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All my systems are happily running Windows XP. I'm finally - grudgingly - installing SP3 on all of them since Microsoft has stopped developing patches for SP2. But XP doesn't have much life left. Also, Windows 7 seems to have a lot of very cool features.

So here's the thing: using my main Windows XP PC as an example, if I upgrade it to Win7, am I going to run into difficulties running any of the software I currently use? Here's a partial list:

  • Games. Lots of games. New games, old games, graphically intense games.
  • XAMPP, Eclipse and other development tools.
  • VMWare, VirtualBox and other emulators.
  • WinIDS (Snort service, BASE, etc.)
  • Tons of Windows XP utilities that make life easier. Clipboard manager, screen capture tool, file sync software, system cleanup tools, hardware monitors, network monitors and so on.
  • Tools related to ripping, processing and burning media.
  • Security, antivirus and other antimalware tools.

If a lot of this software is going to stop working under Win7, that will be non-optimal. What kinds of success rates are techie users having with this transition? Any advice? I'm going to install Win7 in a VM, then possible on an external drive for testing, but is there anything I should watch out for in particular?

EDIT: Thank you all for the info. It's difficult to choose one answer to accept, but I'm working on it.

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I reverted the conversion of my original, unordered list to an ordered list, then realized that the change had been made to allow answers to refer to specific items in the list. I'm torn: there was no intended order in my list, yet it might help with clarity to go back to an ordered list. Comments? –  boot13 Aug 19 '10 at 14:47
    
As long as you haven't changed the order, responses that refer to a specific point number will still make sense. So, unless you intend to add to or shuffle the list I say use whichever you like. –  DMA57361 Aug 19 '10 at 16:55
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closed as too localized by random Jun 5 '11 at 18:26

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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted
  1. Games. No problems at all in my experience, provided a) the games aren't ancient, and b) you've got Win7 drivers for your force-feedback joystick or whatever cool things you use.
  2. No comment, I'm not a developer.
  3. Emulators: no problems at all.
  4. No comment.
  5. XP utilities: Oooh, this can be trouble. XP utilities may not work if they try to do things with the windows themselves (window blinds, Shove-it, tools that place themselves in the windows' title bar), or system tools - in both cases because Win7 is fundamentally different from XP. Clipboard, Screencap, file sync, network - these should work well (in general!).
  6. Media ripping: No problems at all. But make sure you've got enough RAM, because Win7 eats more than XP.
  7. Security tools: Trouble. Again, Win7 is pretty different. Also, "modern" tools can notify Win7 that they are installed and active, so that Win7 security center won't bug you that no anti-virus installed (when in fact you've installed an XP version). It would be wise to upgrade these tools to Win7-targeted versions anyway!

In general, you would be wise to seek out Win7-versions (or alternatives) of the tools you use - for the simple reason that you'll have [ more success / better performance / better security] with tools optimized for Win7.

Also, on networking: I had some bad experiences while running a mixed XP/Vista/7 home network; computers couldn't see each other (so much for Microsoft networking...). Once all machines were Win7, everything worked just fine (Homegroup doesn't work yet for me, but who cares).

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Actually, 1.a) is a bit wrong. Old 32 bit games run fine on windows 7 too! I never used 32bit windows 7, so I don't know if 16bit games will work fine on it. Even some early windows games that didn't work on XP and Vista do on 7. –  AndrejaKo Aug 19 '10 at 14:40
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+1 for the tip on mixed-version networks. I don't want to have to upgrade all my systems at the same time (Bleah). Clearly, research is required. –  boot13 Aug 19 '10 at 14:51
    
There are some 32-bit games that flake out on Win7 but that's usually a result of poor coding - most of them have registry workarounds or somesuch to get them to work though. –  Shinrai Aug 19 '10 at 14:51
    
@AndrejaKo: The implication is that I may actually have fewer problems getting old games to run on Windows 7 than I did on Windows XP. If that's the case, well... yay! –  boot13 Aug 19 '10 at 14:53
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I would add that on items 5 and 7, you may find you don't need some of those security and usability tools with 7's new features. Or there will be versions of it for 7. Also most things that worked in Vista should work in 7, and with Vista having been out for a while now, anything that doesn't have an explicit 7 version may have a Vista equivalent that would cover you. –  Tofystedeth Aug 19 '10 at 15:10
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This is very hard to give advise on as you have not mentioned the hardware of your machine.

Windows XP works well and it is still a good operating system, upgrading is a nice way to breath life in to an old machine, however, Windows XP was designed over 12 years ago and whilst service packs and updates have made it a very good operating system, technically, Windows Vista and 7 are superior when it comes specifically to security and stability.

But, if your machine is an old Celeron, has poor graphics or similar, I would not recommend installing as you would get a poor experience.

I can not think of reasons why the software you use on XP will not work on Windows 7 - You may have to look for updates if a few of the titles had compatibility issues, but you can almost be certain that any half descent (current) program would have released an update / compatibility tweak by now.

