How to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

The end of life for Windows XP has been and still is a major headache for consumers. You've got your old computer set up just the way you like it and its running fine. But there comes a time when you need to move to a newer and more secure operating system. Here's a couple of ways to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.

A screen shot of the website AmIRunningXP.com
A screen shot of the website AmIRunningXP.com

Upgrade the operating system on your existing computer

The biggest problem with this scenario is that there is no way to do an in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. First is the different partition, folder and file architecture. Second is that the majority of Windows XP installations in-use are 32-bit. All most all versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 / 8.1 in use are 64-bit. You can still get 32-bit versions of them, but with the 4GB memory limit, they are not very popular. If your computer was built within the last 5-7 years, it may be compatible with Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1.

Windows 7 / Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 hardware requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Free hard drive space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

How to upgrade your existing computer from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

  1. Download the Windows Upgrade Assistant to check to see if the hardware in your existing system meets the minimum hardware requirements.
    Windows Upgrade Assistant
  2. Check to see if your existing software will run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. Some software may not run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1, so checking now may prevent some frustration later down the road.
    Windows Compatibility Center
  3. Check your existing hard drive for errors.
    Detecting and repairing disk errors in Windows XP
  4. Defragment your existing hard drive.
    Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows XP
  5. Do a complete backup of your existing computer to an external hard drive or network drive.
    Using Backup in Windows XP
  6. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or the latest version (Windows 7) of Windows Easy Transfer. Transfer all of the users' documents and settings to an external hard drive or network drive.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP
    Windows Easy Transfer
  7. Perform a clean installation of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, erasing the existing partition(s)
  8. Set up your new user account(s) with the same name(s) as your old user account(s).
  9. Attach your hardware (printers, scanners, etc.). To get the full functionality of your devices, you may have to install the manufacturer's software.
  10. Install all of the programs you had installed on your previous version of Windows. This way when you transfer your documents and settings the file associations for your documents will be already set up.
  11. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or run Windows Easy Transfer built-in to your new version of Windows.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP

Migrate from your old computer to a new computer

This, by far, is the easiest way to go. Only problem might be if your existing programs are not compatible with the version of Windows on your new computer. If you find that a program won't run right out of the box, you may be able to run it in 'Compatibility Mode' for another version of Windows.

How to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1

  1. Download the Windows Upgrade Assistant to check to see if the hardware attached to your existing system meets the minimum hardware requirements.
    Windows Upgrade Assistant
  2. Check to see if your existing software will run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. Some software may not run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. Checking now may prevent some frustration later down the road.
    Windows Compatibility Center
  3. Do a complete backup of your existing computer to an external hard drive or network drive.
    Using Backup in Windows XP
  4. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or the latest version (Windows 7) of Windows Easy Transfer. Transfer all of the users' documents and settings to an external hard drive or network drive.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP
    Windows Easy Transfer
  5. Set up your new user account(s) with the same name(s) as your old user account(s).
  6. Attach your hardware (printers, scanners, etc.). To get the full functionality of your devices, you may have to install the manufacturer's software.
  7. In install all of the programs you had installed on your previous version of Windows. This way when you transfer your documents and settings, the file associations for your documents will be already set up.
  8. Download and install PCmover Express for Windows XP or run Windows Easy Transfer built-in to your new version of Windows.
    PCmover Express for Windows XP

Also, here's a series of articles I wrote a few years ago on my personal experience upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 1)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 2 - Drive Imaging)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 3 - Hardware / Software Inventory)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 4 - Windows 7 Installation)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 5 - Applications and Settings)
Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 (Part 6 - Epilogue)

Share your computer's Internet connection with Virtual Wifi Hotspot

Quite a few smartphones nowadays have the ability to share their Internet connections by creating a wifi hot spot. This can come in handy when you have only one Internet connection and multiple devices requiring it. But did you know can do the same thing with your Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer using Virtual Wifi Hotspot.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot (Virtual Router Plus 2.6) main screen
Virtual Wifi Hotspot (Virtual Router Plus 2.6) main screen

