Windows XP Upgrades to Windows 7 or 8 Take Patience, Know-How

NEWS ANALYSIS: Upgrading your company's machines from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8 can be challenging and frustrating. So it's no wonder it's a task that companies are trying to avoid.  

As I write this column, I can see the flicker of the drive light on an HP workstation out of the corner of my eye. It's flickering as the computer downloads and installs something like 450 Windows updates, and as bad as that may seem, in reality, it's the good news. The bad news is the process that came before when I tried to upgrade the machine from Windows XP to Windows 7.

I started the process on New Year's Day. But here it is many hours into another day and the process is only now nearly complete. Why, you might ask, was I installing operating systems on a holiday? Well, I live in the Washington, D.C., area, and our local football team has managed to lose more games than it played this year. So there was nothing to watch on television.

I stumbled across an old Hewlett-Packard xw8200 in the lab that needed repurposing. But in the meantime, it occurred to me that this was a perfect opportunity to do the XP to 7 transition since the computer wasn't doing anything else anyway. So I grabbed the original set of CDs from the file and slid the HP restore disk, followed by the Windows XP Professional disk into the drive as required. The installation ran perfectly, and in an hour or so, the computer was bright, shiny, and totally up to date, assuming by that you meant 2005.

The next step was to run Windows Update so that I could then upgrade Windows 7 once I'd passed through the required hoops. But alas, it was not to be. Windows Update failed.

The good news was that the Website that shows up when Windows Update fails suggests going for help either in an online chat or a phone call. It assuages worry by telling you that your tech support call will be free, since the problem is Windows Update. I remembered that in the past I'd called for help when Windows Update failed to work, and that the support was friendly and free. So I wasn't worried.

Obviously, I'm easily misled. Windows Update help, at this point, isn't free when it's for XP. There you have paid support or nothing, despite the clear promise on the Microsoft Update Website. To make matters worse, there's no good means of handling the updates manually, despite spending hours trying. Calls to Hewlett-Packard were referred to Microsoft, and calls to Microsoft were referred to HP.

Fortunately, there is a solution to all of this frustration, although it's not obvious. I recalled what I'd learned when I'd installed Windows 7 the first time. Direct upgrades from XP to 7 aren't possible. You have to do a clean install.

Of course, there's another option. I could use PCMover Pro from Laplink, which would let me move directly from XP to Windows 7 or 8 and also keep my files and applications.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...