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February 13, 2014

Tips for Effective Windows XP Migration

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Windows XP is more than 12 years old and in our opinion this is a lifetime in technology years. There will be no official support from Microsoft after April 8th 2014. The only option for customers is to migrate to Windows 7 or 8.
This newsletter article will help you make some choices for your migration.

Before the migration, you must choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8. This is not as straightforward as it appears; the newest version of Windows isn’t always perhaps the best one. Windows 7 and Windows 8 have their respective pros and cons.

Consider Switching to Windows 7 if you:

  • Want the familiar Windows UI with minimum change.
  • Value stability/compatibility over future-readiness. This should only be considered if you have an application that will never be compatible with Windows 8 or above which is highly unlikely.

Consider Switching to Windows 8 if you:

  • Want an experience that translates well across desktop and tablet devices.
  • Want a future-proof OS that will be supported for many more years.
  • Use OneDrive formerly known as SkyDrive and Office 365 extensively.

Note: Read our blog articles titled Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 is built for Business Part 1-3.

Key Issues with Windows XP Migration
Regardless of whether you choose Windows 7 or 8, there are a few common issues you may run into during the migration:

  • Clean install: It’s not possible to “upgrade” (i.e., keep existing files and settings) from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8. You can only do a “clean install,” which will remove all existing data on the primary hard drive. Note that Windows XP end-users with SP3 can still upgrade to Windows 8 but can only keep their personal files.
  • Hardware requirements: Both Windows 7 and 8 demand more hardware resources than XP. For example, Windows XP requires 64MB of RAM; Windows 7 demands at least 1GB of RAM.
  • Software incompatibility: Windows XP could easily run 16-bit Windows applications or MS-DOS programs (which can still be found in many companies). Windows 7 and 8, however, do not offer native support for these applications. Instead, they utilize a virtual machine running Windows XP (called Windows XP Mode), which can affect application performance.
  • IE6 support: There is no official support for IE6 in either Windows 7 or 8. This means you’ll have to update your IE6-dependent applications to work on IE7 and up.

Tips for Effective Windows XP Migration
Follow these tips for a smoother Windows XP migration experience:

  • Perform a hardware and software audit to identify potential incompatibilities. Microsoft offers an Application Compatibility Toolkit to streamline this process. You can also download the Microsoft Upgrade Assistant to test your hardware when undergoing a Windows XP migration to Windows 8.
  • Carefully consider the Windows 7 and Windows 8 upgrade paths and identify any potential issues.
  • Automate the Windows XP migration by using tools such as Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. This can help administrators bundle updates, drivers and settings in a single image for faster deployment.
  • Reduce application dependencies by simplifying the desktop environment. If possible, consider deploying virtual desktop environments across the organization. This might be more expensive initially but will result in higher savings over time by facilitating future migrations.
  • Last, but not least, create training plans and schedule training sessions to familiarize users with the new Windows 7/8 UI and features.

With no official support in two and a half months, Windows XP migration is a necessary path for your business. The only way to ease the burden is to take advantage of robust Windows XP migration plans and automation tools across the organization.

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