Small Business Software: Upgrade from XP to Windows 7

By Joseph Moran
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Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7; small business software
If you're not upgrading an existing system, PDUW7 lets you transfer via an external hard disk, network connection, or specialized USB cable.
(Click for larger image)

As Windows 7 approaches its first anniversary, it's built a reputation as a solid operating system and (finally) a worthy successor to XP. So why do so many small businesses continue to muddle through with the now nearly decade-old XP?

If the cost of buying Windows 7 or new computers with the OS installed isn't the primary obstacle -- we don't have to tell you that money can be tight these days -- the major deterrent is probably the hassle that's sure to be involved with making the switch.

After all, you technically can't "upgrade" from XP to Windows 7. Rather, you have to do a fresh install, which also means re-installing of all your applications -- a laborious and time-consuming process if there ever was one. Plus, do you even know where you put all your software discs and license keys? Then there's the issue of whether your existing programs will even work properly with Windows 7.

Parallels, a maker of virtualization products that let you run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single computer, hopes to streamline the process of moving from XP to Windows 7 with its Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7. The utility promises to automatically migrate an entire an XP system -- files, settings and programs -- to Windows 7, and should any of your existing programs prove unhappy with the move, it will continue to run them in a native XP environment courtesy of virtualization.

We found that the $39.99 software ($49.99 with a specialized USB transfer cable) really does remove much of the pain from an XP-to-Windows 7 migration. But when all is said and done, it may also leave you in violation of Microsoft's convoluted operating system licensing rules. We'll explain that in more detail a bit later, but for now let's delve into how well Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 (PDUW7) actually works.

Laying the Migration Groundwork

PDUW7 offers lots of hand-holding during the Windows 7 upgrade, courtesy of fellow named Sayid, who appears in a series of videos describing each step of the upgrade wizard as you encounter it. PDUW7 offers two basic modes of operation -- you can conduct an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 on your existing system, or perform a transfer upgrade to a new Windows 7 system using an external hard disk, a network connection or the aforementioned transfer cable as the conduit for your data.

Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7; small business software
PDUW7 will prompt you for your Windows 7 disc and license key, after which you can get lost for a while as the upgrade proceeds.
(Click for larger image)

We began our testing with an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 Professional of a well-worn XP Professional-based Dell Optiplex test system (2.8 GHz Pentium 4, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB hard drive). Although PDUW7's virtualization technology can mitigate older software's lack of compatibility with Windows 7, it can't do anything to ensure compatibility of system components and peripherals such as graphics cards and printers. Therefore, before performing this kind of upgrade you'll want to run Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check whether your hardware has the necessary driver support.

It's also highly advisable to perform a system backup prior to any OS upgrade; PDUW7 doesn't do one for you, but does remind you up front to perform or verify that you possess a current backup (and if you decline, politely urges you to reconsider). The software also provides a link to a 90-day trial version of Acronis Online Backup, though the 2 GB storage cap isn't nearly enough for a comprehensive backup of a typical system.

Before beginning the transfer, PDUW7 gives you the option to migrate all of your installed programs or just pick specific ones from your Add/Remove Programs list. The latter option is handy if you only need a handful of key applications and would like to limit the amount of detritus that moves over from XP to Windows 7.

PDUW7 also prompts you to insert the Windows 7 disc and Windows 7 license key long before you actually need either of them, which then allows you to leave the system so you don't have to babysit it during the rather lengthy upgrade process.

On our test system didn't require user input again until about two hours later, when it needed a Windows login in order to put the finishing touches on the virtual machine configuration and complete the upgrade.

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This article was originally published on June 29, 2010
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