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Windows 7: Springboard Series Blog – Migrating from Windows XP to

03 Nov 2009   #1

Springboard Series Blog – Migrating from Windows XP to

This is the first blog in a series of blogs explaining how to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7. As the enterprise operating system deployment guy, I often get requests for a "one-page" article on performing desktop deployment or migrating Windows XP PCs to Windows 7. Although I have seen full length books printed on the head of a pen, without using either really, really small font or a really large page, I don't think it is possible to explain the entire set of desktop migration tasks when moving from one operating system version to another within one page. If you are upgrading one PC from Windows Vista or performing a clean installation on your personal computer (coming from any recent version of Windows), there is one-page guidance available here for doing that, but it probably won't satisfy you if you want to perform these tasks more than about five times.

Let's start by stating a few assumptions:

1. You are an IT professional and looking to move multiple PCs or users from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7.

2. The computers you are transitioning to Windows 7 have user data, settings and applications that somehow - either partially or completely - need to be migrated to Windows 7.

3. You don't want to manually transfer user files either via file copy or use manually-operated consumer tools (i.e. Windows Easy Transfer) from the legacy PC to Windows 7.

4. You would prefer to have applications either be part of the customized operating system you install or automate application installation as part of the all-up deployment process.

5. In the best case, you would prefer that the entire process is as automated as possible.

6. You have some previous experience with operating system installation, deployment or system imaging.

You might be thinking, what about the common process of hard drive cloning or sector-based imaging to just duplicate a reference install?

The good news is that with advances in system imaging, you don't necessarily need to spend hours saving user data off an old computer, cloning a hard drive of a reference computer and then taking the time restoring the data you saved in the first step. While the hard drive cloning process is probably the most common practice out there now to install a customized operating system, it has several disadvantages, including:

  • the overall time required per system (when including user data migration),
  • eventual proliferation of hard drive images based on different hardware types,
  • image sizes and storage space consumed,
  • hard drive cloning software may have a cost,
  • unnecessary time spent to rebuild and maintain each of many images in an ongoing way, and
  • per user customization of installed applications and license activation is often a manual process.
There are a few options you have when coming from Windows XP and much of it depends on the size and complexity of your environment. We highlight four primary options for migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 (or Windows Vista) in the "Choosing a Deployment Strategy" article on Microsoft TechNet. In fact, that article will probably go into more detail than I can in a couple of blog posts and it does a great job in pointing to tools and resources.

I'm using quite a few terms interchangeably in the text above and will be throughout this series. When I use the terms like "migrate from Windows XP" or "operating system deployment" or "transition from Windows XP", I am talking about the major steps we cover in any operating system deployment:

  • collecting existing user data and settings if they exist,
  • installing the operating system,
  • installing drivers and applications,
  • activating the operating system,
  • joining a domain if necessary,
  • restoring user data and settings, and
  • ideally providing the flexibility to customize what applications we are installing by user role andapply language preference, locale, time zone, etc. based on user needs
I usually refer to this collective process as "deployment" and there are a few other terms we'll define before concluding this series introduction. Subsequent blogs will refer to installation scenarios, so let's define the main ones:

1. Refresh Computer. This is when a user has a PC with files, settings and applications and we will be installing the new operating system to that existing computer and assume the same user keeps that computer. In this case, we try to keep user files and settings locally on that computer to save time, storage and network bandwidth. Some refer to this as an "in-place wipe and load" (without actually wiping the user's data) or loosely as "upgrading" a PC.

2. Replace Computer. This is when the user is getting a new computer or a computer is re-assigned from another user and the user data and settings need to move off the old computer through some method and onto the new computer. This scenario tends to take the most time compared to Refresh Computer and New Computer. Some refer to this as "side-by-side" migration, but it isn't necessary for the PCs to be physically near each other or otherwise connected in this scenario.

3. New Computer. This is when there is no requirement to migrate pre-existing user data or settings. New Computer is used for a new hire, a secondary PC or if an old computer was lost or damaged and user data was not previously backed-up. Some refer to this as "bare metal" deployment, but in most cases there is some OEM pre-installed operating system we will be replacing,

Now we have listed the assumptions for following the series, listed a few reasons why you may want to look at your existing deployment process if it involves hard drive cloning, roughly defined the all-up operating system deployment process and defined the primary installation scenarios. I think I've gone over a page in length, but this provides the backdrop for the upcoming blog posts. In the next blog, I'll describe the options and recommendations for user data and settings migration when moving from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Thanks and stay tuned,

Jeremy Chapman

Windows 7 Deployment


My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Springboard Series Blog – Migrating from Windows XP to

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