Planning a Successful Migration From Windows XP

By Matt Smith. Filed in How-To Guides

With the end of support for Windows XP right around the corner, April 8, users of the 13-year-old operating system may finally be goaded into making the move to a newer OS. It’s estimated that as many as 1/3 of the PCs currently in operation are still running some version of XP, and the deadline will leave those users vulnerable to hackers and loss of data integrity.

If you’re planning an operating system migration soon, whether from the almost-defunct XP or some other Windows system, here are some steps you can take to ensure success.

Before You Migrate

You may be tempted to skip the prep work, especially if you’re migrating now-vulnerable XP machines, but you shouldn’t. Before migration, you need to understand what the scope of the project is and develop an appropriate plan for both problems that may arise and improvements that you’d like to make. Risks include scope, time, and expenditures – make a plan for how you will deal with each.

You should also evaluate hardware and choose which operating system you want to move toWindows 7, which is stable and trusted, Windows 8, which will be supported for longer, or something else. This article will focus on migrating to a newer Windows operating system.

An essential part of this process is communication – if you have an IT team, you need to bring them together to set expectations and goals. You should identify areas of opportunity:

  • Is all of your software compliant?
  • Are all your employees using the same appliance versions?
  • Are there any security vulnerabilities in your network?
  • Do you have an automated data backup system?

You can incorporate fixes related to these issues and others into your migration strategy.

Upgrading a Few Systems

If you have fewer than 10 machines that need upgrading, you may want to go ahead and upgrade your PCs one at a time. Keep in mind that there is no way to move directly from XP to Windows 7 or 8, so you’ll essentially need to do a clean install. That means that you’ll need to back up and move all your data and software by hand.

1. Check Whether You’re Running The 32- Or 64-bit Version Of Windows

Click the Start button, right-click My Computer and select Properties. If you don’t see “x64 Edition” listed, you’re running the 32-bit version of Windows XP. If this is the case, your machine may not be capable of running the 64-bit operating system.

2. Check For Compatibility Issues With Software

Check to make sure your software will work on a newer OS. You may need to contact vendors to see if there are newer software versions that you will need to install. You’ll also want to check with DRM-protected files to see what their process is for restoring your rights to that data.

3. Check For PC Issues

Download and run Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor or Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant to check for issues with your PC and take the recommended steps to correct them.

4. Move Files And Settings To External Storage

You can do this manually or with Windows Easy Transfer (available from Microsoft).

5. Install Windows

With your XP machine on, insert your installation disc or find and open your installation file on your PC. If your PC is connected to the internet, be sure to select the Get important updates for installation option. Choose Custom installation.

Choose the correct partition containing your current XP installation (usually the “C:” drive). Follow the instructions to complete the installation.

If you encounter a message that says “Windows must be installed to a partition formatted as NTFS,” you’ll need to convert your drive to NTFS. To do that:

  • Open the find the Command Prompt under Accessories in your program list.
  • Right-click and choose Run as… and choose a user with administrator permissions.
  • In the command prompt, type convert DRIVE: /fs:ntfs where DRIVE is the letter where XP resides.
  • Press enter. When asked if you would like to force a dismount on this volume, type “Y” and press enter.

Do the same when asked if you want to schedule the drive to be converted next time the system restarts. Restart your computer, and then continue with the installation.

6. Move Your Files And Settings Back To Your Computer

Again, you can do this manually or with Windows Easy Transfer.

7. Reinstall Your Software And Update Your Drivers

Use your original installation disks to reinstall applications and update any drivers for your hardware. In most cases, Windows will take care of driver updates automatically, but you can also find them using Windows Update.

8. Post-Installation Clean Up

After a few weeks, of using your new OS, you can find and delete the Windows.old folder, which stores files that were used in Windows XP.

If You Have More Than A Few PCs To Migrate

If you have more than 10 PCs that you need to migrate, the process becomes a little more complicated. In this case, it’s usually fastest to automate the process by creating base images and deploying them using a tool designed for that process.

1. Take Inventory Of Your Hardware And Applications

Discover devices across the network by running an inventory scan. Assess hardware and software readiness. You should identify machines that need replacement and evaluate software for its necessity.

2. Begin With business-Critical applications

Prioritize applications according to rank (critical, useful, or unimportant) and type (commercial, custom, or legacy). Start with the most important and work down from there.

3. Build A Standard Hard Disk Image

You may have several of these if you have different types of systems on the network. Keep base images as small and generic as possible. Include only the applications that must be installed on all systems. You can install other applications separately from the OS image.

4. Prepare And Test Applications

During this step, install any applications that you did not install as part of the base image. Identify business-critical applications and deploy them first. Identify applications that may have compatibility issues with the newer OS. Some applications may only function correctly when installed on a clean system, so it’s important to test groups of applications together. You may be able to solve some problems through virtualization.

5. Transfer User Settings And Files

You should try to disrupt users as little as possible. During this step, you should capture users’ OS and application settings and customizations. Identify common settings to migrate (printer and network drive mappings, security settings, etc.) and determine application and custom settings to transfer. Notify users of anything that won’t be migrated (MP3 files, etc.).

6. Automate The Process

During this step, you should encapsulate the tasks into a sequence that ensure that when one task is complete, the next is automatically triggered. These include 1) capturing settings, 2) deploying the OS image, 3) installing required applications, and 4) restoring settings.

7. Migrate Systems Through Neasured Roll-Out

Now that everything is built and tested, it’s time to deploy. Begin with a small-scale test (a single computer, and then a pilot migration to a group of machines) and then move to widespread adoption. At every stage, verify that data and settings have been transferred as expected and that applications function accordingly. If not, take steps to correct the problems in the process.

8. Measure And Report

Measure and track your results. This can help you keep track of the different parts of migration and can help you communicate to others involved in the process. Identify the total number of migrated systems, any problems, the status of the migration, and the cost of the project.

Does the end of support for XP affect you? What is your migration plan?

Editor’s note: This post is written by Matt Smith for Hongkiat.com. Matt Smith works for Dell and has a passion for learning and writing about technology. Outside of work he enjoys entrepreneurship, being with his family, and the outdoors.

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