How to Migrate to Microsoft Windows 7 in Seven Steps

By Rick Winford  |  Posted 2010-10-11

How to Migrate to Microsoft Windows 7 in Seven Steps

Many organizations are migrating to Microsoft Windows 7 to take advantage of increased productivity, enhanced security and manageability, and cost savings. As a result, Windows 7 has become the fastest-selling operating system in history. In a recent survey, it was found that Windows 7 will become the new standard for most commercial PCs within 12 months. However, the process of managing a client environment through such an operating system transition can be resource-intensive, challenging and error-prone, particularly if done manually or even semiautomatically.

Migration to the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system presents challenges that IT organizations fortunately don't face every day. It requires careful planning and timely execution to be nondisruptive to an organization. Many enterprises have hundreds or even thousands of PCs in numerous offices dispersed around the world-each having a different set of applications, peripheral drivers and personality settings.

Because PCs have become mission-critical to the business, downtime and disruption are not acceptable. An operating system migration needs to take place almost without the user realizing it has happened. So, what does a smooth migration look like?

You may envision employees turning off their computers at the end of one day and returning the next day to discover that a new, faster operating system has been installed. Everything that employees need to get back to work is on their PC exactly where they expect it to be. Ideally, every employee-specific application, personal setting, access, restriction, connectivity and tool that an employee needs to be productive is where it should be, eliminating the need for them to engage the help desk. The following seven steps can make this vision a reality, while keeping costs down.

Step No. 1: Assess Your PC Fleet

Step No. 1: Assess your PC fleet

The first step in the migration process is taking a detailed inventory of all the PCs in your organization, as well as the hardware and software assets on each PC. This will determine which existing machines have the necessary capacity (CPU, memory, disk space, etc.) to have the new operating system installed and which do not. In addition, this process should identify which applications are on each device and which applications are being used (as opposed to merely installed).

This inventory process is an integral part of determining which applications are compatible with Windows 7 to ensure that potential problems are addressed in advance of migration. To minimize costs, use a client management solution that can automate this essential inventory and simplify the assessment activity.

Step No. 2: Plan your migration strategy

Use the information from the inventory analysis to determine how to best proceed with the migration. For those PCs that meet specifications for Windows 7, plan for an in-place migration in which the new operating system is deployed to existing PCs. Existing machines that are not Windows 7-compliant will need to be modified to meet recommended specifications or replaced.

By completing hardware compatibility analysis up-front, you ensure a smoother migration path with fewer compatibility issues. This ultimately further reduces potential disruption to the business.

Step No. 3: Prepare within IT

Step No. 3: Prepare within IT

In preparation for deployment, build one or more "gold" images of the operating system and prepare customized packages of applications based on organizational requirements. Allow enough time in your schedule to create these packages and verify their compatibility with the new operating system. Building adequate time into your preparation schedule is essential to ensuring a better migration outcome.

Step No. 4: Establish rollout timetable and prepare the organization

Work with key business groups to determine if it makes more sense to migrate the entire company as a single event or to migrate separately by office, by business function or by group. Once you have created your preliminary migration rollout plan, it needs to be validated and finalized with your organization's leadership team. Obtaining their support is vital, as they will be your best conduit to employees and will alert you of any critical path projects of which you need to be aware.

Because nearly everyone in the company who uses a Windows-based PC will be affected by the migration, it is imperative to keep the user community well-informed by publishing enterprise-wide rules, policies and schedules for the deployment.

Step No. 5: Capture and Restore User Personality Information

Step No. 5: Capture and restore user personality information

To keep users productive, make sure all of their personality settings are captured and saved as part of the predeployment process. These settings include users' wallpaper, favorites, control panel settings, desktop shortcuts, documents, photos, music and various application options. Your client management solution should be able to automate this process and handle multiple devices at the same time. This information can be stored locally on each device or off the PC in a centralized data repository.

Step No. 6: Deployment validation

Each PC should be checked post-migration to ensure its operating system, applications and patches are installed and that each device is operational. Your client management solution should perform this check automatically, alerting you of any issues. It should also provide an in-depth migration status report that allows you to create real-time reports, ensuring that key leadership teams are up-to-date on the migration.

Lastly, your client management solution should be able to automate deployment of the operating system images, enable subsequent patching, and allow you to monitor application usage-ideally from a single, Web-based console. By automating migration validation, you are able to rapidly assess migration success and proactively remediate any issues.

Step No. 7: Manage Across the Client Life Cycle

Step No. 7: Manage across the client life cycle

With the migration completed, the focus should shift back to that of maintenance, security and compliance. Constantly changing security vulnerabilities in the client environment require continuous assessment and remediation, particularly for mobile users (as their PCs are at greater risk of being compromised). In addition, many client environments must be kept in compliance with a host of corporate, government and industry regulations.

Your client management solution should have a number of preconfigured compliance reports available for you to customize. By adopting automated client management, your organization can move from being reactive to proactive, which greatly reduces the number of calls to your help desk.

Moving to the Windows 7 operating system will bring your organization many advantages, but the migration process can seem daunting. Adopting an automated client management solution will facilitate a streamlined migration by reducing administrative and infrastructure costs, and increasing security and compliance, enabling the ongoing effective management of your client fleet.

Rick Winford has been with HP since 1981 in various technical consulting roles. Rick has mostly advised customers on how to use HP technology to solve business problems. Rick holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Anderson University. He can be reached at

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