Windows 7: Seven Tips for a Smooth Migration - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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4. Assess the tasks involved and how you’ll manage the migration

The complexity of your migration will depend in part on whether you’re upgrading computers at the same time or using existing PCs. If it’s the former, you’ll likely buy hardware with Windows 7 pre-installed — in which case, skip to the last step. If it’s the latter, you have some decisions to make.

First, are the existing computers currently running Windows Vista or Windows XP or earlier? If they’re running Vista, the task is much easier because Windows 7 is based on the same software architecture and you need only “upgrade” the operating system. This means no manual migration of user settings or reinstalling applications. All Vista settings and user data will be preserved.

If the existing computers are running XP or earlier — more often the case in small businesses — you need to back up all the user settings and data, find the program discs for all applications and device drivers (or download the latest versions from the Web) and then do a “clean” install — also referred to as “wipe and load.” You basically clean out the hard drive on the computer and install Windows 7 from scratch.

For step-by-step instructions on what’s involved, use the resources at Microsoft’s Web site. If your company doens’t have a dedicated IT staff, start off at Microsoft’s Windows 7 Help & How-to page. Small businesses with an IT department will want to use the myriad resources at Microsoft TechNet.

If you have only a few PCs, and especially if you’re not planning a company-wide migration, you can do the upgrading or installing as the occasion arises — when you buy new hardware (if it isn’t pre-installed) or when an employee has some downtime.

If you have ten or more computers and want to do a more organized migration, you need to decide whether you’ll do it on your own, or hire a consultant or value added reseller (VAR) to do the job for you. You can supply a VAR with a program disc that you buy from Microsoft, along with program keys for all the computers you’re going to install, and instruct the VAR on which user settings and applications must be re-installed.

“You’ll pay a few extra dollars,” Tauschek says. But if you have no dedicated in-house IT resources and you have more than 10 or so PCs, it will make the process much less painful.

5. Perform a test run with a pilot group

The more PCs you have, the more fraught with possible complications the process will be. Even if you only have a few, you will need to install Windows 7 on at least one to test that applications you rely on do actually work under the new operating system – before you commit to upgrading the rest of your computers.

If you have more than 25 PCs and are planning a mass migration of existing equipment, begin with a pilot group — logically, the IT department if you have one — to test the migration procedures you’ve worked out along with all the applications and devices.

6. Migrate in stages

Whether you’re doing it manually or in automated fashion — an option for larger companies — do it in manageable steps. 

Tauschek suggests mid-size SMBs convert five computers at a time over a couple of months. That’s as many as a small IT shop — in-house or outsourced — could do in one day. Do it overnight or over a weekend if possible; the less time your people are without computers, the better.

Tauschek estimates that it will take a couple of hours for each machine, including time for testing. That last step is crucial, he notes. “You want to be careful about not screwing people up for a day because everything isn’t working properly.”

For larger companies with 100 or more computers, Microsoft offers an automated tool for performing upgrades over the network. Tauschek doesn’t recommend it for smaller firms. And even if you do use it, you could not reasonably do more than 20 or 30 computers at a time, he says.

7. Train your employees 

The new operating system will require some relearning of basics, especially for employees who were using Windows XP. Most of the enhancements to the user interface — the new task bar, the organization of user data in libraries, etc. — are all positive, but it will take some reorientation.

Tauschek suggests that a 30- or 60-minute one-on-one session — or even a group seminar as each group of employees moves to Windows 7 — will be sufficient. “It’s probably not a huge stretch for most people,” he says. You can also refer them to the Microsoft’s Windows 7 Help & How-to page, which includes links to excellent how-to videos.

Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte

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This article was originally published on January 28, 2010
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