The incompatibility problem is not nearly as much of a problem as Microsoft and others make it out to be. I have done 71 replacements of XP systems and 27 upgrades of XP to Win7. In almost all cases, I was able to install software and hardware that Win7 or Microsoft said was “incompatible.”
There are numerous work-a-rounds. For example in one case a printer did not have 64 bit drivers, but I was able to find notes that someone else had solved the problem by installing drivers for a different but related printer that worked just fine.
Windows 7 has the ability to install drivers that are for Windows XP and run them effectively. It will detect this “incompatibility”, then offer to re-install in a way to fix the problem. You can also use the Win7 built-in Compatibility Troubleshooter. Right-click on the executable and choose Compatability Troubleshooter.
In two cases, specifically Printmaster 18.1 and CreataCard 8, although Win7 told me they were incompatible, they installed without a hitch and have never shown a problem. In these cases, I think the incompatibility relates to early versions of the software but not the latest or last. The incompatibility statements were non-specific as to what was incompatible or what versions this applied to.
My advice, contrary to my fears before starting these installs, is go for it! Chances are very good you will not have a problem.
If you have a system that has XP installed, its usable life ended April, 2014. Upgrading desktop systems to Win7 and adding memory will likely extend the useful life of these systems at least 2 years. Download Microsoft’s “Upgrade Advisor”, and run it. It will give you a lot of advice, especially whether your system will support 64 bit Windows 7. If it is a notebook PC, its shorter life-span may make upgrading un-economical.
The 64 bit version is significantly faster, particularly if you increase memory, preferably to at least 6GB. Check your installed memory. If it is DDR2 667, chances are good that replacement with DDR2 800 will increase performance. Also you may find the maximum usable is higher than the OEM specifications show. For example, specifications may show 4 slots, 1 GB each max. I found numerous incidences where those machines actually recognized 4 pieces of 2 GB each. Although I did have difficulty with some systems that did not recognize specific make/model memory as DDR2 800.
In the cases of the upgrades, although the manufacturer, Dell in almost all my cases, offered no drivers for 64 bit, Win7 found all that it needed all by itself during the install process or Windows update provided them. Win7 is dramatically better at providing its own drivers than XP.
As well, Win7 is substantially more reliable and secure, particularly when you use IE. Most users will find the differences a bit daunting at first, but can quickly adapt. It really does have a much more human-friendly interface.