Feb 8, 2010

CircuitArrowUpXSmallIf you are looking for in-place migration of Windows XP desktops, you could use Laplink’s PC Mover. But if you want to preserve your Windows XP desktop and switch back to it when you need to run an application that doesn’t work on Windows 7, then you should consider Zinstall’s XP7. It creates an XP virtual machine (VM) with all of your old applications and files just a mouse click away. “Consider” is the operative word, however. The product idea is sound; the implementation is lacking.

That description of Zinstall XP7 sounds a bit like what Microsoft supports with its XP mode for Windows 7, but not quite. The problem, as you can see from this Web page on Microsoft’s site, is that XP mode is only supported with limited “V-chip” CPUs. You also need to reinstall an entire XP desktop on the virtual machine from scratch.

Zinstall works by using the “windows-old” directory that the Windows 7 installer creates to rebuild your original Windows XP desktop. It is a neat trick, and I really wanted it to work. But no matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t get a stable VM from the product, and so I can’t recommend Zinstall until they do some additional quality control.

If you want to experiment, make sure you use a drive imaging tool (I use Acronis or Symantec’s Ghost) to create a backup copy of your Windows XP desktop first. Next, disable your firewalls and uninstall any anti-virus software. Now you install Windows 7, making sure to boot from the install CD and choose the custom in-place install option, where it copies the Windows OS and all your applications to that “windows-old” directory.

Once that is done, you can start up Windows 7 and install the Zinstall software. Zinstall actually supports two different migration scenarios. Besides the in-place one, the other scenario lets you migrate between two computers. Choose the “only have this PC” to indicate that you are doing an in-place migration; then hit the big GO button as you can see in the screen shot below.

Zinstall will migrate your XP desktop and still keep the old XP running as a virtual machine under Windows 7.

Zinstall will migrate your XP desktop and still keep the old XP running as a virtual machine under Windows 7.

The process takes several minutes to an hour to complete, depending on the size of your hard drive. Speaking of which: Make sure that you have plenty of extra room to install Windows 7 as well as the working copies of Zinstall’s files. I would estimate a spare 30-40 GB should be enough. You can filter out particular files – like videos and mp3s — that you don’t want to migrate if you are tight on space.

Once this process is done, you can switch back and forth between Windows XP and Windows 7 by clicking on an icon on the taskbar. Booting up your Windows XP desktop initially takes some time; after all, you are loading a new VM here. But once that is done, switching between the OSs takes a second or two. If you have used VMware or something similar this will be very obvious. You leave your existing Windows XP desktop unchanged, with its existing apps (that may not run under Windows 7). Everything on your old Windows XP system is preserved, including files and applications. These aren’t migrated to Windows 7; you have to install new apps now just as you would for any new OS install. This differs from PC Mover, where you give up your older Windows XP system and migrate it completely over to the new operating system. You can even view and access the files on the other OS too, again by clicking on the taskbar icon.

Or so they promise. Too bad this wasn’t quite my experience.

I began this review trying to migrate the oldest PC that I had in my office, an old Windows XP system [2.80 GHz Pentium with 2 GB of RAM without any service packs. I couldn’t get the migration to complete without errors. I wasn’t sure if it was because of my three drive partitions, an unused video driver for a card that I no longer had in the PC, or some other gremlin. Next I set up my Dell Dimension desktop with a virgin copy of Windows XP with SP2, and got a fresh version of Windows 7 installed on top of it. The Zinstall setup worked just fine until I tried to reboot the PC, and then I somehow trashed the master boot record. All my efforts for the day were lost. After I jiggled my BIOS battery, I was able to get a working drive again and I could start taking complete breaths. Two serious attempts to make it work; two failures. What if the user was a not-quite-so-journeyman IT support person?

I really wanted this software to work, because it is such an elegant solution that no one else can deliver on. If it worked, it would be the perfect way to move slowly into the modern era of Windows 7. But alas, I can’t recommend the product.

About This Product

Zinstall XP7
Zinstall.com, (877) 444-1588
Windows 7 Migration utility
Price: $89 for a single copy. An enterprise version is available for $1,799 (11 licenses included) that supports virtual desktop infrastructure, domains, and scripts.

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  • [...] can watch my video review here. Share and [...]

  • Feb 10, 2010 | Dave R says:

    Nice review!
    Though I didn't quite understand the outcome of your second attempt…
    You said that zInstall worked fine, but then you trashed your MBR which got fixed by jiggling your BIOS battery?! That doesn't make any sense at all. The MBR has nothing to do with the bios battery, and there's no way on earth a software application can somehow drain out your bios battery to the point where you gotta "jiggle" it to make it work again.
    I haven't used zInstall myself, but I'm considering it after a recommendation from a friend who migrated both his laptop and desktop using zInstlal and was very satisfied. So I'd be glad if you could elaborate a bit more…

  • [...] and audits. It also works with both virtual and physical machines too. Unlike the PC Mover and Zinstall approaches, they are designed for large-scale deployments of hundreds or more PCs. A more complete [...]

