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!

How do I move installed applications from Windows XP to Windows 7 when I don't have installation media?


At present I am using XP which I have backed up fully with Acronis. If I
upgrade to Windows 7 or buy a new PC with Windows 7 will I be able to reinstall
programs such as Office 2007 and Adobe PhotoShop CS3 from the Acronis back up
as I no longer have the original discs.


A backup is not a replacement for installation media.

And given the approach that Microsoft is taking to the Windows XP to Windows
7 migration path, that may put you in a difficult position.


If you’re purchasing a new machine there’s no simple solution to this problem. The fact is that you need to install the applications on the new system, and to do that you need the installation disks. The backup that you’ve taken is a backup of already installed applications, which cannot be used to install them elsewhere.

“… there’s no simple solution to this problem.”

About the only hope I have for you is that there are tools, such as LapLink’s PC-Mover which I’ll discuss below, that claim to be able to move an installed application from one machine to another.

The upgrade path is equally difficult, though there are a couple of ugly additional options.

  • Don’t upgrade. If you rely on an application that you’re not going to be able to install in Windows 7, then moving to Windows 7 may simply not be an option.

  • Purchase another copy of the application, and this time retain the original installation media.

  • Upgrade XP to Vista first. This is a real hack and I really don’t recommend it since each upgrade step seems to add some system instability, but theoretically this works. Upgrade your XP system to Windows Vista, and then upgrade that Windows Vista system to Windows 7. Both of these have supported “upgrade” scenarios that would presumably leave your applications installed.

  • Use a tool such as LapLink’s PC Mover Upgrade Assistant. This software (which I have NOT evaluated) is advertised as allowing a direct XP to Windows 7 migration while preserving all your applications and settings. Note that this commercial software is currently priced at $30 per upgrade.

The long and short of it is that without installation media, any upgrade or any new machine purchase can be a problem. While there are potential approaches you might need to take sheerly out of necessity, the lesson here is that installation media and product keys are important, and should be kept in a safe place for as long as you might need the software.

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!

14 comments on “How do I move installed applications from Windows XP to Windows 7 when I don't have installation media?”

  1. If you do have the installation disks the migwiz (migration wizard) which is found under support on the installation disk does a reasonable backup and helps you get your old settings back for most of your installed programs after you re-install. I used it when I installed the RC version and yesterday when I installed the retail version.

    And if you did pay for a version of software that you no longer have and still have the license key available you can always borrow a set of installation disks and install them with your key. This may be illegal according to the software companies, but it’s certainly not immoral if you really did pay. According to Microsoft it’s even illegal to copy your downloaded win7 iso to more than 1 back-up disk or burn a copy and retain the iso on a disk.

  2. According to Microsoft it’s even illegal to do XYZ …

    You meant to say, it violates the terms of their license agreement to do XYZ …

    Illegal implies against the law.

    Two different things.

    Use of the term “illegal” conveys a deeper attribute that is not necessarily correct.

  3. Could you take out the hard disc from the old computer and install it as a second hard drive in the new computer thereby retaining all your programs? Is it possible to delete the old operating system?

  4. In Windows 7 my Brother MFC 240C printer could not be reinstalled from the original installation disk because it didn’t have the required drivers for newer than XP. I had to do it on the net and even now it still gives me an error every time I switch on my computer. It works despite the error message.

  5. There used to be a program called Norton Uninstall which could, in addition to uninstalling a program also do a “move”. Pressumably, it created a file which, when executed in another computer, it would install that program. I imagine the output file contained not only the programs modules but also exported registry keys. That is, of course, a very tall order to fill and the process worked only some times. I wonder if there is a similar program out there better written.
    With respect to the comment above on the use of the word “illegal”, there are certain things that are clearly illegal, such as duplicating your friend’s CD to install the same COMMERCIALLY SOLD program in your machine. Copyright law covers that. Other shades of illegality are more debatable. For example, the 15 million clauses in the “agreement” to which you agree when you go to install software. Perhaps one person in a billion reads those agreements and there may very well be junk in there that would not stand in court. (For example, the color of underwear you must have on while installing the software.) Then, again, there is the very important distinction between criminal and civil illegalities. These are civil matters and therefore NOT prosecuted by the state. The “injured” parties must start the action, something very unlikely to happen in 99.99999% of the cases.

  6. You may consider to use WET (windows easy transfer) and PickMeApp: two free solutions to migrate from XP to Windows 7. WET may transfer your XP settings to Win 7 while portable PickMeApp tool may transfer programs from XP to Windows 7. PickMeApp claims to support unlimited number of programs.

  7. It would have been valuable to see a mention of connectivity requirements. Need I network them together or can I use a USB cable or a USB (flash) drive?

    That depends entirely on what solution you choose. With a new or reinstall, a simple external drive of some sort would do to transfer your data. For something more complex networking can be helpful but not always required. Third party solutions often have their own unique solutions and requirements.


  8. My XP laptop is dying so I bought a new Desktop with WIN7 already installed. Now I find that most of the software that I have bought on CD/DVD will not work on Win7 – including OFFICE, of course, so I have to buy everything again. Basically, WIN7 is a monumental con, and I should have insisted on XP.
    You buy a new house? You HAVE to buy all new furniture???

    It depends on the version of office you are using, but all versions of office but I tried, that includes office 2003, 2007 and 2010 will work and work well under Windows 7. In fact, I dare say, most all of the software that I’ve tried works well. That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions, there definitely are, but the vast majority of software that I’ve encountered simply works.


  9. Oh, and I did use WET…. but my HAT it takes FOREVER !
    I have a USB cable with crossover, and an Ethernet cable ditto, but neither seemed to work. How do they work? How do I GET them to work?

    The USB cable requires special software. Typically the that kind of USB cable is provided with that special software. I’m not sure where the USB crossover cable came from. It may be possible to do this using a crossover ethernet connection but it tends to be quite complex and error-prone. My strong recommendation is that you simply get yourself a router, connect both machines to that router and use standard Windows file sharing to copy files from one machine to the other.


  10. Thank you, Leo, for your response.

    My other challenge is that my old MS-DOS programs that I have been using without (too many) problems since the 1980s won’t run under WIN7.

    “In the old days”, there was a MS-DOS command that allowed you to specify what version of MS-DOS the program was to run under – seem to recall it was C:/version or similar. But not anymore…

    Any suggestions – please ?

    You should look into Windows XP mode for this: What is Windows 7’s “Windows XP Mode”?

  11. I have a Sony VAIO desktop with XP media installed and have, what I now know was a mistake, purchased programs that gave me a choice of disks or download and I accepted to download the program which was installed as it came in.

    I have bought a new Sony VAIO L desktop with windows 7. I have many disks for programs I bought but have non for the purchased programs where I selected the download, simply for the convenience of immediate use.

    What now for those programs?


    See if the original purchase locations will let you download again. Some will. In the future save the file you download when you purchase it. That’s the installer you can use on subsequent systems.

  12. Thank you, Leo, another question popped up.

    When I copy my C: drive in it’s entirety from my XP machine to the new WIN7 machine, it will have a lot of data but also a mess of programs on it.
    Before I use my program disks to install on the WIN7 machine, do I need to uninstall the programs I copied over or how does it work?


  13. @Ott
    There is no reason to copy the entire XP system to the new machine. The steps would be to back up your XP system and copy the data from the backup to your new machine. Then hang on to the backup until you are sure you don’t need any of the files.


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.