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Windows 8 Tip: Upgrade from Windows XP

In this tip, I examine upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8: Which upgrade types are supported, and what can you bring forward from this version of Windows to Windows 8?

You may recall from previous articles, or from Windows 8 Secrets, that Microsoft has changed the way they describe the processes by which we move from the one version of Windows to the next. In the past, we used the following terms to describe the different ways in which you could install Windows:

Clean install, where you install—or reinstall—Windows from scratch.

In-place upgrade, where you upgrade to a newer version of Windows from within the older version, retaining most of your settings and applications, and all of your documents and other data files.

Migration, by which Setup backs up your settings and/or data first, then clean installs Windows, and then reapplies your settings and/or data to the new OS.

In Windows 8, these types of installs can all still occur, though they’re not all available in all circumstances. More important, Microsoft has significantly changed how it surfaces these choices in the Setup user experience.

That is, if you run Windows 8 Setup from within a previously supported version of Windows—Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3), Windows Vista, Windows 7, or the Windows 8 Release Preview—the choices you get will vary from OS version to OS version. These choices appear at a stage of Setup called Choose What To Keep, which occurs right after you agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA).

While there are four possible choices, depending on the OS from which you’re starting, you will only see two of them if you run Windows 8 (RTM) Setup from Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (and yes, SP3 is required). Those choices are:

Personal files only. Here, any documents and other files that are stored in the Users folder (C:\Documents and Settings by default) will be carried forward to the new install. So you will lose installed desktop applications (which you’ll need to manually reinstall), and any OS, app, and application settings. This type of install is considered a partial migration, since Windows settings are not carried forward.

Nothing. Here, nothing is saved, and Setup will perform a clean install.


Put simply, Microsoft supports migrating from Windows XP with SP3 to Windows 8, but not an in-place upgrade, which would have included installed applications and their settings.

As with Windows Vista, the number of users who will upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8 is almost certainly fairly small, and most people who were interested in upgrading off of XP would have previously upgraded to Windows 7. Furthermore, anyone who has held out with the decade-old XP is unlikely to be particularly interested in Windows 8, especially on existing PC hardware. Still, it’s important to know what your options are.

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