If you’re still clinging on to your old Windows XP machine or installation, then it really is time to upgrade to a new machine. For all the prep and research you do, how can you be sure all your data will come across, or that you’ll be able to use trusted applications in Windows 7 or later?

VirtualXP provides you with a neat and elegant solution to the problem: it converts your existing Windows XP installation into a virtual hard drive, which you can then set up and use on your new PC using a virtualisation package that supports the VHD format (Virtual PC is the recommended choice).

These programs allow you to run virtual instances of Windows safely in their own window, just as if you were still sat at your old PC. Your data, settings and programs are all preserved, so nothing is lost or left behind.

It’s simple to use – once installed, fire up the program – if prompted, click to download any required components. Once done, click the "Immigrate XP to VM" button (Farstone betraying its non-English origins with that particular mistranslation). After a short pause, you’ll see a list of drives and partitions, with your Windows partition already selected. If you want to include other partitions (say a data drive) you can do so here.

Now it’s a simple case of clicking Browse – navigate to a suitable folder (typically on an external drive) – and click Start. The imaging process can take some time, but once complete you’ll have a virtual copy of your Windows XP in VHD format, ready for importing into any virtual application that can read VHD files, and ensuring you don’t lose touch with your old PC. Take our advice though - make sure it works before you ditch your old computer.

Note VirtualXP is free for personal use only – a commercial license can be purchased for $28.

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A simple and fuss-free way of ensuring your old apps and files don’t get left behind when you finally move on from Windows XP.