In the second installment of our new Geek School series, we walk you through Upgrades and Migrations for Windows 7, from the perspective of learning to take your certification exam.

Be sure to check out the other articles in the series (so far)

We’re guessing that most of you have upgraded or installed Windows 7 before, but learning the material is really more about knowing what version can be upgraded to what version and what migration tools are available than actually doing the steps. Of course, you should know those too.

If you already have an operating system on your computer and you want to upgrade to Windows 7, you have two options. You can either upgrade or migrate, however this will depend upon what operating system you are currently running.


When Windows 7 was released, Microsoft decided that it would be best to limit direct OS upgrades to Windows Vista, and even then there are some limitations. In fact, your upgrade options are determined by the version of Windows Vista your PC is currently running. Here is a table of possible upgrades.

Home Premium Professional Ultimate
Windows Vista Home Basic Yes No Yes
Windows Vista Home Premium Yes No Yes
Windows Vista Business No Yes Yes
Windows Vista Ultimate No No Yes

An easy way to memorize the above table is to remember that you have to upgrade to an equivalent version of Windows 7, or better. You can’t, for example, upgrade from Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Home Premium.

Unfortunately, you can’t do cross-architecture upgrades either, so if you are running a 32-bit version of Windows Vista, you can only upgrade to a 32-bit version of Windows 7. Similarly, if you are running a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, you can only upgrade to a 64-bit version of Windows 7. If you find that you need to go from 32-bit to 64-bit or vice versa, you will need to do a migration instead.

It is also handy to know that the hardware requirements between Windows Vista and Windows 7 didn’t change much, so if a PC is capable of running Windows Vista it is capable of running Windows 7.


So what if you are not running Windows Vista, is all hope lost ? Well, not exactly; if you happen to be running Windows XP, you have the option to migrate to Windows 7. There are two methods for performing a migration. Let’s take a look.

Side By Side

Doing a side by side migration involves two separate computers: the old PC running Windows XP as well as a new PC running a clean installation of Windows 7. You can then use a tool such as WET (Windows Easy Transfer) or the USMT (User State Migration Tool) to move your profile and data from the old machine to the new one. This can be done over the network or via USB.

Wipe and Load

When you do a Wipe and Load migration you only deal with a single PC. In a nutshell you use either WET (Windows Easy Transfer) or the USMT (User State Migration Tool) to back up your Windows XP profile and data to something like a network share or thumb drive. You then format the machine and do a clean install, and finally restore your data.

As you can see, migrating from one operating system to another differs slightly from the in-place style upgrade. Let’s take a closer look at the difference.

What’s the Difference Between an Upgrade and a Migration?

The biggest difference between an upgrade and a migration is what is transferred from the old operating system to the new one. When you do an upgrade, all installed applications, your user profile, settings and files on the PC are transferred. On the other hand, when you do a migration, only your user profile and files are transferred, this means that you will have to reinstall all your applications.


There are two tools that we can use to assist us in migrating data, Windows Easy Transfer and the User State Migration Tool. There is no real difference in what they do; what you do need to know is that the USMT is a scriptable command line tool, while WET is a GUI based wizard. As such the USMT is used in enterprise deployments, while WET is used in homes and small businesses.

How to Migrate User Data Using Windows Easy Transfer

Using Windows Easy Transfer is really, well, easy. To get started pop your Windows 7 disc into your old PC and navigate to:


Then launch migwiz.exe

You will immediately be shown what you can transfer to your new PC. Just click next to continue.

There are many ways you can transfer your settings, but we will just go with the USB method.

When using the USB method, for some reason they still ask you to confirm this is the old PC.

Here you can see I have an enormous 5Kb of text files I want to take to my new Windows installation. When you click next you will be asked where you have to save the file. Select your USB and wait for it to export all your data.

Once the export is complete take your USB drive over to your Windows 7 PC and run the file. The migration wizard will automatically open and you will be able to choose the stuff you want to import.

That’s all there is to it, now you just have to wait for the import to finish.

Once it has complete you can opt to see what was transferred across.

As you can see it bought my User account as well as 25 of my documents.


Just like any school, we’ve got homework for you. Here are a couple of things that you should know:

Stay tuned tomorrow for our next update, where we explain about configuring devices in Windows 7.

If you have any questions you can tweet me @taybgibb, or just leave a comment.

Profile Photo for Taylor Gibb Taylor Gibb
Taylor Gibb is a professional software developer with nearly a decade of experience. He served as Microsoft Regional Director in South Africa for two years and has received multiple Microsoft MVP (Most Valued Professional) awards. He currently works in R&D at Derivco International.
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