Here is the very best advice for Windows XP users considering an upgrade to Windows 7: Don't do it.
Windows 7's biggest failing is that upgrading from XP requires reinstalling applications and moving personal data around. And who looks forward to doing that?
There are good technical reasons why Microsoft chose this path. However, for average XP users and many businesses, such a difficult upgrade makes Windows 7 a non-starter. Users that are more proficient will make the upgrade at their own peril, just make sure you have application install disks handy.
Yes, you can upgrade from XP to Windows 7, but is it really worth it?
Just buy an inexpensive new Win7 machine instead. Hardware has improved a great deal since many of our XP machines were purchased. Money for a Windows 7 upgrade is better spent on a new computer that comes with it preinstalled. In terms of time, trouble, and a happy user experience, this is the best way to get Windows 7.
This course may, however, require purchase of new applications. That needs to be factored in and may suggest that doing nothing right now is the prudent approach. Given a choice between upgrading Microsoft Office and upgrading to Windows 7, I would choose Office.
(If you still want to upgrade from XP to Windows 7, here is our "how-to" guide. But, don't write later saying you hadn't been warned).
Vista users can upgrade much more easily, but Windows 7 does not offer much incentive in terms of features. If you are happy with Vista, stay. If you have money you are dying to send to Redmond or are a Vista victim, go ahead with the upgrade.
That advice works for individuals, families, and many small businesses. If your company is large enough to have an IT department, then Windows 7 may offer features important to them, if not to the users. Microsoft has worked hard to make Windows 7 a good enterprise OS.
If your company is running on XP, it may be time to consider a mass upgrade. Alternatively, you might just allow Windows 7 to appear when you purchase new hardware. The corporate options and situations are too complex to offer blanket advice.
I am among those who believe Windows 7 opens the door for Apple to sell Macs to current PC owners. The logic is that once people realize that upgrading their old XP box is best done by purchasing new hardware, a Mac might seem a very attractive alternative to a new Windows 7 machine.
None of this is intended as a slam of Windows 7. This is just the way the world has turned out and we have to deal with it.
What will I do? Because I write about this blog, I will soon buy a new computer that comes with Windows 7 preinstalled to replace a machine I upgraded to Vista but never liked very much.
I do not plan to upgrade any of my existing XP machines and already own Macs (all running Snow Leopard), so adding a Win7 box will give me the best of both worlds.