Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Windows 7: Easy Transfer & the Upgrade from Windows XP

I had a big Windows XP Professional SP3 installation that had become dysfunctional to the point of crashing daily.  It was time for an upgrade.  In doing the upgrade, I hoped to preserve my settings from that installation, so as to reduce the amount of time I would have to spend installing and adjusting programs in Windows 7.  There seemed to be two ways to achieve that.  This post starts with one, and then transitions to the other.

When the Win7 CD booted, it gave me the option to "Install now."  Before doing that, I clicked on "What to know before installing Windows."  It told me that I might have the option of doing an upgrade installation that would keep my existing files, settings, and programs.  With previous versions of Windows, users were strongly encouraged to do a "clean install" rather than an "in-place install" to avoid creating new problems.  People seemed to be recommending that same approach for Win7 as well.  I figured that I would try the upgrade nonetheless, if only to see how it worked.  Microsoft estimated that, depending on how many application programs and how much data was involved, an installation of Windows 7 could take anywhere between 30 minutes and 20 hours.

When I clicked "Install now" and then Upgrade, it told me to remove the installation disc, restart so that Windows XP would start normally, and then reinsert the installation disc and restart again.  Apparently it had added some kind of data collection file to the hard drive, and now it needed to see what I had installed.  I booted into XP and then rebooted, but forgot to reinsert the disc after shutting down XP, so I had to do this again.  The first time around, I noticed that the taskbar had changed from my preferred classic format to the default XP format.  The second time, it wasn't like that -- it just showed my usual classic desktop -- and when the double-rebooting process was done and I was back to a boot from the installation disc, it wasn't going any further:  it just cycled me back to a reboot in WinXP.  I didn't know if I had and lost an upgrade option there.  Other sources didn't think so:  the general story seemed to be that this upgrade path was only available to Vista users, and maybe that was why I was just looping.

Failing that, I looked into the Easy Transfer option.  After booting into XP again, I loaded the Win7 installation DVD, copied its \support\migwiz folder to my hard drive, renamed it "Windows 7 Migration Wizard," and ran migwiz.exe inside that folder as a standalone, without the DVD.  This gave me the tool for future purposes, without having to hunt for the DVD, and it also ran a bit faster than when I had started to run it from the DVD drive.  MigWiz gave me the option of using an Easy Transfer cable, a network, or an external drive to transfer items to the new computer (which, in this case, would be the same computer, after installing Win7).  I wondered whether everything would fit onto a 4GB USB drive, so I tried that option.  It took five or ten minutes to calculate what it would be including in the transfer, and then produced an estimate of more than 100GB.  So apparently it was including my data in the transfer.  I clicked on its Customize option, and it rolled out a half-dozen items.  Almost all of that huge bulk was in its "Other Items" section.  I clicked Advanced and de-selected all that extra data.  Now it was down to a 3GB transfer.  It wanted to save that stuff on a USB or other external drive, but I wondered why I couldn't just save it to a different internal drive, somewhere other than drive C.  So I tried that.  Transfer of data from the Administrator account proceeded slowly.  The wizard estimated that the transfer would take about 17 hours.  I decided to take a nap.  But before I could get around to that, the transfer was done.  Time flies.  The wizard told me to open the .mig transfer file after finishing my Windows upgrade.

With that done, I rebooted the Windows 7 DVD and, this time, chose the Custom rather than the Upgrade installation option.  (Win7 had given me a different screen when installing on a machine where it did not detect a previous Windows installation on the hard drive.)  I designated the same location as my existing WinXP installation.  The installer told me that my previous files would be moved to a folder called Windows.old.  It also said that Windows might create additional partitions for system files.  Ultimately, I did not use this installation.  Instead, I developed the Win7 installation on a different computer, as described in a separate post.

A couple of weeks passed, as I dealt with other things, including the installation and reinstallation of Win7 as described in that other post.  I had decided I should go ahead with the basic installation of programs, though not with their configuration, since surely the 3GB .mig file did not contain all of my programs and settings.  Possibly I was wrong about that.  We would soon see.

At this point, I was looking at two files or folders.  One was the Windows Easy Transfer.mig file, which hopefully contained all of the stuff I would be restoring to my new Win7 installation.  The other was the Windows 7 Migration Wizard (above), now contained in its own folder.  How to proceed next?

I tried double-clicking on the Windows Easy Transfer.mig file.  That seemed to be the answer.  It opened up a dialog that offered to transfer two types of items.  One, "Administrator," was 85MB.  The other, "Shared Items," was 2.8GB.  I started with Administrator.  I clicked its Customize button.  It was going to give me Desktop, Favorites, Quick Launch, Program Settings, and Other Items.  I clicked its Advanced option.  Sad to say, at this point I didn't want what I saw there.  It seemed to have stuff related only to Microsoft programs, which I had reinstalled without much difficulty.  I was using Office 2003, which still had the Save My Settings Wizard, so it had been pretty easy to restore the settings for those programs.  But how about all the other bazillion utilities and assorted programs I used?  That's where the serious time investment would be.  From what I saw here, that stuff wasn't included in the Administrator option.  So, OK, I went to the other one, Shared Items > Customize > Advanced.  This seemed to contain the same items as the Administrator option.  Apparently the Admin option contained some information, but this Shared Items part contained the bulk of the program data.  But whatever.  I didn't need it.  End of story!



just to be sure I understand correctly, you were NOT able to reinstall you no-MS items this way?


I don't remember for sure anymore. But I think that's correct.