Product Review: Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 with Zinstall

February 24, 2010

If 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.

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.

Source …


Windows Search Tip – Search by File Type

February 24, 2010

Advanced Query Syntax (AQS) is the official name for the set of rules that Windows Search follows when interpreting what you type in the search box. (detailed documentation of AQS …)

I want to be able to search for all jpg files in a particular folder where the filename starts with an S.

It would be the equivalent of dir s*.jpg.  These files have several descriptive words in them, however, and if I type s or s* in the search box I get every file that has an s somewhere in it or that has a word embedded in it that starts with S.  I have a hard time believing that Windows 7 search isn’t up to the task!  What am I missing?

The problem above is that the asterisk wildcard doesn’t work as the index includes all text in every indexed file and its properties. Thus, typing s*.jpg finds every file that has the .jpg extension and includes any word beginning with s.

To do the AQS and use the name: operator to restrict our request to just file names, ignoring file properties and contents must be used.

The operator are the two dots, used between two values to indicate a range. To find JPEG files that begin with the letter s, use this syntax in the Start menu Search box or in the Search box in the upper right corner of a library in Windows Explorer:

type:JPEG name:s..t

Email search tips …

Typing from:carl sent:this week in the Search box, I find every message anyone named Carl sent me this week. And if I enter type:doc name:ch* I get every Word document, PDF, or text file, that contains a word beginning with ch anywhere in its name, whether it’s saved on my hard disk or as an attachment in Outlook. So I can find Chapter 1.docx as well as an e-mail whose subject contains the word check and that contains a text attachment.

Source …

Free Windows 7 Tools

January 28, 2010

Microsoft Network Monitor
Microsoft Network Monitor is a network protocol analyzer that lets you capture, view, and analyze network traffic. Version 3.3 of Network Monitor is available in 32- and 64-bit versions. Download it now.

Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer
The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is an easy-to-use tool designed to help administrators of small and medium-sized businesses ensure that their Windows-based computers are secure. You can use MBSA to determine the security state of your computers in accordance with Microsoft security recommendations. MBSA also offers specific remedia¬tion guidance for security problems it detects, such as misconfigurations and missing security updates.
At the time of writing this, the current version was MBSA 2.1. This version is available in 32- and 64-bit versions, but it does not install on Windows 7. A new version that supports Windows 7 is due to be released sometime in the future. You can download the current version and get information regarding the a version for Windows 7 at

Microsoft IPsec Diagnostic Tool
The Microsoft IPsec Diagnostic Tool helps network administrators troubleshoot network-related failures, focusing primarily on Internet Protocol security (IPsec).The tool checks for common network problems on the host machine and, if it finds any problems, it suggests re¬pair commands. The tool also collects IPsec policy information on the system and parses the IPsec logs to try to determine why the failure might have happened. The tool also provides trace collection for virtual private network (VPN) connections, the Network Ac¬cess Protection (NAP) client, Windows Firewall, Group Policy updates, and wireless and system events. The diagnostic report generated by the tool is derived from the system logs collected by the tool during its analysis phase. Download it now.

Windows Sysinternals Suite
The Windows Sysinternals Suite is a set of advanced tools for troubleshooting issues with Windows-based computers. These tools were originally developed by Winternals Software LP, which Microsoft acquired in 2006. Some of the useful and popular tools included in this suite are:

  • Autoruns This tool lets you see what programs are configured to start up automati¬cally when your system boots. It also displays the full list of registry and file locations where applications can configure autostart settings.
  • BgInfo This tool automatically generates desktop backgrounds that include important information about the system, including IP addresses, computer name, network adapt¬ers, and more.
  • Process Explorer This tool lets you find out what files, registry keys, and other objects that your processes have open, which dynamic-link libraries (DLLs) they have loaded, and who owns each process.
  • Process Monitor This tool lets you monitor the file system, registry, process, thread, and DLL activity on your computer in real time.
  • PsTools This set of command-line tools can be used for listing the processes running on local or remote computers, running processes remotely, rebooting computers, dumping event logs, and performing other tasks.
  • RootkitRevealer This tool lets you scan your system for rootkit-based malware.
  • ShellRunas This tool allows you to launch programs as a different user using a shell context-menu entry.
  • TCPView This tool lets you view active sockets on the computer in real time.

Download the entire Sysinternals Suite now…

From Windows 7 Tips…

Techcrunch – 2010: Fifth Annual List Of The Tech Products I Love And Use Every Day

January 2, 2010

It’s time for my annual list of technology products that I love and use every day. This is the (wow) fifth year I’ve done this. Here are my previous lists: 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. The scope of the list has changed over time. In 2006 it was just about websites. Now the list includes other web services, some desktop software and even a few gadgets.


Storing PUTTY configuration in a file

February 13, 2009

Method 1:

PuTTY does not currently support storing its configuration in a file instead of the Registry. However, you can work around this with a couple of batch files.

You will need a file called (say) PUTTY.BAT which imports the contents of a file into the Registry, then runs PuTTY, exports the contents of the Registry back into the file, and deletes the Registry entries. This can all be done using the Regedit command line options, so it’s all automatic. Here is what you need in PUTTY.BAT:

regedit /s putty.reg
regedit /s puttyrnd.reg
start /w putty.exe
regedit /ea new.reg HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SimonTatham\PuTTY
copy new.reg putty.reg
del new.reg
regedit /s puttydel.reg
This batch file needs two auxiliary files: PUTTYRND.REG which sets up an initial safe location for the PUTTY.RND random seed file, and PUTTYDEL.REG which destroys everything in the Registry once it’s been successfully saved back to the file.


Here is an example PUTTYRND.REG file:

You should replace a:\putty.rnd with the location where you want to store your random number data. If the aim is to carry around PuTTY and its settings on one floppy, you probably want to store it on the floppy.

Method 2:

Tech Stats for Skype Calls

April 11, 2008

If your Skype calls are sounding less than optimal, get some technical detail. In your Skype UI, click over to Tools | Options | Display Technical Call Info. One of the more important stats displayed there is Roundtrip. If this reads 100 milliseconds or more, your call traffic is getting seriously delayed. Try placing the call again, and if that doesn’t solve your problem, it’s time to check your gateway settings.



July 19, 2007

When I map a drive in Explorer, the folder drop-down box shows a
history of previously mapped connections. How can I clear the history?

To clear the history, you’ll need to modify the registry. Here’s
the procedure:

1. Start the registry editor “regedit.exe”.
2. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion
\Explorer\Map Network Drive MRU.
3. Delete the letters in the right window. Also delete the entry
MRUList. The MRUList contains the order in which the entries
appear in the drop-down box in Explorer in reverse order. For
example, the list “edcab” would show the entry associated with
drive letter E at the top, then drive D, then drive C and so on.
4. Close the registry editor.

You do not need to reboot or log off. The changes take
effect immediately.