offers you trials of thet imaging and registry cleaner tools. A little late in the game, but not too late. Like I said above, if you're dubious about Windows 7, you want to image your machine. It's not a bad idea to run a registry cleaner, but if you don't know what you're doing, you might want to leave it alone. Use one of the tools I mentioned above, or give these a try.
Time for your serial number!
If your serial number is good, you can choose a full migration (my choice), just your files and settings (like cookies and favorites), or your files only.
Even though I chose a full migration, there are some settings you can tweak to determine what gets moved. Most speak for themselves, and I used the defaults (shown as checked below), but one deserves special mention, On the Misc tab is an option to "Use Startup This". Startup This is a Laplink utility that will run after you do a restore, and let you decide what services you want to enable. By default, Laplink sets any migrated service to "Disabled". These services include NVidia drivers, antivirus services, etc. It's very likely an XP driver will cause Windows 7 to crash, so it is a good practice to disable these services. If you're wary of drivers or services, you can collect updated versions before you migrate, and uninstall programs that may be an issue (like NVidia) before you migrate.
Next, you choose the user accounts and drives to migrate. When you install Windows 7, you'll be prompted to create a user account. If the account you create has the same name as one on XP, the XP user's documents and such will be migrated to the new user's profile. This is great–exactly what I wanted to happen. These steps mean "move everything in these user accounts and from these drives", but you have an option to remove some stuff in the following screens.
If there are any folders you don't want to move, this is where you can deselect them here. You can also choose to exclude different file types.
Now that you've chosen profiles and drives to work with, W7UA will look for applications it can move. This is the real beauty of W7UA. It makes four passes, and takes only about 5 minutes.
When the scan is done, you're presented with a list of applications that can be moved. I chose to migrate everything, but in retrospect I would have looked at the list a little closer, and not migrated the antivirus and a couple of control panel additions (like NVidia). This is another chance to exclude anything that might cause a post-migration crash when it automatically starts up. It's also a good opportunity to weed out some utilities you don' need anymore (like Powertoys for Windows XP, or that file mover you never use).
Honestly, that's it. W7UA will whir for a few minutes, and summarized what will packaged up. The final step actually creates the moving van. For me, despite the warnings of a long time, the process only took 3 minutes and resulted in a 14MB moving van. If you're saving the moving van to an external device, this step might take longer. Since W7UA stays on the same machine, the moving vans are much smaller than they predict.
Once the moving van has been created, you're presented with some other Laplink utilities. But now, you're ready for the Windows 7 installation.
It's probably a good idea to make sure you have a moving van file before you continue.
Now it's time to do the Windows 7 installation. Follow the directions in the user guide–I couldn't take screenshots of this. It took a little over an hour to perform the installation. The installation of Windows 7 has been greatly improved. With XP, you had to some back and answer questions throughout the installation. With Windows 7, you start the process and about an hour later you're done, without having to answer questions in the middle.
If you have several users on your computer, you should create new accounts for every one before continuing.
Once Windows 7 is installed, you need to reinstall W7UA again, so you can restore your programs and settings. This time, you want to prep the "NEW computer".
W7UA will start an application search, and will find the moving van.
Confirm you're ready to migrate, and then location your old Windows folder. Usually, c:\windows.old.
You have the option of mapping user accounts from the old PC to the new one, and you can choose a target.
I got a warning that not enough space was available, and I'm not sure why, but I continued with no adverse effects.
W7UA will now begin to migrate your settings. This process took about an hour for me. During the migration, there were some pretty dire "time remaining" calculations, but the time varies as the process goes on, so don't worry about it. W7UA will make several passes for programs, profiles and settings.
When you're done, you'll be offered some other Laplink tools again.
If you chose to use Startup This when prepping the old PC, Startup This will begin. If you have services you know are good under Windows 7, this is your chance to start them and configure them to start. You can also use this list to see what you may want to uninstall.
That's it! You're migrated!
What Worked for Me
Outlook 2007 retained all my account settings (including the type-ahead feature) except for the account passwords. I had to reenter the the first send/receive, and all was well. My "favorite" folders list was blank, but that was easy to recreate. It looks like the rest of the Office Suite also migrated well, including lists of recent documents.
