Product Reviews

Zero Hassle with Zinstall: Migrating From XP to Windows 7

With Zinstall, you don't have to leave your old desktop behind when moving from Windows XP to Windows 7.

So many people have decided to skip Windows Vista altogether that trying to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 is becoming a common occurrence -- and the equivalent of a virtual natural disaster.

There are several patchwork programs that attempt to migrate your files and folders to the new operating system. These programs can be helpful, though you generally need to specify which files and folders will make the move.

Zinstall is a horse of a different color. Instead of moving programs and files from the old OS to the new one, Zinstall moves the entire desktop. What you end up with is basically a dual-boot machine, but one on which you can switch back and forth on the fly.

For our test, we used a typical setup for an XP machine. In this case, the old computer was a Pentium 4 with a 3.2GHz processor. The new system was a quad-core model running Windows 7.

Setting up the program was easy. All we had to do was run it on each computer. It asks you, "Which computer is this?" each time, and you simply tell it. Then you'll get to the main screen where both computers will be displayed. A big arrow points away from the old system toward the new one. If everything looks right, simply click the Go button to begin the process.

After Zinstall started working, a status screen appeared with basic information about what it was doing. Mostly, it just analyzed files and then copied them. Zinstall can compress files during the transfer process, so moving everything will likely take less time than you think.

Once everything is complete you can boot your new system normally; nothing will change. Windows 7 behaves exactly as it did before. The one noticeable difference will be a little Zinstall icon that appears on the desktop and in your system tray. Clicking on that will allow you to "switch to old desktop." And it really means it. When you select that button, presto, you'll be looking at your old computer and good old XP. Everything about the old desktop's behavior will be the same as before. All your photos, documents and even personal files will still be there, and they'll be in the exact same locations as before.

Installation: 20%
Features: 20%
Ease of Use: 20%
Administration: 20%
Documentation: 20%
Overall Rating:

Key: 1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent  5: Average, performs adequately   10: Exceptional

Powerful Performance
Everything we tried worked from the old desktop. Outlook brought in e-mail. Photoshop was able to edit and save documents. Generally, everything was just like it was before.

Although the Zinstall program is pretty cool, it's not exactly a true migration. What you end up with is your old desktop OS with all its programs and one new, completely blank OS. For someone who wants to actually take advantage of all the new things Windows 7 has to offer, having the old files with their old desktop tagging along for the ride isn't all that helpful. However, the one thing you can do in that case is use the new interface to

easily copy over files you need. You can cut and paste from the old desktop to the new one. And if you forget to move some files over, well, they're still right there on your old desktop, which is only a click away.

We like what Zinstall does. Seeing our old XP desktop running under Windows 7 is something akin to a magic trick, especially when you can switch between the two on the fly. We benchmarked the new system before and after the old desktop data moved over, and we found nearly identical results -- Zinstall is also good at keeping system resources under control. If you're looking for a different way of moving files between systems or OSes, Zinstall and its $89 price tag are a good deal. It might take a little getting used to, but it's cleverly implemented and helpful.


Price: $89
Zinstall | 877-444-1588 |

About the Author

John Breeden II has run the Government Computer News testing lab for eight years. He is the author of "Guide to Webcams" (Prompt, 2000) and "Exploring Microsoft Office XP" (Cengage Learning, 2001).


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