FAQ: Making a Smooth Move from XP to Windows 7

I hear that the Windows 7 media comes on a DVD. I don't have a DVD drive, just a CD-ROM drive, on my XP PC. What do I do? Start crying.

Microsoft recommends that you "rent, borrow, or buy one if you want to do the installation yourself. Alternatively, you can take your PC and DVD to a service provider that has a DVD drive available that can be used to do the upgrade."

Right. The $50 to $120 you've laid out for Windows 7 Home Premium just wasn't enough to spend, was it?

Rumors have circulated that Microsoft may offer Windows 7 Upgrade on a flash drive -- a 4GB thumb drive has more than enough room -- but, so far, it's only wishful thinking on the part of the drive-less, like people running netbooks.

You can do it yourself by buying Windows 7 as a download from Microsoft's own e-store -- the only one that now offers that delivery method -- then build a bootable USB drive. There are several how-to-do-that guides on the Web; our favorites are by noted Windows blogger Long Zheng, and this step-by-step.

Can I upgrade to a 64-bit edition of Windows 7? Yes, if the processor inside your PC supports 64-bit.

Retail copies and electronic downloads of Windows 7 will ship with both the 32- and 64-bit versions of the operating system, and since you have to do a clean install anyway -- also a requirement if you're moving from, say Vista 32-bit to Windows 7 64-bit -- you can move up to 64-bit if you want.

Download and run the free "SecurAble" utility to see whether your processor supports 64-bit; as an added bonus, it also says whether you'll be able to run the Windows XP Mode available to users of Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate.

Will I be able to run my old Windows XP software? Yes, if you bought the upgrade to either Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate.

Those two editions let you run Windows XP Mode, an add-on (and separate download; it doesn't come on the DVD), that creates an XP virtual environment running under Virtual PC, Microsoft's client virtualization technology, within Windows 7.

XP Mode comes with a fully-licensed copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), so you don't have to spring for an additional license. The mode, however, requires processor-based virtualization support. To determine whether your PC's CPU provides that support, download and run the free "SecurAble" utility.

A beta of XP Mode can be downloaded from here and run with Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC).

I'm not forking over another $80 to Microsoft just to run programs in XP mode. What are my options? You have several.

First, you can wait until you upgrade to Windows 7, then install and try out the software you've been running on XP. It might work fine. (Most likely to have fewest problems: Products from Microsoft and other major vendors.)

If the program won't run, you can try to run it in "compatibility mode." Right-click on the program's shortcut, select "Properties," then click the "Compatibility" tab. Next, check the "Run this program in compatibility mode" box, and in the drop-down list, choose the version of Windows, in this case Windows XP.

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