Migrating from XP to Vista... the hard way.
March 4, 2011 1:40 AM   Subscribe

My XP desktop's motherboard spitzensparken. Kaput. Can anyone share advice on how best to migrate the contents of a crufty, crowded XP boot drive, to a new Vista system build, ideally booting on a new solid state drive? (Hardware recommendations on a new system are also welcome!)

I'm looking for a new PC with a speedy, multitasking CPU/motherboard, and a powerful graphics card capable of runninng the latest games / driving at least two monitors. Despite these desires, my PC runs nearly 24/7, so I'd like to find the "sweet spot" between capabilities, power consumption, and price. While most of my storage is on external USB drives, reinstalling the boot drive apps on a new drive would suck. What's the best way to get the benefits of a fresh OS install, while still being able to run the old drive's apps? I've installed drives before, but haven't built a whole system in years. Do these req's sound like good justification for hiring someone to build a custom system, or is there a more affordable solution?
posted by markkraft to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think you have much chance of running apps installed on the XP system disk on Vista(why Vista not Windows 7? W7 is faster) without re-installation. Good opportunity for a fresh build. 'Terracopy' the data.
posted by gallagho at 2:53 AM on March 4, 2011

While there are a few ways to transfer applications from one Windows installation to another, I'd always go for a fresh install. It's a perfect opportunity to get rid of all the cruft you've installed but never used. Just make a list of the apps you use regularly and leave the others for installation later on. If you want to save a little time, download all your apps to a USB stick beforehand, so that they're all in one place and ready to install.

You'll most likely be wanting a new hard disk as well as the SSD, so why not create a partition on the new drive and copy the old drive's contents over to that? Then you can pick off any documents etc. from there whilst keeping the old disk as a backup. If you've got apps that are configured just the way you like them, googling for information will often turn up guides to transferring the settings.

And seconding Windows 7. If you're spending money on a new PC, why cripple it with an out-of-date, unreliable OS?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:27 AM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: Unfortunately, I don't think you can achieve what you're aiming for (running old boot drive apps on an entirely new system). You could try to boot off this old drive amid completely new hardware, but in my experience that always leads to driver/stability problems... big hardware changes like CPU/motherboard/RAM always screws things up where something like swapping a video card wouldn't. Complicating matters is that you want a new OS (I agree with gallagho, Windows 7 is far more usable and stable than Vista; besides which I don't think you can buy Vista anymore), many XP programs will run under Vista or W7, but pretty much only if they're installed in those OSes. Both Vista and W7 can run "XP Mode" which is a fully emulated WinXP environment, but that's really for programs that just will not run in the newer OSes (and those programs mostly have newer versions written for Vista/W7 if the developer is supporting them at all). I suppose if you wanted to get nuts, you can try booting your old drive in a new system and then upgrade to Vista/Win7, but man, it might just be less effort to write down which programs you'll need and just install 'em fresh, spick and span.

Now, if you had data/settings you wanted to port over, what I would do is to either connect your existing hard drive as internal or external storage and copy files/folders over as necessary using just the standard file browser or Teracopy or really any file transfer program of your choice. If it is a newer drive with a serial ATA (SATA) connection, this is compatible with current generation motherboards and would be easy to hook up. If you're not comfortable with rooting around the insides of computers or building from components, you can also pick up an external "dock" that will just let you plug in a drive to a free USB/external SATA (eSATA) port. They are usually 20-40 bucks.

If you have a parallel ATA hard drive (PATA, IDE, or sometimes just ATA), you might have some issues with some motherboards that have dropped the PATA standard, but you can always connect them externally, too.

As for hardware, you have a ton of choices. You'd be hard pressed to find a video card that doesn't drive two DVI outputs, and as processor architecture gets smaller and smaller, they consume less power. Processor is less of a concern based on your requirements, pretty much anything this generation (Intel i5/7, AMD Phenom II Xwhatevers) would be fine. Video cards have a little more variety - thanks to the rise of consoles, most games run quite well at the mid-level (150-200 dollar range). Things like ATI's 6800 series and nVidia's 400/500 series should chew up whatever you throw at it. And if you really want solid-state, OCZ Vertex 3 is supposed to kick all kinds of ass on read/write speeds, but I wouldn't know since I'm still on my 10k platter-based Raptors.