  • Feb 24, 2010 | dbj says:

    Zinstall did not work for me and the company does not honor their guarantee. The web site lies about not charging you unless the migration is successful. They will not honor the stated satisfaction guarantee. They are thieves.

  • [...] Si vous êtes en quête d'une place de migration d'ordinateurs de bureau Windows XP, vous pouvez utiliser Laplink's PC Mover. Mais si vous voulez préserver votre bureau Windows XP et y revenir quand vous avez besoin d'exécuter une application qui ne fonctionne pas sur Windows 7, alors vous devriez considérer XP7 Zinstall's. Il crée un XP [. . . ] URL article original: http://itexpertvoice.com/home/product-review-migrating-from-windows-xp-to-windows-7-with-zinstall/ [...]

  • Mar 6, 2010 | Hil says:

    I used Zinstall . The main reason for buying it was to use my video editing programme with all the add ons I had. My migration went seamlessly and the whole of my old desktop now sits on my new machine, one click away from swopping between environments. HOWEVER, please be aware that programmes requiring powerful graphics, sound etc do not work within it. My video editing software just did not 'see' any of the graphics or sound or even my camcorder attached to the firewire. When looking at System you can see that the only graphics is called 'Zinstall graphics adaptor'. Word, Excel and Outlook run okay – but, again be aware, with e-mailing it takes an age for the propgramme in the virtual XP enviroment to send e-mails. If your expectations of what you use on a Zinstall virtual environment are limited, then the programme works okay if not…! Luckily I was able to reinstall my video editing software within Windows 7 and it works fine – time consuming resinstalling but at least it works. I wish I had seen more comments like this when I was looking at reviews.

  • Mar 8, 2010 | David Strom says:

    Maybe it wasn't the MBR but clearly something was wrong with that disk. I think Zinstall is conceptually a great idea, just in execution they are lacking. Check out some of the other reviews that I have done of the other migration products, we should have some new ones up this month too.

  • Mar 15, 2010 | David Strom says:

    You can sign up to listen to an upcoming webinar where I will talk about this and other Windows 7 migration options with an IT manager and product managers from a few of the vendors. See http://bit.ly/9hyAES, it will be held April 13th at noon Central time.

  • Jul 23, 2010 | Bob says:

    Bought it and let my local IT store try the migration. They could never get it to work. After Z took up part of the new HD in a petition – you can try to go to it – but it is not usable. IT tried several reinstalls – no change – even after a response from Z support. I requested a refund – and the tech guy says he has a patch to make it work – never got it. They will NOT respond to any E's.

    Horrible company – Run away. This is no troll – just ask – I'll give you my contact info.

  • Jul 24, 2010 | ripped off says:

    TOTAL RIPOFF!! Did not receive a licence key and requests to have a refund under their "guarantee" have not been answered. If you do purchase, make sure that you use your credit card so that you can have your credit card company do a chargeback if you get ripped off. Don't pay with PayPal as they will not refund your purchase. I have also read about issues with graphics programs not functioning correctly after migrating.

  • Sep 8, 2010 | Lily Bloom says:

    I tried to transfer 3 computers – two of them migrated successfully, but the third one’s motherboard burned out before I could migrate it, so I got refunded (it’s weird that some people say that you didn’t get a refund…)

  • Sep 17, 2010 | Larry says:

    DON'T BUY THIS PRODUCT. I could not get Zinstall SP7 to work on my computer because of my Internet Security Software. Zinstall support did try and help me – but they could not get it to work either. I requested a refund and they refused. I reminded them of their "guarantee" and they pointed out to me all the "fine-print" in their guarantee that really makes their guarantee worthless. The concept of the Zinstall software is good, but most people will have problems getting it installed correctly and it will not work for them. DON'T BUY!!

  • Sep 24, 2010 | Mike Wallas says:

    I bought Zinstall couple of weeks ago but I had a problem with upgrading the computer – my printer would not work in the new environment- but everything else worked just fine. I turned to Zinstall support team and they solved my problem by remotely connecting to my computer. I never seen anything like this before – it was awesome. Highly recommended product and great support!!!

  • Oct 1, 2010 | David Black says:

    When I first encountered Zinstall I had some doubts – I thought the product looks great – even too good to be true. Since they have a 100% guarantee I decided to go for it, since I love Windows XP – and Windows 7 not so much. Also, all of my data stayed in my old computer- and I had no way of transferring it to the new one.

    In my experience it works just fine – it’s unbelievable that I got my old desktop back, after I thought I lost all my data.

  • Oct 23, 2010 | Dan Lynch says:

    I downloaded Zinstall and then wasted 2-3 days trying to get it to work, Their downloaded instructions were different from the email they sent. There were several technical problems, and their tech man did fix one of them' They advertized that you did not pay until you were satisified, but charged my credit card the very same day I downloaded the softsware. When I complained, they quoted some fine print on there web page, and declined to honor their offer. Based on my experience, I would not redcommend this product or anything this company has to offer, I feel I have been dishonestly ltreated and have wasted $89 and severasl days of my time, I have had to transfer my software and files the old fashoned way to my new win7 computer to carryon with my business. i

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