Windows 7 "dumb" upgrade chart: Much ado about nothing

Wall Street columnist Walt Mossberg posted a chart detailing which versions of Windows XP and Vista must do clean installs to Windows 7, and which can do a simpler upgrade. There's been plenty of uproar over how confusing the chart is. The truth is, though, that it's really much ado about nothing.

When you do a clean install, you essentially wipe out all of your data and applications, so you first need to back them up somewhere, and then reinstall the applications and copy the data after the upgrade. An in-place upgrade lets you keep your data and applications in place.

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer notes that the chart is "a 66-cell matrix that details what XP and Vista users face when upgrading to Microsoft's next operating system." It's so confusing that at first glance you seem to need to be a math major at Cornell in order to understand it.

Blogger and Windows author Ed Bott correctly points out that concerns about the chart are overblown. He put together his own simplified chart to clear up the confusion.

There's really not that much confusion. If you use Windows XP, you need to do a clean install. If you want to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit or vice versa, you need to do a clean install. If you want to upgrade from any version of Windows Vista to Windows 7 Ultimate, you can do it as an in-place upgrade. Aside from that, there are a few minor variations.

More to the point, though, is this: A relatively few number of people actually do upgrades. Most versions of Windows 7 will be shipped with new PCs. People who work for enterprises will be upgraded by their IT staff. Most people with XP or Vista won't upgrade. And of those who do upgrade, it'll be quite obvious whether they can do a in-place upgrade or have to do a clean install.

Did Microsoft make a big PR blunder by putting that complex chart together? Certainly. But the upgrade path to Windows 7 is not nearly as complex as the chart makes it look.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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