As Microsoft's Windows 7 is made available for pre-order, we look at the problems Windows XP users are likely to encounter when upgrading to Microsoft's latest OS, while also answering some of your burning questions.

There's no escaping Windows 7. Microsoft's latest operating system was this week made available for pre-order prior to its public launch on October 22.

But with many of us having given Vista a wide berth and stuck with the trustworthy Windows XP, will we find ourselves in for a tough ride when upgrading to Windows 7?

Gartner's Michael Silver seems to think so. Silver recently complained that the company's policy for continuing XP 'downgrades' was a "real mess". In response, Microsoft actually extended the availability of XP until April 2011.

We've looked at the process of upgrading from XP to Windows 7 to find out just exactly how hard it is and have put together a guide that we think answers your most burning questions.

Can I upgrade from Windows XP straight to Windows 7?

You betcha. And no, you don't have to make Vista a middleman.

There's always a catch. What's the catch this time?

Unlike people running Vista, you can't do an 'in-place' upgrade from XP to Windows 7 (even though that was offered as an upgrade choice to Vista, and Microsoft's bragged numerous times about how Windows 7 "is Vista, a lot better".

Presumably, Microsoft doesn't want to repeat the drama - and complaints - that XP users generated when they threw up their hands over in-place upgrades to Vista. It hinted as much in an April post to the Engineering Windows 7 blog.

"We realised at the start of this project that the 'upgrade' from XP would not be an experience we think would yield the best results. There are simply too many changes in how PCs have been configured (applets, hardware support, driver model, etc) that having all of that support carry forth to Windows 7 would not be nearly as high quality as a clean install," Microsoft said.

Whatever the reasons, you'll have to do what's called a 'clean' install of Windows 7, which means you'll need to restore backed up data, recreate settings throughout Windows and reinstall all applications. (Clean install isn't a choice on the Windows 7 install-type selection screen; you'll pick Custom from the two-option list.)

What are the system requirements for Windows 7?

They're very similar to those for Vista. According to Microsoft, here's what you need:

  • 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1GB RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Take those with a grain of salt. Vista runs slowly on a PC with just 1GB of memory; Windows 7 may do better, but you're still likely to be disappointed.

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NEXT PAGE: Can my machine handle Windows 7

  1. We answer your burning questions
  2. Can my machine handle Windows 7
  3. Will a lack of DVD drive affect my install?
  4. Running XP programs in Windows 7 Home Premium