A. In the previous FAQ, I talked about a manual procedure to capture a Windows XP installation into a virtual machine (VM) and load it into Windows 7. A commercial product that offers an automated solution, Zinstall, is available. Zinstall also offers additional functionality that solves potential hardware conflicts that could be experienced when capturing the Windows XP image into a VM. It also allows you to seamlessly copy files between Windows XP and Windows 7. You can access files from one environment in the other, by right-clicking on the Zinstall tray icon. The VM also has supports USB-attached storage in a way that lets you access the same device in both environments simultaneously.

To use Zinstall, you have to install Windows 7 over the existing Windows XP installation. Note that you can't upgrade the Windows XP installation and that you don't want to install to a different partition from the Windows XP installation—you want to install Windows 7 onto the same partition as Windows XP. This will force the Windows XP information to be moved to a windows.old folder that Zinstall will use later.

Once you've installed Windows 7 on the same partition as Windows XP, install and run Zinstall. You'll be prompted to select the old and new computer. Note that we can use Zinstall to move the Windows XP installation from an old computer to a different Windows 7 computer, if desired.

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Once the computer is selected, the process will begin and the windows.old and other legacy information will be gathered and moved into a VMDK format virtual hard disk.

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Once the installation is complete, the focus can be switched from the Windows 7 to the Windows XP environment through the system tray icon or by pressing Scroll Lock and the B key. Note that when you switch, the entire desktop changes between Windows 7 and Windows XP. You don't see the Windows XP desktop as a window inside the Windows 7 desktop. You can view files between the OS instances through the Zinstall notification tray icon as shown.



In my testing with Zinstall, I found that it worked well and was a simple process, and it maintains the old Windows XP environment. Obviously, over time you'd want to migrate the applications and data into the main Windows 7 installation, but this let you deploy Windows 7 and allows users to jump back to their Windows XP installations at any time. This will aid productivity and facilitate a gradual migration to Windows 7.

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