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Parallels unveils Windows 7 upgrade tool

Software maker offers full details on a program, first reported by CNET, that uses virtualization to ease the shift to Microsoft's latest operating system.

Parallels is indeed coming out with a product that uses virtualization to help ease the transition to Windows 7.

The software, the existence of which was first reported by CNET on Wednesday, takes one's files and programs from a Windows XP or Vista PC and packages them up to be used on either a new PC or an existing one upgraded to Windows 7. If the programs are not compatible with Windows 7, Parallels uses its virtualization technology to allow the applications to run in the newer operating system.

Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7, as the product will be called, will go on sale next month with a suggested price of $49, including a high-speed USB cable, or $39 for a version without the cable.

"Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 provides a simple and safe solution for Windows XP and Vista customers who want to successfully move to Windows 7 but may be overwhelmed by the process," Parallels CEO Serguei Beloussov said in a statement. "Whether people are refreshing an existing PC or moving to a new PC, all their programs, files, and user settings are automatically moved."

Parallels plans to announce the product at a Microsoft event in Paris on Thursday.

The product came about as the company was trying to figure out how it might use its technology to help solve the challenges associated with moving to Windows 7, according to Parallels product manager Mary Starman.

"It was really born out of Parallels Desktop for Linux and Windows," Starman said. That product, she said is "really geared toward the geeks, the developers, and the testers," but the company thought there might be a way to use the technology to help everyday users upgrade their machines.

Now, several months later, it is nearly ready with the product.

Parallels' tool could be a boon to Microsoft as it looks to get more of the machines capable of running Windows 7 upgraded to the latest operating system, which went on sale in October.

Although Microsoft has its own tool for moving data and settings during a Windows 7 upgrade, the "Easy Transfer" requires users to re-install all of their applications. On the virtualization front, the company offers a free virtualized "XP Mode" for those using the Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise editions of Windows 7, while it has a separate set of tools for larger businesses that want to utilize virtualization.

Laplink has a product that can move both applications and data, but Parallels' new software goes a step further by allowing applications that wouldn't normally be compatible run in Windows 7 via virtualization.