I called Apple support and they sent me a link to the el capitan upgrade and it's free.
Keep in mind that you are making a dramatic jump in macOS versions from 10.6 to 10.11. As a result, some of your existing version of macOS applications might not be compatible with 10.11. It is typically utility programs that tend have the most issues, but productivity programs (i.e. word processors, spreadsheets, photo editors, etc) might also have issue especially with such a large version jump. For example, I don't know if Silverkeeper will work with 10.11.
Yeah! It's currently downloading - estimated time 4hrs 44 min. I've got a lot of thinking and reading to do before I install it. I'm afraid I'll have to reinstall my VirtualBoxVM and reinstall my winxp and I'm not sure I'm up to all that.
Do you still have the WinXP VirtualBox VM file (this would be the "virtual drive" file that VirtualBox created when you installed WindowsXP. If so, then you might just need to install VirtualBox and then open the VM file and still have your full Windows XP setup.
I don't use VirtualBox, but rather Parallels for my Windows VMs on my Macs. For Parallels, there is a VM file created for each OS that is installed in a virtual machine in Parallels. I manually back though files up periodically and also before any major updates/upgrades (kind of creates the same effect of a clone). I would assume that VirtualBox does the same. If so and you have the file, then that might ease the process for you.
BTW, after the download completes and BEFORE you run the El Capitan upgrade installer, I would suggest copying the installer file to another drive. When you upgrade the macOS using an App Store upgrade installer, it will then delete that installer file after the upgrade is complete. So, if you ever need to use that installer again, you will need to download it again unless you copy it to another drive.
Also, keep in mind that this is an "upgrade installer", so it will not be bootable. There are programs that can create a bootable install USB drive from that upgrade installer if you want. OTOH, with the advent of Lion (and later), the macOS creates a recovery partition on your hard drive that will allow you to reinstall El Capitan if something happens to your installation, but DOES not kill the drive. And depending on the model of your Mac (basically if it was a Mac that shipped with 10.6 and was released more or less just before 10.7 was released), you might be able to install a firmware update that will enable Internet Recovery. If not, then you will still need your old 10.6 install disc for a clean re-install and then use the El Capitan "upgrade installer"...unless you make a bootable El Capitan installer as mentioned above.
I put a lot of time and effort switching from Windows to Mac and configuring my Pro - read two books and lots of help articles. Much of which I've forgotten. So many of my programs - like Paperport - weren't available for Mac. VirtualBoxVM allows me access to my PaperPort files - a lot of them legal files and, of course, Freecell. MS did come up with a Word for Mac that allows the customization that I use all the time. It doesn't have the full customization of a Word on Windows - I can't customize the RClick menus. But it was enough. I tried Pages and I don't know how people use that program.
As to Pages, it all depends on what level of a word processor one needs. In many ways, Pages is way more basic of word processor than MS Word, which can be more than enough for many people. The one area that Pages can be better than Word (in my limited experience with Pages...I personally use Word for most things) is that it behaves closer to a desktop layout program (ala good old PageMaker) than Word does. So, it is generally easier to create graphic intensive documents.
My ext HD is a LaCie rugged. Did a lot of review reading for that, then after I bought it I read it had a habit of overheating. So far so good on mine. The most reliable HDs I've found are Western Digital. I have An Issue w/ Maxtor.
On my Windows computer I found the quickest way to back up daily was to use Nero and multi-session files. I did ext HD's backup weekly. Unfortunately, Mac doesn't do multi-session DVDs. A big gripe of mine - I'll be complaining about that until they bury me. I haven't set up a cloud account yet. I started to do so with the free space offered because I bought Word but MS was too nosy about all the info they wanted from me. I'm not sure about the security for my financial spreadsheets. Altho probably foreign nations are hacking into my computer, depending on what you read.
The Mac OS has been capable of burning multisession optical discs in the past. Here is a page that outlines how to do it:https://help.apple.com/diskutility/mac/10.7/help/index.html?lang=en#dskutl1017
I honestly don't know if that method still works with newer versions of the macOS as I have not burned an optical disc in a LONG, LONG time.
And third party burning software should support multisession discs. This thread mentions a program called Burn (and provides a link) that supposed will do multisession discs in El Capitan:https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7368611?start=0&tstart=0
And I would be surprised if Roxio's Toast did not support multisession discs, but I could not easily find anything that said one way or another, so you might have to contact them to ask.
As the end of the day, a optical disc burner that you find in a Mac is typically technically no different than what you find in a Windows machine (other than Apple tended to use slot loading, "slim" drives, while many Windows computers use tray based drives). So, you just need software that will support multisession burning. And if Apple no longer supports it built into the macOS, then you likely will be able to find third party software that will.
I'm going to try and boot from the LaCie before installing the upgrade. I'm pretty sure that was an option and I chose it. Have to go back to the books and find the chapter with picking a boot drive. I think you press a letter when you turn the machine on. This would be a good situation in which to be able to clone the drive. I did read a lot about cloning at one point and I think I tried it once with a program I paid for with the help of a computer friend, but it was a flop. That was w/ WinXP.
You press and hold the "C" button when powering on the Mac to boot from a bootable optical disc. To boot from an external hard drive, push and hold the "Option" key when you power up the Mac...this will give you the boot option menu that will list all bootable drives and allow you to select which one you want to use.
Cloning on older Windows computers was more limited as you generally could not boot from external drives. So, for older Windows computers, it was more a matter of cloning from one internal drive to another.
As for a cloning program for the Mac, the two popular ones are SuperDuper!
and Carbon Copy Cloner
. I will note that SuperDuper! can be used for free if you want to just do very basic cloning...you only pay if you want the more advanced features such as scheduling or SmartUpdate (i.e. the ability to update a clone rather than have to do the whole clone from scratch again...it is similar in nature to an incremental/differential backup).
I'm going to start googling for compatibility info w/ el capital and virtual box and word for mac 11 and such.
Thanks for all the help.
Feel free to ask other questions if you feel like asking for help.