Currently I have an OEM version of Windows XP Pro 32-bit. My PC died so I will be building a new one. First off, is XP Pro 32-bit compatible with the AMD X3 720 BE or X4 955 BE? Do I qualify for the upgrade to Windows 7 from the OEM XP? If not would it be better to get Vista Home Premium 64-bit with free Windows 7 upgrade or buy the retail version of Windows 7? I've read that if you get the Windows 7 upgrade every time you reinstall you have to install Vista first and then Windows 7. Is this true?
A lot of questions packed into a relatively short paragraph! First off, I really don't think the OS/CPU compatibility is an issue. I've never even heard of such a thing as XP refusing to run on a modern mainstream CPU. If you're really concerned, go the CPU's product page on Newegg. Go to read all reviews, and then filter the reviews by "XP". That should turn up plenty of happy XP users of those CPUs.
You can use the upgrade version to go from XP to Win7. However, it will not transfer files, settings, and programs from XP. You have to do a clean install, overwriting everything that was in the XP installation. The upgrade version of Win7 Home Premium costs $120. Vista Home Premium with the Win7 upgrade coupon costs $110. So you're better off going with Vista and getting the upgrade coupon. The retail version of home premium is much more: $200. It isn't worth it unless you need MS support. And why go for that when you have all of us here at Tom's Hardware?
Finally, it's unknown whether or not you will have to reinstall Vista first. Probably yes. The upgrade version looks for an activated previous version of Windows before it will install. We don't know whether Win7 will accept itself to count as an activated previous version, or whether "previous" strictly requires an earlier build. I would say to account for having to install Vista first.
Oh, and unfortunately the Win7 RC is no longer available to download from MS. It's dangerous (and illegal) to get from the torrents with the possibility of inserted viruses, etc., so check this out if you want to test Win7 before you buy it.
So, my options are this, assuming I've purchased Vista Home Premium 64-bit w/ free Windows 7 upgrade:
1. Install and use XP Pro 32-bit and then format and do a clean install of Windows 7 upgrade when it is available.
2. Install and use Vista Home Premium 64-bit and then format and do a clean install of Windows 7 upgrade when it is available.
3. Install and use Windows 7 Enterprise Trial and then format and do a clean install of Windows 7 upgrade when it is available.
All of the above require that I do a clean install since my new build will have a new hard drive.
Since I will only use whichever OS I select first for about a month until upgrading to Windows 7, which would you choose - 1,2 or 3?
From Microsoft "We do not recommend that you install this if you are a not an IT Professional or not professionally managing corporate networks." Microsoft also recommends not to run Windows 7 Enterprise Trial on a primary computer. If I go with it, only install limited data that I can easily reinstall if something goes wrong, should I be fine for about a month of use?
You're welcome! You've pretty much got it right. I would clarify a couple of things. 1) I'm not sure you can upgrade directly from Win7 Enterprise trial to the final. It's activated alright, but it might not count as a previous version of Windows. So if you went that route you could end up installing XP or Vista anyway before going to Win7 final. I only mentioned it in case you wanted to try out Win7; but If you'll take my word, it's great! About not installing it on a primary computer, I would not hesitate to do so. Enterprise is targeted for business users, and MS doesn't want the blame if specialized business apps don't work on Win7. Hence the warning. Win7 Enterprise trial is the final version of Win7; for the home user, it is fine to use on a main computer. 2) You don't have to format and clean install going from Vista to Win7. That route (supposing you still go for 64-bit) can truly perform an upgrade: transferring files, settings, and programs. Of course you can still do a clean install. I really can't recommend for someone else, but here's what I would do personally: start with Vista. I'd want to take full advantage of my new hardware with 64-bit; that rules out XP. I'd also want to make sure I was able to decide between a true upgrade or a clean install when it came time to go to Win7 final; that rules out the Enterprise trial. All that's left is Vista, and with SP2, it's not half so bad as many people make it out to be. Now I know you will have a new hard drive, but if you really want to upgrade, it would not be difficult to image from the old drive onto the new one.
Since I ultimately plan on using Windows 7 as my OS, I will most likely purchase Vista Home Premium 64-bit w/ free Windows 7 upgrade. Less likely would be the retail version.
My plan is to install either Vista or Windows 7 Enterprise Trial with a bare minimum of programs, that way it doesn't take as much time, and then when the Windows 7 upgrade is available format the drive and do a clean install and add all my applications, games, etc.
Given this would you still choose Vista or Windows 7 Enterprise first?
Good purchase choice; that would be mine. I'm guessing you haven't tried Win7 yet. If you know that you will clean install, I think you should go with the Enterprise trial. That way you can start to get experience with the OS. It's not hard to learn, but it will be handy to know just what you're doing when you go to transfer your files and install your programs.
When Win7 comes, install Vista on your new HDD and use the upgrade media to do a clean install of Win7 on it. Remember, you have to have a previous version of Windows already on there for the upgrade media to run; it will not install itself on a blank HDD, and the trick that some people used to do just that with the Vista upgrade media does not work with Win7.