This is very useful! We have a step-by-step here too: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/help/upgrading-from-windows-xp-to-windows-7.
Another upgrade experience - I upgraded my in-law's Dell Dimension 4600 that had been running XP. The idea was to minimize the upgrade expense - they are planning to buy a new system next year. It was an easy upgrade and with one special driver install to support the built-in graphics hardware, the machine runs GREAT with Windows 7. I wanted to capture the basic experience for others to learn from and use, so here it is.
A quick check with Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor noted the machine had only 512MB of memory, so I first bought & installed 1GB (2x512MB)of the cheapest PC3200 DDR RAM I could find and tested it by booting XP and rerunning the upgrade advisor - the only hardware issue reported was no support for the built-in Intel graphics chip. I figured if I couldn't fix that, an inexpensive AGP graphics card would remedy the issue. Overall the system felt sluggish even on XP so I was hopeful it would improve with Windows 7.
I had to do a clean install from a machine that was previously running XP 32-bit to Windows 7 32-bit. I performed a full backup, and then installed the Windows 7 Easy Transfer for XP software from http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/windows-easy-transfer and backed up all the user information on the machine to an external drive ? THIS STEP MAKES MIGRATION EASY so don?t skip it. It is a good time to make a note of any interesting software you are going to want to reinstall ? the report from the easy transfer software makes this easy.
Installing Windows 7
The actual installation process is done by booting from the proper DVD (32-bit for this system). When the disk partitions come up, click the advanced menu and delete all the existing partitions (there were some OEM partitions for recovery that I wiped away - those partitions only supported recovery to XP so they were useless). Once all the partitions are deleted, proceed with the installation and the system will setup default partitions and boot up fine.
At this point the system runs 640x480 on a generic VGA driver, so fixing the video driver is a priority. I had noted the machine had a
Intel 865G graphics processor, which Windows 7 does not support - don't panic.
Install the graphics processor drivers from http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=R106458&SystemID=DIM_P4_4600&servicetag=&os=WW1&osl=en&deviceid=11167&devlib=0&typecnt=0&vercnt=1&catid=6&impid=-1&formatcnt=1&libid=6&typeid=-1&dateid=-1&formatid=-1&fileid=137459 ,
- the Dell support site, however don?t just run it, instead save it to your downloads directory and perform the following steps and the download is finished and you find it:
o run it by right clicking "Troubleshoot Compatibility
o choose "Troubleshoot Program", next
o "The Program worked with an earlier version of Windows" and "The program requires additional permissions" boxes are checked, next
o select "XP" option, next
o press ?Start the Program" and that should complete the install
If you don?t do this the install may fail (it needs to think it is running on XP). After a reboot the screen resolution improved to 1280x1024 - quite acceptable. Of course you will not get Aero support - if you want that you will need to get an appropriate AGP video card.
Restore your Data
At this point, plug in your external drive where the Easy Transfer file is stored, wander to the file, double click it and a wizard will take you through the restore process.
Installing Basic Software
Install all the updates required from windows update, reboot, run windows update again and install any other important updates. Next install http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/ ? antivirus, Windows Live suite, configure desktop gadgets (clock, weather, and calendar in my case).
Visiting the ?Devices and Printers? off the start menu verified there were no other missing devices. I installed Office (2010 beta), a few other needed apps, and then ran a full backup to an external drive. The system was noticably more responsible and had a faster boot time - some of that is likely due to clearing out the cruft from an old XP system, the rest because Windows 7 works so well.
With that the Dell Dimension 4600 runs great with Windows 7!