If you've tried migrating a few users to Windows 7 already, you know that moving user files, applications, and settings from the old OS to the new can be a serious pain. Now organizations have an option from an upstart called Zinstall, which lets users run both XP and Windows 7 on the same computer.
Zinstall offers three products. For deployment on existing PCs, Zinstall XP7 lets companies load Windows 7 while also keeping a copy of XP with all of the user's preferences in place. Users click an icon to switch from one OS environment to the other. If you're adding new hard drives to existing machines, Zinstall Bare Metal Edition loads up Windows 7. Finally, Zinstall HDD edition lets you image Windows 7 onto brand-new PCs and laptops.
We tested Zinstall XP7. Our test bed laptop was designed to provide a challenge, running a dual-boot version of XP because the first OS was previously corrupted by malware (a common scenario). There also wasn't much disk space left on the hard drive.
We then moved back to the original task. It was here we went from a brick wall to the great wall of China. Because we were operating in a dual-boot environment, and because C:\Windows wasn't our XP installation directory, Zinstall XP7 failed. The Zinstall support staff jumped all over the issue and debugged the code. Note that the tech support team knew we were writing a review for publication.
The tech support team resolved the problem, and in the end we had Windows 7 and XP on the same computer. Zinstall said the situation with our laptop was unique and included some system variables which Zinstall hadn't seen before. We suppose that's possible, so we're not writing off the product, but potential customers should run a few trials before committing to Zinstall software.
If you're content to let users run a dual-OS environment, Zinstall may be worth a look. However, Microsoft offers a similar feature called Windows XP Mode. In addition, if your long-term goal is a true migration of apps, data, and preferences to Windows 7, this isn't it. Zinstall says it plans to offer more complete migration, but didn't provide a timeline. XP7 is $89 per license.