Windows XP has been around for almost a decade, and few operating systems have enjoyed such a long and useful life. But it’s time to move to Windows 7 if you intend to meet today’s computing challenges. Parallels, a company known for its leadership in virtual computing, has a program to help you upgrade painlessly: Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7.
Even though Microsoft released Windows 7 in October 2010, there are still some who are clinging to Windows XP. The top concern has been the lack of a direct upgrade path from XP and the inability to transfer all your programs and settings without having to reinstall them. Another concern has been that many XP programs don’t yet have Windows 7-compatible versions, so you would need to leave behind valuable legacy software and computer architecture to take full advantage of the new operating system—cold comfort to those with significant time and money invested in systems that still function very well.
A solution to that dilemma is the use of virtualization technology, which, in basic terms, lets you create a “software computer” that runs in a virtual mode separate from your primary system and whereby you can run Windows 7 and XP on the same machine. In fact, Microsoft does offer Virtual PC capabilities and a Windows XP mode in its Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate versions, but many end users don’t have or need those versions—and in any event, you also need to reinstall all your XP programs, so there is still the hassle factor. Fortunately, users have another choice in Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7.
Parallels is best known for its product that allows Mac users to run Windows side-by-side on an Apple computer without restarting their systems every time they want to run Windows. But it has now made a splash in the Windows-only world by giving XP as well as users the ability to upgrade to Windows 7 and transfer over all their programs and settings without having to do a clean installation. There are two ways to use Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7: (1) you can install Windows 7 on your existing computer and upgrade your operating system in place, or (2) you can buy a new computer with Windows 7 preinstalled and use the Parallels Upgrade software to transfer your programs, settings and files to it using a network, external hard drive or USB cable. Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 with the USB transfer cable is $49.99. I tested it by doing a Windows 7 upgrade on a Windows XP computer system. In the way of disclosure, Parallels gave me Not For Resale copies of their product and of Windows Home Premium.
How the Installation Works
Parallels points out that you need a computer that has at least a 1 GHz x 86 processor, with 2GB or more of RAM recommended. In addition, your hard drive must use the NTFS format—if it doesn’t, you’ll need to convert it to NTFS. Installing Windows 7 on the XP computer was a relatively painless task. After inserting the Parallels Upgrade disk and selecting the option to upgrade my existing computer, I then selected the option to transfer all of my programs (versus selecting which individual ones I wanted to transfer). You must then click on the “I want to continue” checkbox after being warned that you may need to reactivate some programs once they are transferred and that you must have your license or activation codes.
An important point: You also need to have a full backup completed, which you should verify has actual data on it by doing a sample restore of some files back to your computer. If you forget to do this, the next screen in the transfer process is the Backup screen, which allows you to pause the installation and make your backup using your own software or the Acronis online backup service (for a fee).
Next, you activate the upgrade program by entering the license key and clicking the Activate button. You are then given an opportunity to register the program, which entitles you to download the latest updates, create a backup copy of the product key on the company’s server and restore it at any time, contact the support team and some other, less-critical features. You are then instructed to disable your antivirus program, which you must do to proceed. Then you can enter the password you use to log on to your XP system at the next window, so you won’t have to enter it each time you start your XP virtual machine in Windows 7. You then insert the Windows 7 installation disk and activation key and click the Install Windows Now button.
Those first steps took approximately 40 minutes. Then the Windows 7 installation began, and at the 70-minute mark, I was instructed to remove the installation disk, and at the 90-minute mark, the system rebooted. However, while that part took a relatively short period of time, the transfer of all my programs, settings and data took much longer.
So, after several hours of waiting, I left the system and let it run overnight. In light of that, I recommend starting this process in mid-afternoon so you are present for the steps that require user action and the program can complete the balance of the move overnight. Note that throughout this process, you’ll be presented with informational videos on the steps taking place.
The Ultimate Outcome
Windows 7 installed and ran perfectly—and an initial look at my Programs list seemed to show all of my programs from XP had transferred, too. I was required to reactivate the Microsoft Office 2007 suite upon first use, and several other programs also asked for installation disks, but clicking Cancel bypassed this and they appear to be working fine. One exception was Corel PaintShop Pro 9, which wouldn’t run in Windows 7 without the installation disk, which I couldn’t find. However, it started inside XP Virtual mode with no issues. Be aware that Parallels also provides the Parallels Program Switcher for designating which programs you want to start automatically in XP Virtual mode.
So, while Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 isn’t perfect and requires some software reactivation, it is much easier than having to reinstall every program anew and I was impressed by it. The $49.99 you spend on it can save hours of time as well as untold frustration and should remove any reason you have for not moving to Windows 7.