7 Tips to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8 or Windows 7

Windows XP desktop

Microsoft will finally end the support of Windows XP on April 8th, 2014. This means that after that day, the 13-year-old operating system will stop receiving security updates, hotfixes, and support of any kind. Even more, the OS will become more vulnerable to attacks, viruses, malware, spyware; performance will be affected over time, and new device drivers and programs will no longer support Windows XP, as such it’s time to upgrade to a more advanced operating system like Windows 7 or Windows 8. Here are a few essential tips to consider upgrading Windows XP to Windows 8 or Windows 7:

Although Windows 7 and Windows 8 are more powerful than Windows XP, both operating systems are designed to run on modern hardware, but moving forward you will find the best experience is using Windows 8, as this is an operating system that packs the latest Microsoft technologies ready for today’s always connected requirements.

Compatibility

If you still have a decent piece of hardware and you want to upgrade from Windows XP, the first thing you have to do is make sure you meet the minimum hardware requirements, make sure programs will work in the new system, and check if your devices will work after the upgrade. To make this process easy, install and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor or the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant to make sure your PC is ready for a newer operating system.

Windows 8 system requirements

Hardware ComponentMinimum System Requirement
Processor (CPU)1-GHz or faster, 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
Memory (RAM)1 GB RAM (32-bit)

2 GB RAM (64-bit), and to take advantage of the power of 64-bit

I will recommend you to have at least 4 GB of RAM
Graphics Processor (GPU)DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
Hard Drive16 GB available of disk space (32-bit)

20 GB available of disk space (64-bit)
DisplayMinimum of 1024x768 to access the Windows Store and 1366x768 to use the Snap feature

Also it’s very important to check for compatible drivers before hand — as you really don’t want to upgrade and later realize that the network card, sound card, or USB bus drivers aren’t supported in the new OS –. The best way is to visit your PC manufacturer website to download the latest drivers. Alternatively, you can do this process manually by going to the Windows Device Manager, grabbing each hardware model and making an online search to find and download the latest drivers. 

Old programs and alternatives

In the case you are running old programs, you’ll also have to make sure they will work in Windows 7 or Windows 8. There is a chance that the program won’t work if it was designed for Windows XP. If this program is extremely important to you, it is possible you can keep it running using the Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 Professional, which is a free download. Windows XP Mode essentially is a virtual machine that allows you to run older software. However this isn’t available in Windows 8, so in this case check and see if the software vendor offers a newer version of the software you need.

For example, on April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will also stop supporting Office 2003. But you have alternatives… You could get into cloud services such as Office Online or Google Docs, which are free alternatives to Office. They offer limited features, but they are more than enough for most users. You can also opt for Office 365 Home, which gives you access to all the Office products up to five devices at $9.99/month, or Office 365 Personal offers the same benefits of Office 365 Home, but only for one PC and one tablet at $6.99/month or $69.99/year.

Backup

As with any computer backup is a must, before doing anything, make a copy in an external hard drive of all your data, including documents, photos, music, and videos. Please don’t forget to backup “C:\Documents and Settings” folder, which holds all users and users files. But be aware that Windows 7 and Windows 8 have different folder structure, so you’ll have to restore this data manually. If you want to make things a bit easier, you can also use Windows Easy Transfer to move files to your new system — however in my opinion manual transfer is best.

If you’re ready to let someone else keep an eye on your personal files, then you’re ready for OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive), for those unfamiliar this is the cloud-storage solution from Microsoft. Every Microsoft account gets 7GB of free storage with the option to buy even more storage as needed, and you can use the cloud to backup all your files for an easier transition to a new operating system. Just launch your web browser, login into OneDrive, click Upload and send all your files to the cloud. Then when you’re all upgraded either install the OneDrive app for Windows 7 or just launch the modern app in Windows 8 to access your files.

Recommendations

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 is a supported process, however the best way to keep your PC clean and fresh is by doing a clean install and formatting the hard drive during the process. To do a clean install make sure you have the installation files on an USB drive or DVD and your PC BIOS should be configured to boot from these device first.

SEE ALSO: How to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Vista or XP (Step-by-Step)

Unlike with Windows 7, there isn’t a supported upgrade process from Windows XP to Windows 8. In this case a clean installation is necessary.

SEE ALSO: Upgrading to Windows 8 questions and answers – Making a smooth transition

Final thoughts

Although it’s possible to upgrade Windows XP to a more advanced operating systems such as Windows 7 or Windows 8. I wouldn’t recommend to upgrade a very old computer — let say 5-year-old and older –, as the hardware were not designed for these newer versions of Windows. You’ll be better off buying a new cheap laptop perhaps, and moving your files over to the new PC.