Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Can I upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 by upgrading to Windows Vista first?


It’s difficult to upgrade from XP to 7. However, it is a lot easier to
upgrade from XP to Vista and from Vista to 7. If I am running XP and have not
upgraded to Vista but have the Vista OS on CD which I never bothered to install
as I never like to install MS products until they have been out a while since
there are always a lot of bugs and then I heard that vista wasn’t all that good
anyway. Would it make sense to upgrade to Vista and then to 7 in two steps, one
right after the other?

While there’s no direct Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrade path, it’s quite
possible to do what you describe: upgrade first to Windows Vista, and then
upgrade that to Windows 7.

Whether it makes sense is a matter of opinion.

And in my opinion the answer is no.


When Microsoft released Windows 7 they did not include a direct upgrade path for people using Windows XP. What this means is that you could not purchase Windows 7 and simply upgrade your existing Windows XP installation. Instead, the approach required is to backup, reformat and install Windows 7 from scratch.

As it turns out that’s my recommended approach even if the upgrade path were available.

“Operating system upgrades are a pretty major event.”

More on that in a moment.

One approach that several people have identified as being a potential workaround for that limitation is to first upgrade Windows XP to Windows Vista, which is supported, and then upgrade the resulting Windows Vista to Windows 7, which is also supported.

That requires a copy of Windows Vista, of course, and the time and patience to sit through two operating system upgrades.

As it turns out many people actually have copies of Windows Vista that they either have elected not to use, or in some cases reverted from, preferring to go back to Windows XP at some point. Whether or not they have the time and patience, I can’t say.

The good news is that in theory, it should work.

The bad news is that I said “in theory”.

Operating system upgrades are a pretty major event. And, unfortunately, it can be somewhat fragile. If the machine is messy, or has malware or there’s something broken about the existing version of Windows the upgrade can fail or end up being incomplete. The result, if it works, can be a somewhat fragile installation of Windows that “just ain’t right”.

I’m not saying this will happen, I’m just saying that it can, and does. Many, if not most of the Windows installations I hear of that have weird problems are often installations that have been upgraded rather than cleanly installed.

It’s a risk.

And you’re taking that risk.


I wouldn’t.

An operating system upgrade is not just a convenient place to start cleanly with a fresh install, it’s also an opportunity to avoid some issues that can result from an upgrade install.

So to answer your question, no, in my opinion it doesn’t make sense. The risk is simply too high. You’ll spend a lot of time installing and perhaps dealing with resulting issues. In the long run that backup, reformat, clean install approach might actually take less time, and will almost certainly result in the cleanest most stable system possible.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

11 comments on “Can I upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7 by upgrading to Windows Vista first?”

  1. If you have some important installed programs with no installation disks, this might be an option. Otherwise clean installation is not only safer but probably faster.

  2. Backup your info and do a fresh install. The upgrade will do it. Or, you can install and put your info in windows old folder and pull it back from there later. I had vista home premium and was upgrading to Win. 7 Pro. You cannot upgrade from vista home premium to win. 7 Pro. The upgrade allowed me to do a fresh install. According to many tech sites, that is what everyone is doing. They are getting Win. 7 upgrades for the upgrade price and doing fresh installs regardless of their previous OS.

  3. did a clean install from XP-3 pro to windows 7,all my files went to (old files) in win. 7 took the ones that i wanted to keep and deleted the rest.
    up and running since Feb.I like it but i miss XP.

  4. I had WinXP on my computer and upgraded to Win 7 Ultimate with one tiny problem… if you could call it that. The only glitch I had was I did a clean install, and when asked to put it my product code, I received an error saying the code was good for upgrades only (not clean installs). I did purchase an upgrade copy of Win 7 Ultimate. Ironically on the box cover it does say “Designed for Windows Vista”. So what I did was reinstall Windows 7 again, put in the product code, and I had no problems with the product code or with activation. I removed the check next to activate automatically until I knew all my programs would work. Sounds crazy, but if you are upgrading from WinXP to Win7, just install it twice. That worked for me.

  5. I used Laplink’s PCMover to upgrade a computer from XP to Win7, and it seemed to work really well. This solutions utilized a computer with a clean Win7 install so practically speaking, it wasn’t truly an upgrade. It cost $30, but saved a lot of effort since it moved most apps. Versions of PCMover are available which allow moving data and apps when going from XP to Win 7 on different computers but I have not used them. They are more expensive than the version for updating a single computer. Depending on how you value your time, moving the apps using PCMover may be cheaper than reinstalling each app. A number of times, I have moved data and setup information from an older XP computer to a new Win7 computer using Windows Easy Transfer which is free from Microsoft. It does not move the applications, but it is pretty satisfactory and saves you the money. You can do the same thing when going from XP to Win7 on the same computer. Before I do any of these processes, I do go to a lot of trouble to insure that there is no malware on the old opsystem before I do anything else. I guess that there is some risk that PCMover could bring malware with it, but I have not seen that happen. PCMover lets you select the apps you want to move, so it does not seem likely that malware would be moved unless it was integral to an installed app.

  6. You do have one other option here, setup a dual boot between XP & Windows 7. Make the XP partition as small as you can, Windows 7 has a built in partitioning tool. As soon as you’ve installed & updated 7, use the tool to “shrink” XP as much as it will allow. By doing this, you can get used to your Windows 7 environment, while still having XP, if you need it. And by the way, a surprisingly large number of users need to install XP in a virtual machine (VM), so it makes since to keep XP in some cases, on the smallest partition possible. And for those who finally decides to dump XP, this same tool allows you to delete the XP partition entirely. Then you can use a tool, such as GParted, set your free space to “0” before Windows 7, and your Windows 7 partition will expand, slowly, but surely. Then you will have a 100% Windows 7 computer.

    XP to Vista or W7 isn’t the only route
    You could try a free install of Ubuntu along side XP (dual-boot), run that setup for a while and then decide if you want/need Windows7
    I did this and XP is there if I need it (I haven’t)
    You mileage may vary but its a free of charge and no harder than installing W7
    I am not promising it will be simple (though it often is) but just offering options.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.