According to Windows 7 Upgrade Test Matrix, direct in-place upgrade from Windows XP to any SKU or edition of Windows 7 is not supported. Although Microsoft also offer cheaper upgrade license price for Windows 7 to Windows XP customers, user of Windows XP is forced to clean install Windows 7 on top of Windows XP and required to backup applications, drivers and data on Windows XP.

Windows operating systems provide in-place upgrade as one of the installation options. In-place upgrade allows users to install Windows and retain applications, files, and settings as they were in previous edition of Windows. In-place automatic upgrade is especially important to avoid re-installing of applications, which requires a lot of serial numbers, product keys, registration code and activation to take place.

Unfortunately for Windows XP users, which still account for nearly half of all Windows operating system used in the world, direct in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 is not supported, as illustrated in Windows 7 Upgrade Paths Matrix table. When user attempts to insert and load Windows 7 installation DVD in Windows XP system, Windows 7 installation process will run for initial loading and compatibility checks, but will return the following error message in the compatibility report once user chooses the upgrade option.

You can’t directly upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Go online to learn how to use Windows Easy Transfer to install Windows 7 and keep your files and settings.

Cannot Directly Upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7

The likely reason that Microsoft does not support an direct XP to 7 upgrade is due to the amount of validation and testing required to support the upgrade option according to Microsoft’s standards. Instead, the efforts can be better utilized for other things such as bug fixing or compatibility and performance enhancing.

The easiest workaround to in-place upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 is obvious, that is to in-place upgrade Windows XP to Windows Vista, and then in-place upgrade again to Windows 7, as illustrated in diagram below.

Windows XP -> Windows Vista -> Windows 7

By using workaround above to indirectly upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, user can ensures that the setup process does all the upgrading and transferring of user’s files, settings, customizations, configurations, state, applications and etc automatically in the background, while requires minimal effort from the end-user. However, the workability of the workaround still depend on Windows XP in place upgrade to Windows Vista support.

Once disadvantage of the two-step Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade process is that it’s a time-consuming process, with each leg of upgrade may takes up to several hours to complete, which may be double, triple or even quadruple the time required when comparing with clean install of Windows 7 to replace Windows XP system. Besides, any issues that exist in Windows XP and survive after upgrading to Vista, or emerge when upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista, will also been ported to Windows 7.

As a result, end-user should take some time to prepare Windows XP for the ultimate upgrade process to Windows 7, via Windows Vista detour. Some preparation works that should be done including auditing Windows XP environment with Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor (WUA) to access and determine PC’s readiness for Windows Vista upgrades, including hardware, application compatibility and device drivers compatibility. Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) can also be used to inventory and analyze applications, especially by IT administrators. IT professionals can also used Microsoft Assessment & Planning Toolkit (MAP) to do a comprehensive agentless planning and auditing for upgrading to Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Users can download Windows Vista DVD ISO images from the following links:

Tip: It’s recommended that end-use should choose exactly the same Windows Vista edition (Home Premium, Business for Professional or Ultimate), language (e.g. English), and system architecture (32bit or 64bit) that corresponds to the final Windows 7 edition, language and system architecture to upgrade to.

During Windows XP to Vista upgrade process, not much information is been displayed to end-user. Luckily, thing changes when upgrading from Windows Vista to 7, where end-user will be able to see the progress of expanding Windows 7 installation files, percentage and volume of installation files that have already been copied, estimated time to install features and updates, and progress of gathering and migrating files, settings and programs.

If you just want to transfer your data, application settings and Windows settings, and do not want to transfer application programs (which will require to be re-installed), here’s the guide to use Windows Easy Transfer to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7.

Tip: IT administrators for big corporates or organizations with large amount of computers are recommended by Microsoft to use Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 (MDT), which is a free and authoritative integrated platform with tools and guidance to assess current IT infrastructure or inventory and plan Microsoft technologies. Best of all, MDT 2010 comes with User State Migration Tool (USMT), which ables to save user state and move user data to a clean install via hardlink igration, simulating an upgrade. In XP to Windows 7 upgrade, hard link migration by USMT works by keeping single instance of the files in place, but building a catalog of links to the items in XP, After the disk is wiped clean, with the exception of the files that have to be migrated, Windows 7 is clean installed on top, and USMT will put the links back into the right location. USMT also supports more legacy versions of the OS like Windows 2000 and prior.