It’s hard to believe that Windows XP was released over 15 years ago. If you’re still running it then you might want to consider upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 10 in order to take advantage of new features, be better protected, and have greater software support. We’ll show you how to make that jump.
We think there’s many compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 10, but whether you want to move to Windows 10 or Windows 7, the process is mostly the same. You’ll need to ensure your hardware supports the newer operating system (OS), back up your files, then proceed with the upgrade.
If you recently stopped using Windows XP, then please share your experience in the comments below.
1. Check Your Hardware for Compatibility
The first thing you need to do is check that your hardware is compatible. There’s no universal answer for this because it depends on the components in your system.
To check these, press Windows key + R to open Run, input dxdiag and click OK. This will launch a diagnostic tool which details the components you have installed. You’ll find the pertinent information on the System and Display tabs.
With this noted, compare your current components to the requirements for Windows 7 or requirements for Windows 10. An alternative method, if you’re upgrading to Windows 7, is to download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. This will scan your hardware, devices, and software for any known compatibility issues and advise accordingly. Sadly, there’s no such software for Windows 10 (when coming from XP).
If you’ve had your Windows XP system for a very long time and never upgraded any of the parts, chances are that you won’t be able to run a newer OS. Search your component manufacturer’s website to ensure they supply drivers to support Windows 7 or 10. If this applies to you, it’s worth considering buying a new computer or laptop that has Windows 10 pre-installed.
2. Prepare a Backup of Your Data
Hopefully, you already know how important it is to back up your data.
If you were moving from Windows 8 to 10, for example, the upgrade process allows you to keep your personal data and programs intact. However, this isn’t possible when coming from Windows XP. You’ll have to do a clean install, which means that none of your personal data will remain. As such, before proceeding, you need to back up your data.
If you’re moving from XP to 7, you can use the Windows Easy Transfer tool to copy your files, photos, music, e-mail, settings, and more. When you launch this tool, you’ll be guided through a wizard and asked what method you want to use as a transfer. I would recommend using an external hard disk or flash drive, if you have a spare one. You can then select specifically what you want to transfer.
Windows 10 doesn’t support the Easy Transfer tool, but it’s still relatively easy to back up your files. Decide where you’re going to save the backup, this could be physical storage or the cloud, and move everything across. You will permanently lose everything you don’t back up, so think carefully about what you want to keep. For the majority of people, this will just be their user folder, containing their pictures, videos, and so on, but you might also have particular program files you need to keep. Think about your browser bookmarks, emails and game saves.
To get the full low-down on backup, check our ultimate guide to PC backup and restore.
3. Install the New Operating System
Once you know your system can handle the upgrade and you’ve backed up everything you want to keep, it’s time to install the new OS. If you have a license key for Windows 7 or 10 without physical media, you’ll first need to download the Windows 7 ISO or the Windows 10 ISO. These disc images will guide you through the process of creating your own installation media, so you’ll need a disc/USB handy to burn it to. Our guide on creating bootable Windows installation media goes into further detail on this.
With your installation media ready, or if you already have a retail copy, pop it into your system. You now need to tell your computer to boot from this media. You need to restart your computer and enter the BIOS.
The key you press to enter the BIOS varies per system; you should see it displayed during system start-up and it’s usually a Delete or a Function key. Tap it until you enter the BIOS and then change your boot device priority so that your installation media is first. For more information on this, see our guide on how to change the boot order.
Once complete, you will then be taken to the Windows 7 or Windows 10 installation process. If prompted, be sure to select the fact that you want to install a new copy of Windows, rather than an upgrade which will not work.
You’ll be asked to set your language, name, settings, and more during the installation process. Be prepared to spend time waiting for the installation to complete as it might take a while. Once done, your system should restart automatically and take you into your new OS.
4. Reinstate Your Data and Programs
Now that you’re on your shiny new OS, you can bring back all your personal data and programs. If you used the Easy Transfer tool then launch it on Windows 7 and follow the instructions through. If you backed up elsewhere, go about copying those files onto the new system. You’ll be able to drag and drop things over easily. Remember to also install your programs, which you can do in bulk using a service like Ninite.
Spend some time getting to know how Windows 7 or Windows 10 works – they’re both great improvements on Windows XP and offer lots of new functionality for you to enjoy. If using Windows 10, we’ve covered how to control all Windows 10 settings in one handy guide.
Done and Dusted
And that’s it! You’ve successfully upgraded your system from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 10, away from the chunky blue aesthetics onto a sleeker and better protected OS.
If you’re missing Windows XP a little bit and fancy a smile, we’ve captured traces of Windows XP in Windows 10, showing that Microsoft hasn’t totally ditched every element of their Windows past.
How did you find the upgrade process? Why did you stay with Windows XP for so long?
Originally written by Varun Kashyap on October 22, 2009.