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3 Windows migration questions IT must answer

Microsoft has stopped mainstream support for Windows 7, so organizations must have a plan to migrate to Windows 10 or extend Windows 7 support. Find out how to shape a Windows migration plan here.

Organizations that run Windows desktops are undoubtedly aware of the end of life for Windows 7, so desktop admins who haven't already migrated to Windows 10 should make a plan.

Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7 desktops with software updates, security patches and technical support. Windows 7 desktops aren't going to stop working, but they will be far more vulnerable to attacks from malware. In enterprise settings, these inherent security issues make maintaining Windows 7 across the entire organization a non-starter.

IT pros should debate these questions within their department regarding Windows migration and the end of life for Windows 7.

Can organizations avoid a Windows migration?

The short answer to this question is that most organizations should not; the mainstream public support of Windows 7 won't be available. Some organizations may rely on software that requires Windows 7, which creates a major problem from a security and support perspective. The best approach to this problem would be to adapt the software for Windows 10, but this can take time and resources that may not be immediately available.

Organizations that need to "keep the lights on" can purchase extended security updates (ESUs) for Windows 7 directly from Microsoft. ESUs are a business-only option that will continue security updates for Windows 7 desktops even past the end of life date -- for a per-device fee. The ESUs cost $25 per device with the Enterprise edition and $50 per device for Pro and Ultimate editions of Windows 10.

IT professionals have another option to extend Windows 7 support: the Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) offering from Microsoft. Organizations would still have to purchase the ESUs, but the WVD setup would allow IT to run Windows 7 virtual machines.

Should IT choose an in-place upgrade or a clean install of Windows 10?

IT professionals have a choice to make when it comes to a Windows migration: should the process involve a clean install or an in-place upgrade? Each option has its benefits and drawbacks, but an in-place upgrade carries over compatible applications, files and other programs. A clean install, however, wipes the machine clean and installs the Windows 10 OS fresh without any traces of the old desktop.

Organizations that need to 'keep the lights on' can purchase extended security updates (ESUs) for Windows 7 directly from Microsoft.

In-place upgrades are simpler and more convenient for users who have key files, apps and data stored locally. Users could also have certain configurations that help them maintain productivity that were saved to the Windows 7 desktop. If the in-place upgrade is successful, these configurations should stay in place. However, all this data may not be necessary for some users and it could simply function as bloat during the migration, slowing the process down and negatively affecting the performance of the Windows 10 desktop even after the migration is complete.

This is where the benefits of a clean install come in; the untouched new OS won't carry over any bloat from the users' previous desktops. This will ensure that any bugs or bloatware, such as large folders of downloaded files that users don't need and unused applications, aren't present on the new OS. Organizations that rely heavily or even exclusively on cloud storage should consider this option, especially because their users aren't at risk of losing critical files in the migration.

What Windows migration tools can IT use?

Organizations that have committed to a Windows migration may need certain tools to aid them in their upgrade to Windows 10. These tools often fall under the umbrella of unified endpoint management (UEM) platforms, but these aren't the only options.

The native Microsoft System Center Configuration tool, for example, supports in-place upgrades and can perform key tasks that IT will have to perform after the installation. Microsoft also offers the User State Migration Tool, which bundles files, account info, and configurations for different apps and the OS itself for a smooth in-place migration. IT pros can also edit the .xml migration rule files to define what the migration will include and what it will leave behind.

There are plenty of traditional UEM tools that can help the Windows migration process along, as well. One of the crucial tasks that UEM offers organizations is a way to perform an application inventory. Some applications may not be compatible with Windows 10, which could cause issues once the migration is complete. Organizations can use tools such as BlackBerry UEM, ManageEngine Desktop Central and many others to test Windows 10 compatibility for all its apps and programs.

Additionally, there are some third-party migration tools that focus exclusively on helping with the migration process, such as EaseUS Todo PCTrans, which can transfer apps from one desktop to another or even from a local disk to external storage to save local disk storage. It also allows enterprise customers to transfer account credentials, anti-virus software and disk cleaning to minimize the bloat that comes with the migration.

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