So there I was pondering whether to move from Windows XP to Windows 7. After all, Windows 7 does seem to be much better than ghastly la Vista and sooner or later Microsoft is going to cease providing support for XP entirely.
Quick reminder of support end dates:
Windows XP without a service pack – End of support: September 30, 2004
Windows XP with SP1 – support end date: October 10, 2006
Windows XP with SP2 – support end date: July 13, 2010
ALL Windows XP support ends: April 8, 2014
Ah, but can I run my Windows XP software on Windows 7?
Yes, but there’s a ‘but.’ You can only run XP software on Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate by using XP Mode.
Okay, I’ll just buy Windows 7 Professional.
There’s a ‘but.’ You can only run Windows XP software on Windows 7 Professional if your computer hardware supports virtualization.
How do I know if my computer supports virtualization?
Easiest way to find out is to download and run the gizmo from Microsoft to find out. It’s called, unsurprisingly, Microsoft® Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool.
You can read more about virtualization here on Microsoft’s website.
(For the purists – yes, it is possible to run a software version of virtualization via the hotfix for Windows 7 but it isn’t guaranteed to work and requires a big chunk of system resources.)
My hardware supports virtualization – why doesn’t it work?
Then there is the small matter of even although your hardware is capable of virtualization, the BIOS might not be, as I found out. My hardware is fully capable of running virtualization (AMD dual core on socket 940 in case you’re interested) but it turns out the BIOS, even although it says virtualization is enabled, doesn’t actually enable it… and there is no fix.
Which led me to start researching the latest hardware but that’s another story.
So should I upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7?
The long and short of it is that if you don’t give a hoot about running Windows XP software on your computer, you can simply choose Windows 7 Home but if, like many millions of people, you have a vast stash of expensive software you bought to run on XP and you don’t want to spend thousands replacing it all, you will need to choose Windows 7 Professional or greater. Which is much more expensive than Home.
The biggest obstacle for people to migrate from XP to 7 is being able to run all their expensive software and Microsoft charges a huge premium for just that. Currently, Windows 7 Home is retailing at approx. £90 – £100 GBP and Windows 7 Professional is approx. £170. Go figure.
If you still want to check it out, Microsoft has the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. Download it and allow it to scan your system but be prepared to spend a good bit of time trying to work out what it all means for you.
Of course, you could always wait for Windows 8, due out in 2012.
If you’ve got this far, a quick word about the upgrade versions.
If you buy the (cheaper) upgrade versions of Windows 7, don’t forget that if, for example, your hard drive bombs and you need to reinstall it on a new one, you will need to have the discs for the older version of Windows to hand.