Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Should Microsoft provide an XP to Windows 7 Upgrade Path?

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WXPNews: Your Source for all things XP
Vol. 8, #61 - Mar 10, 2009 - Issue #369

 Should Microsoft provide an XP to Windows 7 Upgrade Path?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Should Microsoft provide an XP to Windows 7 Upgrade Path?
    • Follow-up: How much should a computer cost, anyway?
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • WXPnews has a fan page on Facebook
    • Even as Vista use grows, XP is still dominant
    • Yes, You Can (run Office 14 on XP)
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to edit the registry to modify System Restore
  5. XP Security News
    • Three fixes for Patch Tuesday
  6. XP Question Corner
    • How can I make XP boot automatically?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • How to overcome the 4,095 MB paging file limit
    • How to calculate the right page file size for XP 64 bit computers
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Noromis PhotoLab - Beautiful Photo Lab-Quality Prints In Seconds

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 Editor's Corner

Should Microsoft provide an XP to Windows 7 Upgrade Path?

Tom and I spent last week in Seattle and on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, attending the annual MVP Summit. This is a conference for those who've received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award, where we get to interact with the product teams, attend presentations on current and upcoming Microsoft technologies and network with fellow MVPs. A highlight of the Summit is always the day of keynote speeches by executives such as CEO Steve Ballmer, VP Mike Nash and others. You can see the photos I took of the "big guys" on my blog at

Unfortunately, most of the content of the speeches and some (though not all) of the presentation sessions is covered by a non-disclosure agreement. However, something I can talk about is the discussion that took place with other MVPs about their own experiences, concerns and questions. There was a lot of excitement surrounding Windows 7, and many of those who, last year, were less than enthusiastic about Vista are now looking forward eagerly to the release of the new OS. One big issue of concern, though, came from those who are still using Windows XP now, or supporting companies that have stayed with XP.

That concern centers around whether there will be a support path for upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7. The beta of Windows 7 that was released in January does not allow a direct upgrade from XP. In fact, the only supported upgrade scenario is from Vista Service Pack 1. Attempting to upgrade gets you an error message, as described here:

That means if you're currently running XP and you want to install 7, you have two choices: you can upgrade from XP to Vista with SP1, or you can reformat and install Windows 7 "clean." Of course, if you opt for the latter option you will lose your personalized settings.

I am not a big fan of in-place upgrades even when they are supported. I've found over the years that a large proportion of cases where people are continually having chronic OS problems - instability, crashes, things that don't work correctly - they're running an upgraded OS. The problem with upgrades has always been that whatever "gunk" has accumulated on your hard drive over the months or years remains there to complicate things when you install a new OS over the old one. Now, beginning with Vista Microsoft changed the installation process so that an image of the new OS is copied to the hard drive. Theoretically at least, this means an upgrade shouldn't cause as many problems as it did with prior operating systems. And in fact, ExtremeTech's testing of an upgraded Vista system over one that was installed clean seems to prove that true - at least in terms of performance issues:

My own experience with Windows 7 left me pleasantly surprised. I installed the OS clean on the first two systems, then I decided to do an upgrade on my Vista SP1 laptop because I wasn't sure of being able to find all the drivers. The upgrade went smoothly and 7 is running very nicely on the laptop. Still, I generally prefer to start all over with a clean slate. It gives me an opportunity to get rid of programs I installed but found I never use. It gives me a chance to take a new look at my desktop, clean up the clutter, and rearrange things more to my liking. It inspires me to reorganize my files. It's like moving into a brand new house, where I'm no longer locked into choices I made long ago.

Of course, there are also definite advantages to upgrading rather than doing a new installation. Time is a factor, and it takes a lot less of it to do an upgrade (assuming it works properly). When you do a clean install, you have to reinstall all of your application software. That can be a problem if you no longer have the installation media or you've lost the product keys. You may also have to hunt down and download drivers for some of your devices. I've found that most of the Vista device drivers work in Windows 7, but the OS didn't always find them automatically when I did a clean installation.

So many people, including IT pros, are really hoping that the final release of Windows 7 will support a direct upgrade from XP. Here's Randall Kennedy's take on it from Infoworld, wherein he says that Microsoft should provide an XP upgrade path as an act of contrition for its "Vista sins." Huh?

It seems to me that such a decision should be based on technological issues and what will result in the best experience for end users. Yes, doing a clean install is a bit more complicated and time consuming, but it's better to spend a few extra hours up front and avoid ongoing problems down the road. Windows 7 was designed to be compatible with most of the drivers and applications that run on Vista, so an in-place upgrade from Vista won't present many problems. However, Windows 7 is not going to be compatible with many XP drivers. That makes upgrading a much more difficult and more risky proposition. J. Peter Bruzzese at InfoWorld counters his colleagues opinions and tells here why the XP-to-7 strategy is the right one:

