Back Up Your Existing Data and Programs on Windows XP
The key phrase here? Backups and backups of your backups. Ensure that you find and back up all your data.
Back up data and programs to an external drive. Large-capacity USB hard drives of 1 TB or greater are available online for $100 or less.
If you are upgrading to Linux, you may wish to back up your data files to an external drive that has been formatted as FAT or FAT-32 to ensure compatibility. Check the documentation for your version of Linux to see if there are recommendations for backup of data.
If upgrading to a newer version of Windows, you may find that Windows Easy Transfer may help. Verify that you have gotten it all. You may wish to manually back up your data in folders like My Documents, My Pictures, My Music etc just to be on the safe side. Programs which you may have purchased separately may have designated folders in which they store their data. Open each of these programs, find out where they store data and back it up manually. Bookmarks / Favorites in Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox or another browser? Back those up, along with your settings files. Print a list of the add-ons or extensions you are using.
Just in case things don’t work out as planned, make an image of your existing hard drive. Free software is available for this. Macrium Reflect is an example, along with EaseUS Todo Backup. Save an image of your Win XP drive to an external hard drive. If you are a belt-and-suspenders type, image your drive twice. Depending on the computer & size of drive, this may take hours. Don’t neglect to do this step, it may save a lot of grief later. The backup image will allow you to restore your computer to its last Win XP configuration in order to regroup or recover something you may have forgotten.
While those backups are running, make good use of your time. Get out your product manuals and installation media for programs you have purchased and added later such as MS Office, Verify that you have media and product keys for everything.
Disconnect your backup data and continue with the Windows Upgrade.