Looking to buy a brand new Windows 7 PC but don’t want to spend days copying files and reinstalling all your beloved applications with your custom settings? A new PC Migration suite – Zinstall XP7 – claims to provide a “breakthrough solution” – “fly” you from XP to 7 “business class”.
Migration is a term generally used to describe the act of moving applications, settings, files, etc. from an old Operating System (or computer) to a new one. It usually involves at least 3 steps:
- Going over your system looking for installed applications and their settings and data, windows settings, important files, and anything else one might miss when it’s no longer there.
- Backing up all the above to some temporary storage – such as a Removable Drive or a number of DVDs, depending on the amount of data. This may include copying all your favorite music and movies, your documents, exporting your Outlook’s PST files, browser favorites and more.
- Restoring everything to the new system. This can be as easy as copying some documents, or as difficult as tracking down the installer and license info for some legacy application you bought a while ago…
Migration is, without a question, a daunting, tedious and time consuming task for most of us. This is true when moving to a new computer with the same OS, and even more so when one wishes to migrate from Windows XP to a brand new Windows 7.
Every time Microsoft launches a new OS, the problem of PC Migration emerges – and crowds of PC users start crying for help in hopes someone will hear them. Windows 7 is, of course, no different – especially since the majority of users still run Windows XP and Microsoft refrained from providing an upgrade path from XP to Win7. Moreover, a lot of incompatibilities between XP and 7 make this task almost “mission impossible”.
There is always the possibility to start anew on the new computer and only copy a handful of really important files, but this option is often not acceptable for those who use their PC for more than browsing the web, watching some videos and sending an occasional email.
Wouldn’t it be great if an automatic tool existed that could just solve this problem once and for all?
Zinstall XP7 vs. Windows Easy Transfer vs. Laplink PCMover
Let’s see how Zinstall XP7 measures against two common alternatives – the free and built-in Windows 7 Easy Transfer, and Laplink’s veteran PCMover.
First, a dry comparison sheet:
So what do we get from all this?
Windows Easy Transfer, being free, provides a good bang for the buck – It will move the “My Documents” folder, Internet Explorer Favorites, some windows settings and any other folders a user might select manually to be transferred. No applications will be transferred, just the data.
PCMover makes a courageous attempt to migrate all the user applications as well as the user files. The results, supported by several forums and blogs, are mixed: some users report it successfully migrated most of their applications, while many others complain that some applications failed to migrate or worse – were migrated in such a way that they fail to run and are very difficult to remove. Some notable examples of such disasters include Microsoft Outlook, Adobe products, several components of Norton Security Suite and McAfee Antivirus/Firewall. This is not a surprise, since there really is no way to know for sure where an application installed all of its components, not to mention the wide variety of application add-ons.
Moreover, many applications built for Windows XP wouldn’t work at all on Windows 7 by any means because of inherent incompatibility.
Zinstall XP7 approaches the migration challenge in a completely different way – it takes the entire, all-inclusive old Windows XP System and encapsulates it, in its whole, into a special isolated container on Windows 7, together with an application that is able to run a sort of a Virtual Machine with the Old Windows XP.
The end result is fairly surprising.
From the user experience point of view, the result is quite similar to having a PC with a “dual boot” configuration of Windows XP and Windows 7. There is just one “slight” difference: you can switch between XP and 7 instantaneously with a click on the tray icon, without being annoyed by constantly having to reboot your PC.
What I like most about this concept is that you basically get a solid guarantee that nothing is left behind – and all the stuff from your old Windows XP is with you and working.
Interested to see how it all looks? Read on.
In order to give Zinstall XP7 a test ride, I used my 6 year old Athlon XP 1700+ based Windows XP as a guinea pig. The new computer is well-rounded Intel Core 2 Duo 7300 with Windows 7 installed.
The Migration Process
In order to do a migration I got a Zinstall XP7 license from Zinstall’s website (www.zinstall.com). It‘s worth noting that Zinstall promise that they will only charge you if you are satisfied with the migration result. In any case, after the purchase, I received an email with the license info and some basic instructions, which I started following right away.
I tried migrating Windows XP to Windows 7 in the most complicated scenario – an XP is installed on the old computer and the new one equipped with a pre-installed Windows 7 Home Premium.
I connected the old and new computers with a network cable and started Zinstall on the old computer. It prompted me to enter the serial number and email. After that, it tried doing an “online activation” which couldn’t have possibly worked, since I disconnected the computer from the internet in order to connect it to the new computer. So, instead, Zinstall proposed to do a web activation – i.e. go to a page on zinstall.com, enter an activation id on a computer that IS connected to the internet and receive a confirmation id in return, to be entered into Zinstall running on the old computer. At this stage I decided to just connect both the old and new computer to our DSL router and start over.
This time everything went smoothly – the old computer remembered the license info and Zinstall launched, asking us whether we are currently on the old or the new computer:
So we chose “Old computer”.
Next, Zinstall asked us to run it on the new computer as well:
So, we ran Zinstall on our Win7, chose “New Computer” and got the main screen:
As you can see, Zinstall correctly identified the old computer, so I pressed the big “Go” button.
The “Zinstall Migration Progress” dialog appeared and the migration started up.
I had 65 GB of data to copy, so I opened up a calculator and tried to estimate how long a coffee break I can take while the migration is running. Some simple math showed that copying 65GB over a 100MBit network in full capacity should take about an hour and a half. So I set my stopper and the PCs alone. About an hour later I came back to see that there are just 15 minutes left, and indeed – 10 minutes later the migration completed successfully.
Total time of migration: 1 hour 17 minutes.
This raised my suspicion. How could it possibly copy 65GB at better than channel capacity?!
So I decided to contact Zinstall support and ask them just that. The reply was quick to follow:
The phenomenon you described is completely normal.
When Zinstall performs a migration over a slow network connection, it compresses the data before transmitting it over the network, which can result in an effective migration speed that is higher than channel capacity.
Zinstall Support Team”
So, the migration completed successfully. The next question is, obviously, what did we get?
The migration had little visible effect on our test Windows 7 – a Zinstall icon appeared on the desktop, and also in the system tray. Right click on the tray icon and a menu appeared:
A click on “Switch to Old Desktop” made the old Windows XP to appear instead of Windows 7! My first thought was – “Hey, those guys are fooling me! They’re just doing some sort of a Remote Desktop connection to the old Windows XP”. My second thought was – “But I’ve already powered off the old computer”. And, not surprisingly, Zinstall’s tray icon was present on the Windows XP desktop as well, so I used it to switch back to the Win7 desktop.
Next, it was time to check that all the apps and files were indeed there. Double-click, and I’m in Windows XP again. Go to Start menu and it looks just like the original XP – three columns full of too many programs. I ran Word & Outlook from the start menu (Outlook showed up with all my mail in the inbox), double-clicked a PDF from the desktop (Adobe reader popped up), started Winamp from the quick launch menu, and finally entered www.google.com in Start->Run to have it opened using the default Firefox 3.5 in a colorful tab.
A more thorough examination showed that drive C: had 15GB of free space and that an extra network drive Z: was added that contained a folder named “C” which itself pointed to Win7’s C: drive.
At this stage I also noticed that Norton started a scheduled system scan.
In short – I had my good old Windows XP right in front of me.
Performance wise – I didn’t feel a difference on Win7 whether the “Zinstalled” Windows XP was running or not, but a more thorough benchmark is surely in order. According to Task Manager – Zinstall runs a couple of processes in the background that take up to 90MB of RAM when the old Windows XP is being used, and their CPU usage varies, depending on the workload of the Windows XP.
I also tried some of the more esoteric features – copy pasted some text from XP’s Word 2003 into a newly opened Wordpad on Win7, saved it to an RTF file on the desktop and copied the file to “My Documents” on XP. Switch back to Win7, right click on Zinstall and “Show Old Desktop files” opened Windows Explorer on a folder containing a subfolder “C” which pointed to the old OS, so I used it to find the aforementioned RTF file inside “Documents and Settings” and copy it back to Win7.
I must say that the concept of having the old and new desktops at the same time seemed confusing when I first read about it in on Zinstall’s web site, but after getting directly acquainted with it – it was very intuitive thanks to the clear distinction between the “Old” and “New” environments.
In the dark and miserable world of PC Migration – Zinstall is a ray of hope shining bright above the rest.
It is extremely easy to use – all we had to do, literally, was to run Zinstall and press the big “GO” button. The end result is no less than stunning – you boot into your new Windows 7… click! You’re on your old Windows XP with all your apps, settings, files and what not… click! You’re back on your new Windows 7.
And the cherry on top – you can share files and use copy-paste between the old and new systems.
The only entry in the cons column is the price of the software. $89 is not cheap, but from my experience – Zinstall is worth every penny.
Zinstall’s website: http://www.zinstall.com