Note that this argument is not about licensing or cost. Microsoft will provide an upgrade license for XP users. You're not going to have to pay the full version price to upgrade from XP to Win 7. But (unless they change their minds in response to customer demand between now and the final) you will need to either upgrade to Vista SP1 first (which seems like an unnecessarily complicated and expensive process) or wipe the drive and install a fresh copy of Windows 7. Here's confirmation that there will be an upgrade license for XP:

Tell us what you think. Should Microsoft provide a direct upgrade path from XP to Windows 7? Do you think Microsoft "owes" that to computer users to make up for real or imagined wrongs committed by Vista? When you move up to a new OS, do you go the in-place upgrade route, or do you like to do a fresh installation? Do you enjoy "building a new empire" or do you hate the thought of reconfiguring and reinstalling everything anew? Or do you just upgrade the easy way - by buying a new computer that has the new OS preinstalled? Share your opinions and experiences at feedback@wxpnews.com

Follow-up: How much should a computer cost, anyway?

In last week's editorial, I took a look at how computer prices have fallen over the years - or have they? Well, it depends on what type of system you're buying. Low end systems have definitely come down in cost (and gone up in specs), but if you're aiming for the high end, prices haven't decreased quite as much. In any case, it seems to be a question that resonated with many of you, and we got quite a few responses.

Tony G. points out that some costs go unrecognized. "An example - times dealing with printers and print quality because they will not buy quality paper even though I found them a source of HP and Xerox paper better than the cheap rubbish. And the time I spend sorting out an patching up old computers when the cost of my time exceeds that of buying new computers and setting them up. The trouble is that people do not really recognise that as hardware costs come down and software complexity increases, the true cost of computing is probably static - just more of it is in support."

Wes A. made some good points: "I don't think prices can go much lower. Prices could rise if we reach a point of product scarcity." He adds that " Some vendors may fail. The ones that do will be the ones with too much debt and narrow product lines. HP, Intel, and Cisco should be in good shape. They have good balance sheets and very broad product lines. Dell could be problematic because it is really selling "appliances" and other than being easy to order from I can't see what value it really adds to the process." And in regard to free software, he notes that "I have always told my customers to beware of any 'free' software. Some of it is OK, but just about anything that pops up on your screen uninvited is a bad deal waiting to happen."

Joe L. said, "I always look for a mid price computer, but it never fails by the time I finish adding the bells and whistles I want, my new system costs $3000+. In the past I've used my extended Gateway warranties on more than one occasion. But I was burned on the last business computer I bought from Gateway. they sold off their business division (including the warranties)to the MPC Corp. who went bankrupt. And when my very expensive upgraded monitor died, I am unable to get service from either MPC or Gateway. So I decided I will not longer purchase extended warranties or another Gateway computer. But I will probably build another expensive machine, I can't help myself."

When it comes to buying those extended warranties, some of you like them and some of you don't. Gail B. wrote, "I'm one of the people who purchased the extended warranty on my HP Media Center. I'm a 67 year old grandmother, and although I'm pretty savy on the computer itself, when it comes to fixing problems I'm a complete klutz. Also I hate to have a tech on the phone trying to give me directions. It simply takes forever, and I'm not a patient person. The warranty I purchased wasn't cheap by any means, but Hp has sent a tech to my home twice in the 2 years I've had this computer. At the prices they charge, I think I got the better deal."

And Steve H. said, "Although I would never purchase an extended warranty for myself, I did buy extended warranties on two Dell laptop computers for my daughters who, at the time, were going away to college. Believe it or not, each of them needed replacement parts. One needed a new laptop screen, 3 years after purchase and the other needed an entire new motherboard, 2 years after purchase. In both cases, the cost to replace the parts would have been more than the cost of the warranties."

Fin J., on the other hand, said, "I would never spend money on an extended warranty. If something's going to break, it's probably going to break soon after I buy it. The stores like Circuit City and Fry's make most of their money on the warranties because hardly anyone who pays for it uses it. I'll let somebody else pay for it."

Some of you reminded us that there are still ways to get great deals on computers. Sue B. wrote: "I knew what I wanted the computer specs to be and waited for over a year before I found it. It was well worth the wait. To find what I wanted I did a lot of research, and it paid off. I bought mine from the Dell outlet just this past month, would have cost me $1700.00 ordered new. I got it for $700.00 with the same warranty and lots of extras that the computer was ordered with."

And even when you order new, check out all your options. Russell P. wrote: "I bought a Dell laptop recently. I started online with a low priced one and added what I wanted to get to a machine I was happy with, and got a final price. Then I started with a higher spec'd one and downgraded until I ended up with exactly the same machine as before, but saved $100 by going down instead of coming up!"

And Gary P. offers this advice: "Today's day and age, the prices are so low that everything is pretty well disposable. the average user (one just wanting to surf the internet, do some finances, send some email and record some music or store some pictures ... I tell them to buy low, use for a couple of years and upgrade. The $2000 pc today will be less than half of that in the 3 - 5 years it takes to exhaust the resources of the low end PC you purchase. The key is storage and RAM. Get a LARGE external USB drive (store pics, data, etc.) put in lots of RAM (performance - ram is cheap) and be done with it. What is the worst thing .. you have to wait an extra 3 - 5 seconds to perform some functions ... big deal. Once you are ready to upgrade, grandma, your children or someone else's children may be ready to use that PC for a bit to get the most out of it. If you spend <$1000 and it lasts for 5 years ... that is $200 per year ... not very much when you look at it."