Using Virtual Wifi Hotspot, you can connect multiple wifi enabled devices to the Internet connection on one computer. It is extremely helpful if you have to pay for an Internet connection, like at an airport or hotel. For example, when I travel and stay in a hotel, I like to utilize the hotel's Internet connection (wired (preferred) or wifi). I can connect my Netbook to the Internet and then share that connection my wifi devices (smartphone, tablet). I've even thought about bringing a Roku with me next time I travel. Just start Virtual Wifi Hotspot, enter a network name, password, select the connection you want to share and click on Start Virtual Router Plus.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot is a Codeplex open source project and is built with the Virtual Router project. This explains the difference between the project name (Virtual Wifi Hotspot) and the application name (Virtual Router Plus). Here's a quote from the project's website:

Virtual Wifi Hotspot is a free, open source software based router for PCs running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Using Virtual Wifi Hotspot, users can wirelessly share any Internet connection (Wifi, LAN, Cable Modem, Dial-up, Cellular, etc.) with any Wifi device (Laptop, Smart Phone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android Phone, Zune, Netbook, wireless printer, etc.) These devices connect to Virtual Wifi Hotspot just like any other access point, and the connection is completely secured using WPA2 (the most secure wireless encryption.)

For more information on Virtual Wifi Hotspot, just follow the link below.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot for Windows 7 & 8

How to use layered security to protect your computer

It seems whenever I tell someone that I repair computers for a living, I almost always get asked the question "What do you recommend for anti-virus software?". I tell them that I use a layered approach to security, not relying on just one program for protection. I personally don't like to use all-in-one security suites. It's not that I don't trust any particular software; I just don't like having just one piece of software protecting my computer. Here's how to use layered security to protect your computer.

Protecting your computer with layered security
Protecting your computer with layered security

Software firewall

Windows has had a pretty good firewall built-in since Windows Vista and it's turned on by default. It comes pre-installed inside of Windows and is ready to go. There are also some great stand-alone programs like ZoneAlarm. This is also one of those additional features of all-in-one security software. It's your choice.

Anti-virus software

This one is a no brainer. There are plenty of free and retail anti-virus programs on the market, and I have used quite few different ones over the years. Some internet service providers like Cox Communications even offer free security suite software. The only thing to keep in mind when picking an anti-virus program is the performance of the system you're installing it on. I would not install a full-blown security suite like Norton or McAfee on a tablet or netbook.

Anti-malware / anti-spyware software

Anti-virus software normally looks for, you guessed it, viruses. I've cleaned out quite a few pieces of ransomware that anti-virus programs missed because it wasn't a virus. Quite a few of anti-malware programs are meant to be run side-by-side with anti-virus software. But there are a couple of exceptions to this rule: McAfee software doesn't like to work with Malwarebytes Anti-malware, but it can. And never install Microsoft Security Essentials along with SuperAnti-Spyware, as they are completely incompatible. It's a long story, but basically they are the same program.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)

EMET actuality works as a shim between programs and the operating system. It looks for known patterns of attack and can prevent programs from getting access to the operating system. It can prevent a hacker from using security holes in programs until the developer issues an update. Just configure EMET to monitor any program that can access the Internet. I've seen it work first hand (rouge flash inside of browser) and it does what it's meant to do.

Creating stunning documents, spreadsheets and slide-shows with OpenOffice 4

With the cost of Microsoft Office going up, not to mention the subscription / non-subscription thing, it's nice to know there are alternatives out there. One of the best office alternatives has to be OpenOffice. And it just so happens that the Apache Software Foundation recently released a new version of their free productivity software, OpenOffice 4.

The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4
The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4

For those who are not familiar with it, OpenOffice is a suite of office productivity programs that rivals Microsoft Office. It has everything you could need for creating great looking documents, spreadsheets and slide-show presentations. Here's a complete list of all of the programs included in OpenOffice 4.

