A good way to get around the restrictive upgrade matrix for Windows 7 and ensure that incompatible programs can still be used. It's reasonably priced, too.
Works for any XP, Vista and Windows 7 version; fully-automated migration.
Could be confusing for those not used to virtualisation; slow upgrade process; not suitable for OEM XP licences.
In-place upgrade: 1GHz x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) CPU (hardware virtualisation required for upgrading 64-bit operating systems), 1GB RAM, free space - 25GB plus space occupied by Windows XP. Move to new PC: As above, but requires twice the amount of free disk space as used on existing XP installation.
Windows 7's XP Mode, which is simply Windows Virtual PC running a free copy of XP, is useful for running programs incompatible with Windows 7. But XP Mode is available only in the Ultimate and Professional versions, and there's also the nuisance of having to reinstall all the affected applications.
Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 attempts to solve this and other problems facing those wishing to upgrade existing XP (or Vista) installations either in-place or by moving to a new Windows 7 PC.
The result of a technology collaboration between Parallels and PC Mover developer Laplink, the software combines application migration with a virtualisation engine to produce a fully automated method of moving data and programs while simultaneously installing Windows 7.
For an in-place upgrade, it requires enough free space plus a Windows 7 DVD and licence. The installer is accompanied by an excellent on-screen talking-head video to guide users through the few simple steps, such as deleting temporary files and disabling anti-virus software.
Existing disk partitions are maintained, although multi-boot setups could be affected. All user settings are transferred to the Windows 7 installation and the virtual copy of XP.
Moving to a new PC with Windows 7 preinstalled can be done over the network, via an external hard disk, or using a Parallels' USB transfer cable (£5 extra). Again, the procedure is painless, although it can be very slow depending on the amount of data to move. A fairly bare XP installation with little user data took us well over three hours using a 100Mbit/s network. The transfer cable was noticeably faster.
A brute force approach is adopted when moving to a new PC, and any partitions and installed hard drives - apart from the Windows system drive - that contain data will be recreated as virtual drives in the Parallels Desktop, complete with all files. The idea is to ensure a 'no lost data' installation for novice users.