Finally, Farhad A. brought up this question: " Why can't I trade in an old PC when purchasing a new one and get like 50 bucks off or something for recycling/trade-in? My options are to either keep the old pc sitting in the side of the room, or toss it into the trash can. Feels like a waste either way, I wish it went to some use."

Thanks to everyone who wrote on this topic!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. - Plato (427 BC - 347 BC)

All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income. - Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

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 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


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Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Syncronization is easier, faster and much more current than backups!

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Print Screen Deluxe is the realistic upgrade of the Windows version. You can crop - before the capture! Very quick!

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 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

WXPnews has a fan page on Facebook

I've received quite a few messages from readers, asking if the newsletter had a FaceBook fan page. Well, now we do! If you have a Facebook account, be sure to look up the WXPnews fan page, where we will post periodic updates and teasers about upcoming newsletter topics, as well as other items of interest to WXPnews readers. Just do a Facebook search for WXPnews and you can join the fan page and/or the "loyal readers" group. Hope to see you there!

Even as Vista use grows, XP is still dominant

Statistics from Net Applications, as reported in TG Daily recently, showed that Microsoft's overall market share grew in February while Apple lost ground - and even though some of that can be attributed to Vista growth and the release of the Windows 7 beta, XP is still on top with more than 63% of the operating system market. You can read more here:

Yes, You Can (run Office 14 on XP)

Microsoft has been working on the next version of Office, which - due to the same superstitions that cause hotels to skip the number 13 when numbering floors - is currently known as Office 14. Some of us had been wondering whether the new version of Office will run on XP, or whether you'd have to upgrade to Vista or Windows 7 to use it? Well, Microsoft has answered that question: if you're a die-hard XP fan, you "absolutely" will be able to run Office 14 without upgrading your operating system. Read more here:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to edit the registry to modify System Restore

There are three registry keys that can be used to make changes to XP's System Restore feature. To make these changes, be sure to first back up the registry, then open your registry editor and navigate to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ Software \ Microsoft \ WindowsNT \ CurrentVersion \ SystemRestore

Perhaps the most useful modification you can make is to set the maximum time that a restore point exists before it is deleted. The setting is specified in seconds, and the default is 7776000, which translates to 90 days. If you want your restore points to hang around longer or you'd like to see them disappear sooner, do this:
  1. Navigate to the key shown above and in the right details pane, double click or create the DWORD value RPLifeInterval
  2. In the value data field, enter a number in seconds equal to the time that you want restore points to remain on the system before being deleted (for example, to specify a time to live of 30 days, enter the value 2592000).
  3. Close the registry editor.
  4. There are other values in this key that can be modified, and some that should never be changed. To find out more, see KB article 295659 at

 XP Security News

Three fixes for Patch Tuesday

This month's Patch Tuesday comes this week, and word has it that it will be a relatively light one, with Microsoft releasing just three updates, with only one of them rated "critical." They will address issues in Windows 2000, XP, Server 2008 and Vista, including a vulnerability that can be exploited to remotely execute code and two more that deal with spoofing vulnerabilities. You can read more here:

 XP Question Corner

How can I make XP boot automatically?

I have a problem. I installed Vista on my XP computer, to dual boot. But I don't like Vista and went back to using XP. The problem is that when I reboot, it automatically starts up Vista unless I'm paying attention and choose the "Previous operating system" in the bootup menu. How can I make it automatically go into XP again? Thanks. Liz G.

Luckily that's an easy one to fix, although the answer isn't very intuitive. Here's what you need to do:
  1. Click Start | Control Panel and open the System applet.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. At the bottom, under "Startup and Recovery," click the Settings button.
  4. At the top of the dialog box, under "System Startup," click the down arrow and select the operating system that you want to be the default (the one that starts automatically after a set amount of time).
  5. You can also modify the number of seconds the list will display before going into your default OS, if you want.
  6. Click OK twice to close out the dialog boxes.
Now when you boot up, the system should automatically load XP unless you select Vista from the boot menu list.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

How to overcome the 4,095 MB paging file limit

By default, Windows XP has a limit on the paging file of 4,095 MB, due to the limitations of x86 processors. It is, however, possible to create multiple paging files on the same volume to overcome the limit. For instructions on how to do so, see KB article 237740 at

How to calculate the right page file size for XP 64 bit computers

If you're running the 64 bit version of Windows XP Pro, you can support much more RAM than on the 32 bit operating system. By default, the OS will create a page file that's one and a half times the amount of physical RAM, but you may not need such a large page file when you have large amounts of RAM in the computer. In fact, you might not even need a page file at all. For a chart to help you determine the appropriate size for your page file in 64 bit XP, see KB article 889654 at

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

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