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.
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.