November 16, 2009, 8:58 AM — by James E. Gaskin -- Michael Pathi works in Microsoft's Atlanta office and is a Partner Technology Advisor, helping companies migrate to Windows 7. His most important bit of advice? Don't rush the preparation work.
Use MAP, the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, and WAIK, Windows Automated Install Kit. SCCM, System Center Configuration Manager (that replaced SMS) works with other workstation deployment tools from desktop management companies. Download MDT, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. In other words, acronym soup. Just getting these ready should slow down the rush to upgrade.
The more you know about the upgrade targets and their hardware details, applications, peripherals, and current operating system, the easier the upgrade process. Almost all customers Pathi's working with are moving from XP systems, making an in place upgrade much more difficult. Many clients have been testing Windows 7 during the beta period, and are expected to start their migration fairly soon.
Officially, PCs three years old or less should work fine with Windows 7 if they have 128MB of graphic memory (YMMV). Some of the projects under way now are using laptops as old as from 2006 with success, if not with the full Aero Glass interface.
MAP is an agentless tool that analyzes all the hardware on the network and provides a granular report. Problems are marked with clear red flags. Don't wing the inventory tracking with sticky notes and hope you keep the details straight, because you can't.
Proper MAP use reduces upgrade preparation labor time by at least 50 percent. If all the ducks are lined up properly, many XP and Vista hardware upgrades are no touch. Light touch means kicking off some upgrades with F12 to boot from the network. Thumb drives and DVDs also support the OS migration, but those obviously require extra steps and touches.
The existing user state details are moved to a protected area of the hard disk during the upgrade. No extra partitions are created, just a protected file structure. When upgrading, user data moves to the protected area, Windows 7 installs, then the data is restored and re-implanted into the proper user state areas. Migration from Vista, being very similar to Windows 7, takes less time than the migration from XP.
Applications must be reinstalled using the Windows Automated Install Kit or other desktop management program. Many people forget to mention the need to reinstall most, if not all, user applications. The Atlanta Microsoft office has not been able to reproduce the endless reboots mentioned early in the migration process by some users.
As per the official party line, Pathi reports that Windows 7 really does have a smaller footprint than Vista. His office has successfully installed Windows 7 on 1GHz P4 systems with 1GB of RAM and a 40GB hard disk. Ditto for successful netbook installations.