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At work, there are some machines that might be upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7. They are all 32-bit systems, with 2 to 4 GB RAM (for now on I'll talk only about 32-bit machines and OSes).

I'm used to working with a computer that has 4GB RAM, running Windows XP Professional, and it only uses about 700 MB RAM, leaving plenty of memory to work with. I've heard that Windows 7 is based on XP and also that it is more efficient than Vista (which is not a difficult thing). I don't have much experience with Windows 7 so I don't really know how it will perform under the same hardware.

Leaving alone that XP will not have updates beyond 2014 (the machines are suppoused to be in a LAN with some protection), do you think it is a good idea to upgrade to Windows 7?

These are development machines - some of them have legacy development tools that are needed for old projects. Will Windows 7 be compatible with these, either directly or via compatibility mode?

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First of all I would suggest to check if your current hardware supports i.e. Virtual Box. That way you can keep using Win XP for the legacy software and keep your machines up to date with Win 7 on them. When considering to purchase Win 7 licences I would suggest Volume Lic with Software Assurance. –  Darius Dec 21 '11 at 17:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Windows 7 has been praised a lot for being fast and less resource-demanding even on old machines.

On my portable computers I have from 1.5 to 4Gb and I upgraded them to Win7 immediately after it was available -- I saw no perceptable difference to WinXP as regards the system interactivity, it was at least as fast as WinXP was previously on the same PCs and much faster than Vista I tried before on one PC.

Concerning the compatibility -- there is a nice tool from Microsoft that resolves about 90-9% of compatibility problems with legacy code: Microsoft Compatibility Toolkit. It contains a very good catalogue of common problems, like application requiring access to some folders that are not available, ActiveX components permissions, problems with UAC under Win7 for legacy application etc -- and you can fix many cases in semi-automated way without deep knowledge of system architecture and registry (don't forget to back-up your registry fist!).

Besides the normal "compatibility mode" which can be set for every application in the shortcut properties there is also a free WinXP virtual machine (for Win7 Ultimate users) which has a seeamless intergration into normal Windows environment. By "seamless" I mean that it is automatically started for the application that require WinXP compatibilty, Clipboard is shared between VM and your system etc.

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Considering the small amount of memory and the purpose, you will probably want to leave them as they are. Windows 7 will most likely run on the machines with little to no difficulty, but considering that you are jumping forward 2 whole generations of Windows, you may find that certain features of your legacy software may break. A general rule of thumb: if it isn't broken, don't fix it. I would recommend either buying brand new development machines that come with Windows 7 already installed and getting new software, but if that's too pricey you should probably just leave them as they are. The only real reason to upgrade to Windows 7 is for compatibility with newer software or closing up security vulnerabilities. If neither of these is an issue for you, then leave them as they are.

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What is going to happen when Windows 8 comes out? Then it will be 3 generation jump. But also by that time the price for new systems will go down even more... –  Darius Dec 21 '11 at 17:11
    
if an operating system operates, a virus can operate on it. My friend says I spent the whole day working on that comment :-) –  Psycogeek Dec 21 '11 at 23:08

In my experience, running Windows 7 on a 7 year old laptop designed with XP which did not have native win7 drivers, ran as fast and as well as XP did with 4GB memory and an early Core processor. 3D acceleration wasn't there as the Intel integrated crapics weren't up to the new win7 model and Intel would not release new drivers. But otherwise, in every other way, the system ran just as quickly with fewer tweaks (and I'm a stickler for optimizing and eking out the last bits of speed from a system).

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To make sure the hardware is compatible with Windows 7, please download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

To check if your older software is compatible with Windows 7, please use the Windows 7 compatibility Center, or download the Windows 7 compatibility list for IT Professionals

If your software is not listed on the compatibility website, it may still be possible to get it to work in Windows 7. The built-in compatibility modes, ACT (Application Compatibility Toolkit), and Windows XP Mode may allow the older software to run.

There is no 'Upgrade' from Windows XP to Windows 7. It will perform a clean install and you would need to re-install all software after the installation is complete.

IT Professionals who are considering upgrading to Windows 7 should visit the Springboard Series on TechNet where you can find many tools, articles, and videos to help you.

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