Parents Migrating From XP to Vista – Need Both For a While

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My parents are getting a new (actually, secondhand) PC, with a freshly installed copy of Windows Vista Business, with 500GB.

They currently have a Windows XP PC – I think that Windows XP is OEM. I think that the hard drive is 160GB, of which they use less than 60GB.

As they only have one monitor/keyboard/mouse, and I have limited time to migrate them, I’d like for them to be able to access their Windows XP installation from the new PC for a period of time, as well as the new Windows Vista installation.

What are the options for achieving this? For example:

  • Cloning to a partition on the new PC?
  • Using a VM?


One possible solution to your situation/question would be to use a KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch, which would allow use of both PCs with just the existing peripherals. This solution has nothing to do with your title (“moving Windows”), but you will be limited to what you can do with a Windows OEM license: you cannot legally move the OEM copy to another PC, nor use use it as a guest OS (because the guest OS sees the virtual hardware and not the host HW). Granted, using a KVM switch takes a bit of getting used to, and you’ll have to connect the PCs (ad-hoc network over Ethernet perhaps?). But the big advantage is that you essentially keep both operating PCs intact.

Cloning would require messing around with a boot loader in addition to significant driver reconfiguration.

Using a VM would mean no boot loader issues and probably fewer driver issues but possibly a more complex or less automatically comprehensible setup for your parents.

I think the latter option is probably easiest for you, but the former may be easiest for them.

Depending on the form factor, you might just be able to install the hard drive from the XP system as a second drive on the new Vista system, and then create a few desktop shortcuts so they can find their old files easily.

In the past, I did this by putting the new drive into the old computer as a secondary, formatting the new drive with the /s switch (to make it bootable), and then manually copying everything from one drive to the other (ignore hiberfile and pagefile), and you might need to copy 1 or two windows files (if they are locked) from a command prompt. Then you put the new drive back into the new computer.

IF and when XP boots up on the new drive, it will find all the hardware has changed and you then let it install new drivers. You should have the drivers on CD/DVD or the HD BEFORE this process starts, because you may not have network access or even USB support. Then you are done.

If you get a blue screen stop error on reboot with the new drive in the new computer (from the windows install using the old computer’s drivers for IDE/SATA chipset usually), then you boot from a WinXP install disc, picking the SECOND “R” option: you want to install on the existing partition, into the existing windows directory. Once the process is done, you should have a functioning install with the same user profile(s) and all programs and shortcuts should be there and it “just works.”

I personally recommend migrating the user data to the Vista install instead of doing this process, but I have done this the way I describe above a number of times without losses. If it all goes bad, you will still have the old disk as a complete backup of the data.

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