How do I upgrade from Win98 to WinXP?

Question

I'm currently running Win 98SE and would desperately like to upgrade to XP. I've asked 2 different computer stores and have received 2 different answers, so I thought I'd ask you. Can I install XP over 98 and keep all the data in tact or will I lose everything with the install?

- Tyler

Answer

This question was answered on April 1, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Without knowing what is causing your ‘desperation’ to upgrade to Windows XP, there are many things to consider before you take the plunge.

The first is whether the hardware that you currently have is going to be properly supported by Windows XP The older your computer is, the more likely that you will experience some issues with the hardware.

These issue range from poor performance to flat out incompatibilities of everything from your video card to your printer to every program that you have installed.

I would strongly recommend that you do some homework on all of the vital hardware devices and software programs that you need to have working in Windows XP.

Start by downloading Microsoft’s ‘Upgrade Advisor’ at www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/compatibility (look towards the middle of the page for the link).

Next, make sure that all of your vital hardware devices (printers, scanners, etc.) has specific Windows XP support by going to each manufacturers web page and finding the support section for your device.

Next, you should visit the web site of all of your vital software programs to make sure that you won’t have to upgrade them as well In some cases, older software may not work properly (or at all) unless you upgrade them or make specific modifications to the program.

Based on what your learn, the decision to upgrade may end right here If you are upgrading because you are experiencing major problems in Windows 98, a clean re-installation of 98 may provide you with a better, less expensive, less risky solution to your problem.

If you determine that Windows XP is a good fit for your current hardware and software, then you have another big decision to make

What may seem like the easiest and most efficient route is to do what is called an ‘in-place upgrade’ which will convert your existing Windows 98 configuration with all of your existing program and data into a Windows XP system.

The dark side of this process, if things don’t quite work out, can be very ugly In many cases, your existing configuration is loaded with problems; some you know of, others you have no idea exist.

By installing over the top of these problems, often times you bring them forward into the new Windows XP installation All the Spyware, corruption, viruses, long startup times, low resource issues or whatever is plaguing your system now, will likely come forward.

Because each situation is unique, there is no real way to know what is going to happen until you do it on your machine It does not matter how many other people have successfully made the transition, because they don’t have your unique set of circumstances.

Any technical person that has gone through the nightmare more than once will recommend that you install a ‘clean’ version of Windows and then re-install all of your programs and your data backups.

This is a lot of work, but in many cases you end up going to this procedure after attempting to take the shortcut (in place upgrade) anyway.

If you have plenty of time and don’t mind dealing with the frustration of working through the issues and are OK with having to start from scratch if it doesn’t work out, then you can try it, but make sure to get a complete (verified!) backup of your critical data first.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on April 1, 2004