NoteIn-place upgrade, upgrading Windows to a later version or a superior edition of the same version is the only method to upgrade Windows without losing the installed apps and programs. Certain rules apply to an in-place upgrade:
- The bit version must remain the same, a 32 bit Windows can only be in-place upgraded to another 32 bit Windows, a 64 bit only to 64 bit
- The language version must be exactly the same, Finnish Vista cannot be in-place upgraded to Swedish Windows 7, US English Windows Seven cannot be in-place upgraded to UK English Windows 8
- The Windows edition must remain the same or be superior, for example Windows Vista Home Premium can be in-place upgraded to Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate but not to Windows 7 Home Basic or Starter
If and when all three conditions apply, you can in-place upgrade and keep the installed software (subject to compatibility with new OS version).
As many other things about and around Windows the in-place upgrade divides us geeks; some are strictly against it preferring a clean install whenever upgrading Windows, some see no problems in in-place upgrade preferring not to reinstall all software after the upgrade. Personally I have never understood why in-place upgrade shouldn't be used, time after time I have both used it by myself and shown to other Windows users how easy and safe it is. I have even written some simple instructions for in-place upgrade at our sister site the Seven Forums.
The argument most often used by the opposing users is that by in-place upgrading you transfer all possible underlying OS issues to the new OS. However, these same users are often recommending a so called Repair Install to fix some Windows issues. The repair install is nothing but an in-place upgrade to same OS version and edition; opposing in-place upgrade while at the same time getting the newer (and better?) OS but advocating it when keeping the old problematic OS, this logics I have never been able to understand.
Anyway, each and every user is free to decide whether to do a clean install with a new version of Windows or if at least give in-place upgrade a try. My point with this post is not to advocate in-place upgrade but just to show it is a realistic and easy alternative.
I was interested to see how well the in-place upgrade would keep my apps working if done on the same machine from Windows XP via Vista, Seven and Eight to Windows 10 Technical Preview. To test this I selected some apps which I first installed in Windows XP: a browser (Maxthon), a media player (VLC), a PDF reader (Adobe), Windows Live 2011 and MS Office XP.
My choice for a third party browser was Maxthon because for the first it is my favorite browser after IE11, and for the second because it allows signing in with a Maxthon account which then automatically syncs settings, saved passwords, favorites and so on. I wanted to see if these were properly carried into next OS version.
I set up a POP3 email account in Outlook XP and an IMAP email account in Windows Live Mail, interested to see if these emails and their settings would be carried over.
All set up as I wanted, here's a screenshot of the start situation, XP set up and Vista in-place upgrade installation started:
Upgrade was surprisingly fast and after a reboot or two I was in Vista desktop:
All programs, native Windows apps and those I had installed, all working fine. Outlook and Windows Live had the accounts set up, Excel and Word still showed recent documents in File menu, Maxthon had all my settings carried over, passwords and favorites remembered, ready to go:
Windows 7 Ultimate had only one compatibility warning, the Vista Ultimate Extras are not compatible with Seven and would be disabled:
Other than that there was again no issues, I had successfully in-place upgraded Windows XP via Vista to Windows 7 Ultimate:
As I had started with a 32 bit Windows XP Professional, I had to stay in 32 bit. I had no Windows 8.1 Pro 32 bit ISO and no patience to download one so I gave up and used Windows 8 Pro for which I had an ISO file.
Launching the Windows 8 installer told me all apps, files and settings would be kept:
A problem free in-place upgrade and moments later I was in Windows 8 desktop. Again no issues with installed programs, everything was working as they did in Windows XP when I started:
Last step in my in-place adventure starts promising, Windows installer tells me everything is kept. No compatibility issues:
Arriving in Windows 10 desktop, everything working. Email accounts set up back in Windows XP in Windows live Mail and Office XP still working, Word XP and Excel XP showing my recent documents I had saved in XP, Maxthon browser automatically logging in to my favorite sites:
Although this was not even close to a real life situation, a "chain upgrade" in one sitting from XP via Vista, Seven and Eight to Windows 10, it at least shows that there's nothing preventing an XP user keeping all his / her installed compatible software, personal settings and files all the way from XP to 10. The direct in-place upgrade from XP to 10 is of course not supported but all the user has to do is to get Vista, Seven and Eight install media (DVD or ISO) and do it. The in-between operating systems (Vista, Seven and Eight in this example) do not even have to be activated and do not require a product code when the in-place upgrade is done within the 30 day grace period each of these operating systems have.
Clean install is of course the preferred way to upgrade but keep in your mind that an in-place upgrade is always an alternative.
TipFor virtual machine users:
I did the above test in a Hyper-V virtual machine, installing first Windows XP on it and in-place upgrading it to each next Windows version.
Before I started the first upgrade, XP to Vista, I created a checkpoint. I then created a new checkpoint after each upgrade: