Must You Buy a New Computer to Begin Using Windows 7?

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A new computer helps, but you can upgrade from Windows XP if you take the right steps.


There are certain days we look forward to with dread, whether they be today—tax day April 15—the day our daughter first takes the car out on her own, or the day we lose a good friend following a long illness. Included on that list of dreads is the day we migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7.


It was Thanksgiving 2009 when I eagerly awaited my first encounter with Windows 7. A buddy called and said he had a friend who was planning on going to Wal-Mart and would stand in line all night to buy a TV during Black Friday shopping. Did we want him to get us anything? And, by the way, they were having a huge special on laptops. One has to think of the TV ad where the housewife drives a semi-tractor trailer of IKEA home furnishing up to the house for unloading before going back for more to appreciate my state of mind. "Sure! Let's get a laptop—let's get two!" So we did; we got two, one for each of us.


I opened the box, and out came the HP Pavilion G60. I plugged it in and turned it on; whoa, Windows 7 booted up. Cool. But how do you work with all these screens bobbing around at the bottom? It was a novelty over the holidays, and I used it a few times the following spring. The problem was, it didn't have Lotus Notes installed, and I couldn't retrieve my email. The laptop came loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium, and I assumed I needed the Windows 7 Professional Edition to run Lotus Notes. The COMMON conference rolled around in May, and I was torn. Should I take the new laptop and be assured of a solid Wi-Fi connection or carry my old, heavy HP clunker and be certain I could access my email (that is, if I could ever get a connection)? Well, I carried that old, lead weight to Orlando and back and was disgusted with myself when I got home. But at least I was able to do my job.


Here it is 2011, COMMON is coming up again, and I'll be darned if I'm going to dance to this same tune another year; I've simply got to get this new laptop working with Lotus Notes. My research led me to a few interesting findings. First, if you're running Lotus Notes 8.5.1, which we are at MC Press Online, then Notes is compatible with Windows 7 Home Premium if you have the 64-bit edition of Windows 7. In such a case, you don't need the Windows 7 Professional edition, which is about a $90 upgrade. I quickly flip up the screen on the HP. Oh, thank you, Wal-Mart! It's obviously got a 64-bit processor because it's running the 64-bit version of Windows 7. We're in business. Turns out if it had been loaded with the 32-bit version of Windows 7, I would have been out of luck. So I go through the Notes client install, get some help from our hosting provider, and, after a rigorous Notes workout, I'm happy to say that it now works!


But who could stop there? Now I'm getting ambitious. And don't you just hate incongruity? So there is my black tower under my desk that I refurbished in 2007 with a new power supply and motherboard. That's got XP Pro on it. Then there is the backup mini-tower that has XP Pro on it. Then there is the empty new case and boxed motherboard with processor and DVD drive calling to me that will soon take its rightful place as the next under-desk pal…which was going to be running XP Pro. But really, they all should be running Windows 7, though, right? But I'm thinking, how much this is going to cost, anyway? Normally, the Windows 7 Home Premium is about $115, and Windows 7 Professional is $150–175. That could turn into some serious credit-card charges.


However, there is a better deal that Microsoft offered last year for a short time before withdrawing it and now has reintroduced for a limited period. It's the Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade Family Pack, which includes three licenses and is available from Amazon for about $125. Holy Home Shopping Network, boys and girls, that's $42 per license! If you have an Intel Core 2 Duo processor or equivalent, you likely may be able to run the 64-bit version. Then you can take all the money you saved on the OS and buy more RAM—simply drown that puppy in memory. Of course, if you want to encrypt your hard drive with BitLocker, that comes only on Windows 7 Ultimate. But who needs fancy?


Now, we get to the good stuff. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 is, ahem, interesting. I haven't gotten that far myself, mind you, but I've been reading up on it, and I'm sure many MC Press Online readers out there have earned their stripes. Everyone seems to have their own unique way of advising how to do it, but here is how Microsoft says to do it. One key apparently is to get an external hard drive or park all your files someplace else before you start because you're going to be reloading all your applications and then recopying the data files back onto the internal drive once you're done. Using the free Windows Easy Transfer download is a slick way to bundle up all your files.


You'll first want to download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and find out where your pain points are and what applications and drivers might not work after the upgrade. That will give you a chance to either download the free drivers ahead of time or purchase the needed application upgrade.


For a step-by-step tutorial on how to upgrade from XP to Windows 7, visit the Microsoft Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 page, where you can pause the video, download the printed instructions (you may not be able to access them after you begin the upgrade), and generally spend a few moments mustering up your courage to take the dive. Or you can wait until April 8, 2014, which is the end of extended support by Microsoft for XP (should you be fortunate enough to be a commercial customer). If you're a little guy like me, however, you surely realize that support for Windows XP SP3 ended back in April 2009. I don't know about you, but I'm not getting any more security updates or anything else from Redmond, and I know there are a lot of very clever hackers out there.