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I agree. Unless OP's hardware well exceeds Windows 7 min. requiremetns, start from scratch with a new machine and Windows 7. You won't be able to migrate your user account either, but you can copy your important data files. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 19 '10 at 13:48
    
Sorry, rookie blunder. I should have included my hardware specs: Intel Core2 6700 @2.66 GHz CPU; 2 GB RAM; GeForce 8800 GTX video; SB X-Fi audio; Asus P5-Q motherboard; Intel P45 chipset. –  boot13 Aug 19 '10 at 14:40
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That hardware (as I suppose is probably obvious to you) should run Win7 fine. More RAM would be nice, of course (I'm surprised you're doing all that gaming and development and virtual machines with only 2GB RAM!) –  Shinrai Aug 19 '10 at 14:50
    
Windows 7 will work well on your machine, as @Shinrai said (+1), you could do with a bit more memory, but that is a good specification! –  William Hilsum Aug 19 '10 at 15:12
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@boot13 - It will work fine on 2GB, but many of the services that run in the background can use nearly 1GB on a fresh installation - therefore I always suggest more. As for 32bit, is there any reason not to go 64 bit? You can always virtualise any programs that are not x86 compatible. –  William Hilsum Aug 19 '10 at 22:23
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You could check the Windows 7 Compatibility pages, I don't know how reliable they are but they come from Microsoft. They also provide an Upgrade Advisor if you wish to let them check your machine...

Since you mention you game a lot, remember that Win7 allows you to install DirectX 11 (you're stuck with 9 if you stay on WinXP). But if you run Win7 64bit you will find really old games will refuse to run (you can't run 16bit DOS games on 64bit, you'll have to use an emulator).

Also, if you switch to 64bit note that driver signing requirements can cause some issues, althought I've not had many problems in this respect.

Can't offer much more than that unless you can add some hardware specs to the question.

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+1 for mentioning Upgrade Advisor –  ThatGraemeGuy Aug 19 '10 at 14:14
    
Definitely use the upgrade advisor. It won't catch everything, but it will tell you about the availability of drivers for all your devices, and tell you about a lot of your programs. A word of warning though - if it claims there aren't drivers for a device, google around first and see if somebody's gotten it to work. They claimed my ancient scanner wouldn't work, but lo and behold, I found instructions on getting it to run with the vista drivers, and now it works fine. –  nhinkle Aug 19 '10 at 16:48
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I faced largely the same problem, and upgraded to Windows 7 Professional 64 bit late last year. I found that I had fewer problems than I expected, to be honest. Almost any game released 2002 and later should give you no problems. My biggest issue with old games these days is accounting for widescreen monitor resolutions, not running on Win7.

Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate include Windows XP Mode (a virtual, liscensed XP machine.) I do have a handful of older programs that don't work properly with Win7 64bit - Visual Studio 6.0 and my Cisco VPN client being the main ones. For me, WinXP Mode has handled almost anything that doesn't run natively on Win7, some games being the only exceptions (I'm assuming this has to do with the game wanting to draw directly to the screen, which probably doesn't work through the virtual box.)

As for the antivirus tools - I've left the Norton and McAfee stuff behind when I migrated to Win7, and just installed Microsoft's free Security Essentials, which seems to be doing a fine job. (I can't post a link to Essentials because I don't have enough rep)

Overall I like Windows 7 a lot, and I think you'll find that you'll be forced to leave behind a lot less stuff than you expected.. just make sure to get the Pro version, as Home doesn't support Windows Xp Mode. (I don't see the need for Ultimate unless you need international language support.)

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Replace Cisco VPN client with ShrewSoft's VPN client. I did the same. –  Sathya Aug 20 '10 at 2:18
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Here is my anecdotal experience. On all the points you listed, I did ok (exceptions below).

I upgraded my laptop from XP to Win7 (32bit). All the old tools work fine. I haven't had a single problem.

The only one I ran into is that Age of Empires II messes up colors. Every now and then, the grass is blue instead of green or some such thing. Not sure what the issue is.

I can't comment on the anti-virus tools as I completely ditched them.

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+1! I too have such problems in a couple of games (Baldur's Gate for example), mostly from the same period as AoE 2. Maybe they removed something from Direct X which was popular at the time? It wouldn't be first time MS did that. Anyway, I totally forgot about that problem when I said that games mostly work fine. –  AndrejaKo Aug 19 '10 at 23:14
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I swapped OS from 32bit-XP Home to 64bit-W7 ultimate in march. Here is my experience.

  1. I don't play OLD games, the oldest is from 2002 or so. But most games seems to preform better under win7 than XP. (could be the new HDD I installed at the same time)
  2. Devtools. No problem with XAMMP, exlipse, MySql, cygwin, strawberry perl
  3. VirtualBox works, WMware I have only used under Vistax64 (so it should work)
  4. Can offer no insight on this
  5. About 4 fifths of my small utilities seems to have made it to my new install.
  6. All my tools works as good or better under win7 (autogordian knot, handbrake dvd decryptor..)
  7. Works as good or better than on XP
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