Checklist for upgrading from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7

While there's no single method for all enterprises to upgrade machines to Windows 7, these steps can help if you choose to migrate from Windows XP to Vista and then to Windows 7.

Moving enterprise workstations to Windows 7 doesn't have to be a daunting task. Whether you're migrating a few desktops or hundreds, there are certain steps you can follow to ensure a smooth, problem-free transition. But regardless, there is no clear method that is best for all organizations. Some will handle upgrades on a machine-by-machine basis, and others will create an image that is installed when the user next logs on. Some organizations will upgrade Windows Vista systems, while others will choose to back up system settings and do complete, new installations and restore user settings (or not).

Here are some steps to take when upgrading from Windows XP or Vista:

1. Determine if the target computer meets minimum hardware requirements.
Some computers running Windows XP may not have the resources necessary to run Windows 7. If thisis the case, it may make sense to purchase a new computer with Windows 7 already installed. A new computer, including the operating system, may not cost much more than the licensing fee for the new OS, and the computer will most likely have more RAM, a larger hard drive, and a single- or multicore 64-bit processor. In addition, the new computer will probably have a longer usable life than the older machine running Windows XP.

Note that Windows XP is not directly upgradable to Windows 7. The upgrade can be done in at least two ways. You can upgrade to Windows Vista with migration tools built into Vista, and then upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. The second way ---- which I recommend ---- is to back up the user's computer and Windows settings, then install a new version of Windows 7.

A tool such as CrossTec's EMS can be used to create an inventory of the hardware and software in an enterprise. This inventory can ease the process of determining which computers are candidates for upgrades or clean installs.

2. Back up data, applications and settings.
If you're following a two-step upgrade path (from Windows XP to Vista to Windows 7), you should back up of all data, apps and settings on the computer. A variety of tools can do this, but Microsoft includes Easy Transfer, which can transfer files and settings to a remote hard drive, a flash drive or an office network. Depending upon the amount of data, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to complete.

Other commercial applications are available to make copies of system settings, data and applications. Easy Transfer does not transfer the actual applications.

The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is useful for developing system migration strategies.

3. Install Vista.
Once the settings have been copied, insert the Vista installation disk or copy the image over the network to the workstation being upgraded. When the application runs, choose "Upgrade," and the computer will be updated, with most settings and applications still installed and working. After Vista installation completes, run some applications and make sure that the upgraded computer is running successfully.

4. Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7.
Once you've backed up user data and settings, insert the Windows 7 disc or copy the installation files from the network's server. Run the installation as an upgrade. Once completed, again log into the network, test the functionality of Windows 7 on the workstation, and test the system. Note that some applications that were written to run on Windows XP may not work natively on Windows 7. Virtual Windows XP should enable these applications to run on this computer in Virtual XP mode.

5. Troubleshoot the migration.
If the upgrade fails, try a clean installation from a DVD or an approved image in your enterprise to the target computer. Once installation is complete, restore the image created using Easy Transfer, reinstall the approved applications, and the system should work for the user.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and consultant based in Northridge, Calif. He has been editor at technology publications, has written seven books, and is a Microsoft Systems Certified Administrator. He runs and maintains networks, analyzes and reviews new technologies, and consults on storage and system-related issues. He can be reached at [email protected].


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