When I upgraded to Windows 8 a few months after its launch in August 2012, it was an accident. I had just purchased a new computer and downloaded the latest version of Windows, not realizing at the time that the operating system had a totally different look and feel from the interface I'd grown accustomed to. It was a tough transition. And, it wasn't just me. Every time a helpdesk guy wanted to take control of my computer to fix a problem remotely, I'd hear a gasp and a groan, “Oh, no, you have Windows 8. Where's the…?"
So it's no surprise to me that many XP users don't want to make the move to Windows 8. The big question is: How long will Microsoft continue to support Windows 7, an OS introduced in 2009? The answer: January 13, 2015 marks the end of mainstream support for Windows 7. However, Microsoft will provide extended support for the OS up until January 14, 2020.
The good news is you have another six years of 7 support. And, there's a good chance your XP-capable hardware will meet the requirements of Windows 7, too. To find out, download the free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. The compatibility program scans the system for potential issues with hardware, devices and installed programs.
If you're in need of a hardware upgrade, you have options. A wide range of Windows 7 computers are available from Dell, HP and Lenovo. Choose between the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of Windows 7 before focusing on the apps. The 64-bit can handle large amounts of memory - about 4 GB of random access memory (RAM) -- more efficiently than 32 bit OS, but not all computers are 64-bit-capable.
Once the hardware and the OS version are figured out, backup your data from the XP system and make the move.
Microsoft is offering a free data transfer tool, Laplink PCmover Express for Windows XP, to move all selected folders, user profiles, and settings from the old XP to the new Windows 7 computer. But it will not migrate the XP apps. For that task, LapLink offers PCmover Professional, a paid program that transfers compatible apps to the new PC.
If there are apps that are incompatible, Windows 7 Professional offers Windows XP Mode as a free download. Using virtualization software, this program lets you run older XP business software on your Windows 7 desktop. But, like XP, it will not be supported by Microsoft after April 8, 2014, leaving the system vulnerable to security threats and viruses.
The best bet is to make a clean break from XP. And know that not making the leap to Windows 8 is not taking a step backwards, as it too will come to the end of its lifecycle and lose Microsoft support in good time (2023). So for now, it's all about personal preference. At least you know you have a choice - unlike me, the accidental Windows 8 user.