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Upgrading to Windows XP Professional


By Jason Zandri

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Before we get started with a direct upgrade to Windows XP Professional we need to know which operating systems support a direct upgrade.

Windows XP Supported Upgrade Paths

The following direct upgrade paths are supported by Microsoft and are considered viable for both the Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Home operating systems.

Microsoft Windows 98

Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition

Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition
  • Windows XP Home Edition Retail (Full) Version
  • Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade Version
  • Windows XP Professional Retail (Full) Version
  • Windows XP Professional Upgrade Version
Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Workstation
  • Windows XP Professional Retail (Full) Version
  • Windows XP Professional Upgrade Version
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • Windows XP Professional Retail (Full) Version
  • Windows XP Professional Upgrade Version
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Windows XP Professional Retail (Full) Version
  • Windows XP Professional Upgrade Version
All Versions of Windows NT 4.0 require Service Pack 5 to be installed prior to upgrading to Windows XP.

Currently, there are no supported direct upgrade paths for the following Microsoft operating systems:

Microsoft Windows 3.x

Microsoft Windows NT 3.51 Workstation

Microsoft Windows NT 3.51 Server

Microsoft Windows NT 3.51 Server with Citrix

Microsoft Windows 95

Microsoft BackOffice Small Business Server

Having this information available or knowing where to look it up is important before you get started.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] - I often get the question, "how do you know all of this stuff", when I am working with desktop or system admins. The truth is, I often do not know the information off the top of my head. Sometimes I do, and it is often due to the fact that many people throughout the course of the year come to ask me different questions and because many of them are repetitive I often have immediate recall of them. Many times, (more often than not) I don't remember the answer, but I have a vague idea of where I looked it up when I was asked it before and I head right "battle" is knowing where to look up the information when you need it. If you can do that, you're ahead of the game and ahead of most other people you might work with.

Once you are certain that the operating system you're currently using can be directly upgraded to Windows XP Professional, you then need to be sure that the installed system hardware meets the minimum Windows XP Professional hardware requirements by verifying all of the hardware is on theHardware Compatibility List (HCL) at the Microsoft website.

Windows XP Professional supports only the devices listed in the HCL. If your hardware isn't listed, contact the hardware manufacturer and request a Windows XP Professional driver.

Support means that while the operating system may load and run on unsupported hardware and software, any issues that come up with the system will not be covered (i.e. supported) by Microsoft Technical Support if you should need to engage them.

You can test the computer for compatibility by using the Windows XP Professional Compatibility tool. During a system upgrade you will see the option for this on the introductory screen. (You also run the tool from the command line by typing <CDROM DRIVE>:\i386\winnt32 /checkupgradeonly. You can perform just the check and then exit the tool without installing the operating system, if you wish.)

If you have AUTORUN enabled on your system the Welcome to Microsoft Windows XP setup screen will appear.



The Windows XP Professional Compatibility tool can be run by selecting Check system compatibility and then Check my system automatically.





If any issues are found they will be reported in the Microsoft Windows Upgrade Advisor Compatibility window.

During an OS upgrade on a system with pre-installed software, you can use upgrade packs to make the existing software compatible with Windows XP Professional. Upgrade packs are usually available from the appropriate software manufacturers. You can also get updated setup files from Microsoft during the upgrade installation if you are connected to the internet.



As time passes from the point of original software distribution, (many vendors often call the first official release of a software platform as a GOLD distribution) many files may be updated before a Second edition of the software (such as Windows 98 Second Edition) or a service release (Office XP Professional SR1.) is distributed. Dynamic update allows you to do this as you start your installation. You can also elect to not perform it during the installation, in order to do so at a later time.

The next point of the Upgrade installation is the setup type. Even though you are within an existing operating system, you are not forced to upgrade to the new operating system. You can choose the option to perform a clean installation at this point. (The default recommended option is Upgrade, as shown above.)



The next page is the License Agreement, where you will need to click I Accept This Agreement, in order to continue.

Next, you will need to enter your 25-character product key on the product Key page.

The next phase from here will vary slightly depending on whether you are upgrading from a Windows 9x system, where you will be asked whether you want to upgrade to the NTFS file system from your FAT or FAT32 partition, or if you are upgrading from Windows NT4 and already using NTFS, you will be displayed with the Upgrading To The Windows XP Professional NTFS File System page.

After you choose how you wish to handle the file system upgrade, setup will continue, reboot the computer and finish the upgrade of your system on its own.

Jason Zandri

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