ProgramEquivalent toProgram type
Writer Microsoft Word Word processor
Calc Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
Impress Microsoft PowerPoint Multi-media slide-show presentation
Draw Microsoft Paint Graphic design
Base Microsoft Access Database
Math Design Science Mathtype Formula creation

OpenOffice 4 has some major improvements over previous versions. There's a new Sidebar that contains the most commonly used functions for that program, which can be docked, floating or completely hidden. There is also greatly improved compatibly with Microsoft Office documents. The drawing, graphics and gallery functions have also been enhanced, along with the copy & paste and drag & drop functionality.

The new Sidebar inside of OpenOffice 4 shown docked and floating
The new Sidebar inside of OpenOffice 4 shown docked and floating

OpenOffice does use Java, but it's not required for installation, as it can be added in later on. Compatibility with other document formats is pretty impressive, but Star Office is no longer supported. OpenOffice can automatically load / convert and convert / save Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and Design Science Mathtype documents. The only file types that it cannot save to is the Microsoft Office 2007 - 2013 .???x formats.

And since OpenOffice is open-source, there are hundreds of third party extensions to expand on the functionality of the applications. Add in a copy of GIMP or Paint.NET and you have a complete, and free, desktop publishing package.

OpenOffice 4 is available for the Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. For more information on OpenOffice 4, just follow the links below:

Apache OpenOffice Open Source Project
OpenOffice 4 Release Notes
Download OpenOffice 4

Tighten your computer security with EMET 4

Seems like every day a new software exploit comes out. And of course your computer is vulnerable until a patch is released. Or maybe you have older software that doesn't have support any more. But you can still protect your computer from known exploits with the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 4.0 (EMET) from Microsoft.

The new user interface inside of EMET 4.0
The new user interface inside of EMET 4.0

EMET monitors programs for several known types of exploits using pseudo mitigation technology and is aimed at disrupting currently known hacking techniques. It is not meant to replace anti-virus software, but to work side-by-side with it. EMET adds on to the Data Execution Prevention (DEP) and Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP) protection that is already inside of Windows. If a program that EMET is monitoring tries to executes any these exploits, EMET can log it or terminate it.

Here's a list of the software mitigations that EMET currently monitors:

  • Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP)
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • Heapspray Allocations
  • Null Page Allocation
  • Mandatory Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering (EAF)
  • Bottom-up randomization
  • Return Oriented Programming (ROP) mitigations

So how does EMET work? EMET acts as a shim between the program being monitored and the operating system. The monitored program thinks it's talking directly to the operating system, but it's actually talking to it through EMET. EMET comes with predefined profiles for some of the more common programs like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat and Java. You can also add to the predefined profiles or create your own. I recommend that you monitor any program that can open files on or from the internet.

EMET also includes a Certificate Trust feature that checks the validity of websites, but it currently only works with certain versions of the Internet Explorer. EMET does have what Microsoft considers unsafe options to change, as they have been known to cause system instability. They are hidden by default, but can be invoked by changing a registry key. If you want to change it, the instructions can be found in the advanced options section of the EMET 4.0 User Guide.

When upgrading from EMET 3 to EMET 4, the configuration wizard prompts you keep your existing settings or start new
When upgrading from EMET 3.0 to 4.0 the configuration wizard prompts you keep your existing settings or start off new

If you have EMET 3.0 already installed, EMET 4.0 will automatically uninstall it and ask if you want to import the current settings or start off new (recommended). If you have any other version of EMET installed, you will have to manually uninstall it and remove its registry hives HKLM\Software\Microsoft\EMET and, if it exists, HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\EMET.

EMET 4.0 works on the following operating systems:

  • Windows XP service pack 3 and above
  • Windows Vista service pack 1 and above
  • Windows 7 all service packs
  • Windows 8
  • Windows Server 2003 service pack 1 and above
  • Windows Server 2008 all service packs
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 all service packs
  • Windows Server 2012

EMET 4 does require the .NET 4 Framework to be installed. Also, for EMET 4 to work properly on Windows 8 and Server 2013, Microsoft KB 2790907 must be installed.

For more information on EMET from Microsoft, just follow the links below.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit
Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 4.0 download page

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