How to Upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 Without Losing All Your Settings

Windows 7 is the latest incarnation of the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems. It is also the latest darling of the blogosphere and is being widely regarded as the only true successor to Windows XP. While Microsoft did release Vista after Windows XP, it was a disaster and most people, including yours truly, resisted migrating to Vista completely because of various reasons.

It is nice to know that Microsoft has been listening all this while and promises that Windows 7 will be much better than Vista both in terms of resource utilization and general useability. That and the fact that Microsoft has decided to withdraw support for Windows XP, will see a lot of people migrating to Windows XP from Windows 7.

The only problem is that Microsoft has not provided a direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7, so there are only two options for people who want to migrate up from Windows XP.

Windows 7

The first one is to upgrade to Vista and then upgrade to Windows 7 but that’s not really recommended for obvious reasons. The other solution is to do a clean installation of Windows 7 (which would wipe out your Windows XP). This option is the one that Microsoft recommends.

If you have a lot of data in Windows XP, now is the time to make a backup of it while we hand-hold you through the recommended upgrade procedure from Windows XP.

Make sure that you have the Windows 7 installation disk, either the retail version (when it comes out) or a disk burned from the ISOs that Microsoft made available for download.

Backing up your data

Insert the disk in the CD/DVD drive and when windows autorun prompts you to run the Windows 7 installer, don’t run it and instead select the option to browse/open the DVD.

In the DVD, under the support folder, there will be a folder named migwiz.

Windows Easy Transfer Wizard

Run the program named, migsetup.exe. This is the Windows Easy Transfer tool. Microsoft wrote Windows Easy Transfer to help you transfer all your data and settings to a new machine when upgrading to a newer operating system.

As you can see, with this tool, you will be able to migrate all user accounts, email, user data and pretty much everything else from Windows XP to Windows 7.

The only thing that the Easy Transfer tool cannot take care of are the third party programs that you have installed, so you’ll need to reinstall them again. This is a limitation imposed by Microsoft and it is, currently, not possible to upgrade from XP to Windows 7 and while keeping all the third party programs as it is.

Click Next at the welcome screen and you’ll be asked to chose one of three choices for the location where you want to store all the data that the tool will save.

Windows 7

I chose the “External Hard disk or USB flash drive” option and I recommend that you do the same since it sounds the easiest one. If your XP machine is connected to a network and you have a network share that you can use, feel free to select that option, and click on the Next button.

The next option is pretty self explanatory and is actually the only option on the screen so select “This is my old computer” and move on.

The easy transfer tool will then scan the various user accounts for all the data that it can migrate.

Windows 7

Click Next and select a password for the archive. This password will be later used on Windows 7 to complete the migrartion of your settings and data. And the last step of the process is to chose the location where the Easy transfer file will be saved. Connect an external hard disc to the machine, if you haven’t done so already, and select it.

That’s it.

Now, run the Windows 7 installation program and install Windows 7 normally.

Since Windows XP cannot be upgraded to Windows 7 directly, you’ll have to choose the “Custom Option” to install Windows 7.

Proceed with the installation as you normally would.

Once Windows 7 is installed and running on your machine, attach the external hard disc that you used to take the backup, to the machine, browse over to it and double click on the backup file that you’d created earlier.

The Windows Easy Transfer utility will then start, ask for the password that you’d set earlier and migrate all your XP settings and data to Windows 7.


Sharninder is a programmer, blogger and a geek making a living writing software to change the world. His tech blog, Geeky Ninja, is where he shares his wisdom, for free !

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox