How to use Upgrade Advisor to determine if your system is XP-ready

The problems you may face with an upgrade before you run Setup

When organizations roll out new client operating systems like Windows XP, they usually do so on new equipment. Rarely do they go through the effort to migrate older existing workstations. But sometimes it can be advantageous to upgrade a workstation rather than wait to replace it. When you do decide to upgrade to Windows XP, you must be sure that your workstation can handle the load. To find out what problems you may face with an upgrade before you run Setup, Microsoft has provided the Windows XP Upgrade Advisor.

How it works
The Windows XP Upgrade Advisor is a freeware utility that inspects both the software and hardware on your workstation. It checks to make sure that your workstation is Windows XP-ready and tells you what issues you’ll face before you start to install XP. This can be a huge timesaver. If you know what hardware and software on a workstation are going to give you fits, you can plan ahead to either replace them or find a workaround.

Even though the Windows XP Upgrade Advisor is a freeware utility, it’s actually part of the Windows XP Professional Upgrade CD. When you run Setup from the CD, Setup runs the Advisor as part of its upgrade process. But if you download and run the utility from Microsoft’s Web first, you can save yourself the time and money of buying Windows XP (in case your systems can't handle it).

Obtaining Windows XP Upgrade Advisor
You can get the Windows XP Upgrade Advisor by downloading it from Microsoft’s Windows XP Web site. Microsoft first tells you that you should check its Eligibility List to make sure the version of Windows you’re upgrading from is eligible to upgrade to Windows XP Professional. This is a very important step, because the Advisor isn’t much help in this regard.

For example, on one test machine, I ran the Upgrade Advisor on a Windows NT Workstation-equipped PC. According to the Eligibility List, Windows XP Professional won’t upgrade a Windows NT Workstation PC. However, the Upgrade Advisor didn’t seem to mind that it was running on NT Workstation, although it did find other things to complain about.

After you’ve made sure your system is eligible to be upgraded, you can download Upgrade Advisor. The file you’ll download, UpgAdv.exe, is 33 MB in size so it may take some time to download. Save it to a temporary directory on your server or workstation and then you’re ready to begin.

Running the utility
Naturally, you’ll run Upgrade Advisor on the workstation you want to upgrade to Windows XP. UpgAdv.exe doesn’t have to be physically located on your workstation, so you can run it from a centrally located server if you want.

When you run UpgAdv.exe, you’ll see the Windows XP Upgrade Advisor wizard appear with the typical Welcome screen. This screen advises that you connect to the Internet first so Upgrade Advisor can download updates. Although it’s not mandatory, you can make sure you get all the latest files if you do make the connection. Click Next to go on.

You’ll then see the License screen appear. You must agree to the License to go on. Do so and click Next.

You’ll then see the Download The Latest Files screen. If you’ve connected to the Internet, click Yes and then Next. It won’t take too long to download updates, so you can click Yes if you already have a connection. If not, click No and click Next.

After the updates download, you’ll have to click Next through two more informational screens. The screens provide interesting reading but don’t really do anything until you click Next on the Upgrade Advisor Reports screen.

Don’t panic if the Where To Find Hardware And Software screen appears and nothing seems to be happening. Upgrade Advisor launches a second window, the actual utility itself, which sometimes appears underneath this screen. If you check the taskbar, you’ll see the Microsoft Windows Upgrade Advisor screen appear as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
The Microsoft Windows Upgrade Advisor screen sometimes pops under the main Upgrade Advisor wizard.

At this point, just wait for Upgrade Advisor to finish its tasks. When it’s done, you’ll see the Upgrade Report screen shown in Figure B. This screen displays any problems that Upgrade Advisor finds on your workstation.

Figure B
The Upgrade Report screen displays the results.

Windows Update Advisor breaks down issues into three different areas:
  • Blocking Issues—These are issues that will prevent you from installing Windows XP at all. For example, on the test workstation, you can see that there’s not enough disk space on the computer to install Windows XP.
  • Warnings—These are issues that won’t prevent Windows XP from installing, but may cause your workstation to lose functionality. In the figure, you can see that the Yamaha Audio driver’s Control Panel won’t work in XP.
  • Helpful Information—Information in this section won’t affect Windows XP. Upgrade Advisor merely displays it to let you know some additional things about your workstation.

If you want to save the results to a text file, you can do so by clicking Save. Windows Upgrade Advisor will create a text file called Upgrade.txt. When you’re all done, click Finish to close Windows Upgrade Advisor.

Trust, but verify
After you’ve gathered the information from Windows XP Upgrade Advisor, you can act on it. Remove all of the Blocking Issues and determine if information listed under Warnings will cause you severe problems after the upgrade completes. When you’ve dealt with all of the issues, you can proceed with upgrading the system to Windows XP.

Don’t completely trust Windows XP Upgrade Advisor to provide all of the information you need to know before upgrading. Check hardware vendor sites to see if there are any updated drivers you may need. Likewise, check with software vendors to make completely sure applications will run under Windows XP. Upgrade Advisor may give you most of the information you need to know before upgrading to Windows XP, but like any utility, you shouldn’t trust it completely.


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