Vendor's prices for full, built systems have come down a lot - I actually tell most of my relatives to just buy complete rigs rather than custom build these days. Of course, you still get more bang for the buck buying your own components. If you feel you need to hire someone to build a custom rig, I'd just go with what's available with full systems. But you say you've built a system before, and I'm finding it's only getting easier to assemble components as time goes by.
posted by Tikirific at 3:30 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For parts, check out this reddit post, and this image, both of which are geared to building an entire computer but should be useful. Actually the whole 'buildapc' subreddit is pretty sweet.

regarding "XP Mode", note that it is only available in the pricier versions of Windows 7 (Pro/Ultimate).

I would definitely do a fresh install of the OS and programs. If you install your programs first thing, it shouldn't be too bad.

And definitely skip to Windows 7. It's my opinion that Vista was actually just a wide-distribution beta version of 7.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 4:56 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The XP mode thing is a misnomer. You can use the FREE VM Ware Player on ANY version of Win7 and use either the WindowsXP mode download OR any xp iso, and it works just as well or faster than "XP mode" in 7 pro. If you need help with that, let me know.

Also, you said Vista. Don't say that, it's a dirty word. Anything you do now should be using 7.

And no, you won't be running those apps on the new system. Well, I guess theoretically you could drop the drive in a nearly identical system, but that wouldn't be any kind of an upgrade.

I'd recommend any of the Black Edition Quad or Sexta-core AMD processors. I'm using a 3.2Ghz Quad-Core AMD Black, and it screams. I run an nvidia 5750 card, nowhere near top of the line, but I can play any recent game at a good framerate and definitely run two monitors.

As for power consumption, look for BRONZE or SILVER or GOLD certified PSU's, which basically step themselves down when the system isn't demanding that much power. Any new video card + quad core + ram is going to want at least a 400W PSU, probably a 500 if you're going to run multiple drives.
posted by TomMelee at 5:08 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

The fastest easiest way: build a new machine from scratch or buy one. Install your apps/games on the new machine. Then copy your data onto the new drive from the old.

Yes, that's a huge pain. But I have never seen an old HD thrown into a new machine work. The old motherboard drivers on the HD and Microsoft DRM will cause you endless headaches.

If you plan on upgrading the OS, you pretty much don't have a choice. Windows 7 shouldn't have too many issues with legacy applications, though.
posted by Xoebe at 9:37 AM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: Consider using Windows Easy Transfer if you can get the old XP drive to boot. Once you're up and running in the new Vista system (tho Windows 7 would be recommended) you should be able to take your captured backup and apply it. It won't be a flawless procedure, but it'll take a lot of the leg work and guessing out of the upgrade process.
posted by samsara at 1:15 PM on March 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help / advice, everyone. Yeah... I would've upgraded to Win 7 and not Vista,once I checked out what's out there... but to tell you the truth, I have paid very, very little attention to M$ over the past few years. The idea of paying for the opportunity to play a game of OS Russian Roulette just doesn't appeal to me.

Basically, whatever's the latest, yet relatively solid is typically my choice. My system is already screwed, so what better time to upgrade a Microsoft operating system?! It's one of the few situations with them where there's nothing to lose.
posted by markkraft at 5:20 AM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, here's an extra credit question...

Obviously, the graphics cards lately are eating up the most power.

Are there any cards out there right now that are both very quick, while still having relatively low power requirements... or perhaps any particularly good, power-saving, integrated graphics recommendations to look out for?
posted by markkraft at 5:32 AM on March 5, 2011

These are not links to piracy.

The MS Windows 7 ISO's are placed online by Microsoft and Amazon for trial and paid use by anyone in the world.

Download trials last 30 days, but MS allows you to extend them by an additional 90. There is a bug in this process, but this guide shows how to get your full 120 days.
You can "Extend" your trial indefinitely....but that's bad, m'kay?

On to your second question: In my experience, the current integrated solutions that are worthwhile aren't for gamers, they're for people building media center computers who want to throw video at 1080p all day from a low power system. Really, we could give you better ideas if you gave us at least a price range if not also a chip manufacturer, ATi or nVidia.

(I was an ATI guy FOREVER, and then a couple years ago ATI put out some cards and some drivers that kind of destroyed a lot of computers...mine among them, and now I've been nVidia ever since. These problems are gone now, but it's kind of a "burn me once" thing for me.)

Really, 2Hd's (one's gonna be SATA now), your card, a dvd drive, maybe 4-8Gb of RAM, and your chip...400-500W should be a fine psu. Totally fine if you go with a non-Chinabrand psu. We've been installing this one a lot recently, currently under $40 for a very, very nice psu,however it does not step-down power when not in use.
posted by TomMelee at 5:49 AM on March 5, 2011

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