I'm amazed, but SQL Server 2005 transferred and worked fine once I remembered the 'sa' password. One little kink–although users may have the same name, their underlying security identifier has probably changed, meaning the Windows Login option may have an invalid account. You'll need to log in as sa and set up the Windows login users again. SQL server logins are fine.
Evernote kept my settings, and even logged me right back in. FeedDemon did the same–fully configured, with my back posts. I wasn't expecting FolderGuide to work, but it does, with my favorite folders still configured. RocketDock kept all my settings, but I had to start it manually and set it to start automatically.
Firefox and IE8 migrated all favorites, cookies, and browser history. IE8 works as if I hadn't upgraded at all, but I think there's a FF extension causing some issues. Live Writer retained all my blog configurations (except passwords), recent posts, and drafts. I had to reenter passwords as I Published new posts.
Picasa also worked, and picked up the slightly different file structure right away.
PDANet and a PPTP VPN connection were migrated.
What Didn't Work
Printers were not migrated. I had to uninstall doPDF and the drivers for my laser printer, then reinstall properly.
Since I used Dell's WLan utility to manage my wireless networks, none of the settings transferred. I decided to use Windows to manage my WiFi, so I had to recreate all the networks.
iTunes 8.x doesn't run under Windows 7–you should upgrade to iTunes 9 before migration. Oddly, my iTunes 8 thought it was on Vista, too. It's weird that iTunes 8 isn't Vista compatible, since it was released only a few months ago, and Vista has been out for a couple of years. Once I upgraded to iTunes 9, I could start the software and it remembered my account info, playlists, and library location.
Firefox 3 had intermittent issues, so that may need to be updated to the latest version.
NVidia and Synaptics drivers were not migrated–I had to download the latest versions from Dell. Only a Vista driver was available, which work under Windows 7. Also, the Dell WLan utility was not installed, but I don't miss it. Windows 7's wireless management tool is much improved.
I'm a developer, and run IIS, which is a separate install. I did not think W7UA would install and configure IIS, and it did not. All my application folders (c:\inetpub\wwwroot\…) still exist, but I have to install and configure IIS again. Win 7 includes IIS 7, so I get to start working with that.
AVG transferred, but was not set to automatically start. I want to try Microsoft Security Essentials, so I thought I uninstalled it from Add/Remove programs. AVG was removed from the list but it did not uninstall. I had to use the uninstall in the Start Menu folder.
The TAP adapters for OpenVPN did not transfer. All my config files and keys were present, I just had to run the batch file to reinstall the TAP adapters.
Parallels–the VM paths were not updated, and the virtual network adapter did not migrate. I haven't fixed this yet, but I think a complete reinstall will be necessary to recreate the network adapter.
Finally, the biggie–Visual Studio. Apparently, the license data did not transfer correctly, and VS needs to be reinstalled. This was one I was hoping to not have to reinstall, so maybe just a repair will work.
Track down all your passwords! Any password you have saved–email, blog, whatever, make sure you know it. Depending on how it's saved, the password may not migrate.
If you have software like the Powertoys for Windows XP, either uninstall them or exclude them from being migrated, they will not start under Windows 7, not even the uninstaller.
Also, if you use a third party tool like IBM or Dell's wireless managers, you'll need to get all your network settings. Windows 7's wireless manager is very good, and I haven't gone back to Dell's utility (which was also very good, and had a few more features). I had to recreate my wireless networks in the Windows tool.
PCMover UA doesn't automatically start services. This is a good thing–some services that run under XP could crash Windows 7. However, this leaves your antivirus in limbo, and can affect downloading of programs. My recommendation is to uninstall your antivirus before you upgrade, and reinstall after you complete the upgrade. This way your driver downloads don't end up in parts unknown.
If your PC is totally "crapified", take the time to clean it up before you migrate. Uninstall programs you don't use, get rid of the trial versions that have expired, and clean up your desktop–move files into your "My Documents" folder, and leave only shortcuts on your desktop. It's probably a good idea to run a registry cleaning tool like CCleaner (just be careful what you clean up, CCleaner will delete cookies, which you may want to keep).
If you're a developer, track down your VS install disks.
A few hiccups–nothing serious–but considering the days and days of time I was saved, well worth the price. If you're a home or "information worker", and you want/need to upgrade to Windows 7, you'll probably love W7UA. If you're a developer like me, you'll still have some work to do after the migration for IIS and Visual Studio, etc.