Here are some more rambling musings with regard to migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7, including a simple (yet cunning) idea that could potentially make someone a lot of money…
But first, just to remind ourselves as to how we got where we are, you may recall that on a recent trip to England I dropped my computer, which meant that I had to purchase a new one, which meant that I was forced to upgrade from Windows XP (on my old machine) to Windows 7 (on my new machine).
Fortunately I LOVE Windows 7, so that part’s OK. But there were two downsides. First of all, I ended up having to purchase new versions of various pieces of application software like Office 2010 and Visio 2010 (I couldn’t remember where I’d stored the old disks). Secondly, I had to migrate all of my data files from my old computer to my new one. This involved copying them from the old machine to an external USB drive, and then copying them from the external drive to the new machine.
The process was further complicated by the fact that I’d made a series of backups over the years. And, since my older computers had limited disk space, as soon as I’d made each backup I cleaned some of the older files off my computer’s hard drive. (How quickly those old 60 GB and 80 GB drives filled up … and yet 15 years ago these would have been considered to be unimaginably enormous!)
This meant that I had a series of backups on my external drive, each containing different combinations of data (Oh Joy!). And one additional consideration is that, when writing stuff like technical papers I may end up with 20 or 20 different revisions of the paper plus multiple versions of the images before it’s finally signed off by the client.
As you can imagine, getting things sorted out took quite a bit of work. But all was not doom and despondency because – on the bright side – I got to create a brand-spanking new directory structure, and I only copied back the latest version of each file to my new computer, plus I discovered all sorts of useful files and images that I’d forgotten about over the years.
Following an earlier blog about my migration to Windows 7, I received a nice email from Mike Stelmach from Zinstall (www.zinstall.com). Mike mentioned that they had a couple of products in this area that might have proven useful to me. Funnily enough, one of the other guys in the office had also mentioned Zinstall … just after I’d finished copying all of my data files to my new machine (isn’t it always the way [grin]).
Let’s start with Zinstall XP7. I’m a little fluffy about the fine details, but my understanding is that it requires only a single click of the mouse to migrate all of your files from an existing Windows XP machine to a new Windows 7 machine. And when I say “all of you files” I mean everything, including your application programs, your various settings, the bookmarks in your web browser, along with all of your data files, emails, and so on and so forth.
Does this seem too god to be true? Well, it is and it isn’t depending on your point of view. What Zinstall actually does is to create a virtual machine (VM). This virtual machine – which is essentially a model of your Windows XP environment – may be thought of as a “super application” that runs on your Windows 7 computer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The following are just a few points that come to mind “off the top of my head” as it were. One advantage is that if you have grown extremely comfortable with your existing Windows XP environment – including all of your applications and settings – then Zinstall XP7 provides a push-button solution to move everything over to a newer, faster computer without having to learn a new environment. Another advantage is that if you’ve lost (let’s say “misplaced”) your old application software CDs, then you don’t need to worry because your applications will come over also.
On the other hand… one downside of this approach is that you will be working in a virtual XP environment, which means that you won’t have access to any of the super-cool Windows 7 capabilities like it’s incredibly useful Search function as discussed in my earlier blogs. Another point to consider is that – if you’re not careful – you are destined to remain trapped in the past. Everyone else on the planet will eventually migrate to Windows 7 and new versions of the application software, while you’ll be left working with Windows XP and your old versions of the application software.
Let’s take this a little further. Suppose that you do use Zinstall XP7 to create a virtual XP machine on a new Windows 7 computer. What happens in a few years’ time if you decide to purchase an even better computer running Windows 8 (or whatever)? Will you now use Zinstall 7-8 (or whatever it will be called) to create a virtual Windows 7 machine on your physical Windows 8 machine, where all your virtual Windows 7 machine is doing is running a Virtual Windows XP machine.
And what about Windows 9, 10, 11, and so forth? The mind boggles… this way lies madness!
Now this does seem to be rather clever. The idea (as I understand it) is that you use Zinstall ZPOD to create a virtual Windows 7 machine that you store on an external drive [like a solid-state drive (SSD), for example]. Now, you are essentially carrying around your entire computer environment on something the size of a smart phone. All you have to do is to connect this device (via USB) to any PC on the planet and you can start working in your own virtual environment. When you are finished, you unplug the device and walk away with all of your valuable data securely stored in your pocket (so long as you don’t lose the drive [grin]).
This really does seem to be rather interesting. For example, it would make travelling much easier (so long as you had access to someone else’s computer at your destination). I would be very interested to hear from someone who is actually using this technology in a real-world setting.
My cunning idea
And so, finally, we come to my own cunning idea. This really is rather low-tech compared to what we’ve been talking about, but I know that I would have found it to be useful…
Here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s assume that you have an old computer and a new machine, and that you want to migrate some (or all) of your data files from your old machine to your new one.
You know when you take a USB memory stick and plug it into your computer, it’s mounted as an external drive and you can see all of its contents and copy files back and forth from the memory stick to your computer? Well, I would like some way to connect my old computer to my new one in such a way that the old computer is simply seen as being a collection of external drives (that way I could access multiple disks and the CD/DVD drive on the old computer).
I’m actually thinking of a little box with two USB cables coming out of it. You plug one USB cable into your old computer and the other USB cable into your other computer. The reason for having the little black box at all is that any software you need could be stored on this box, from whence it could be downloaded and installed on the two computers (I remember being so impressed when I first saw this sort of thing on a Flip Video Camera). Alternatively, maybe all you need is an off-the-shelf USB-to-USB cable coupled with some software that you download from the web.
The thing is that if someone were to actually implement this, it could be a nice little money-earner. I know that I would have happily paid say $10, $20, or $30 for something like this.
Of course it may be that there’s already something like this out there, in which case I’d really like to hear about it. This is because I still have my old machine sitting on the desk next to me and I still occasionally need to copy files back and forth between the two machines…