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Quick Start Guide to Windows Vista User Profile Migration

User state migration is the process of moving user documents and settings from an earlier version of an operating system to a new version, such as Windows Vista®. Windows Vista deployment always involves user state migration—intentional or not. If you don’t intentionally move user documents and settings when deploying Windows Vista, users will spend many hours restoring their preferences (desktop backgrounds, screen savers, and themes) and recovering their files—known as manual migration.

Manual migration is a painful, preventable loss of productivity and not the best way to secure your next promotion. It’s usually an unpleasant surprise for users. Instead, you should plan to automatically move user documents and settings to Windows Vista when you install the operating system on their computers. This ensures users lose no information, and they quickly get back to work on computers with familiar configurations.

You don’t have to figure out how to move user documents and settings on your own. Microsoft is prepared to help you do it. The company provides two related tools: Windows® Easy Transfer and the User State Migration Tool (USMT). Windows Easy Transfer comes with Windows Vista. As the name implies, it is easy to use and moves most of the settings and files that users care about. USMT is a separate download from the Microsoft Download Center. The tool comes ready to move the most common settings and files, and you can configure it to move just about anything you need to migrate from one operating system to another. With either tool, the process is no more complicated than shown in Figure 1.

User state migration process

Figure 1. User state migration process

After introducing both tools to you, this guide will help you choose which is better for your situation. Then, it provides basic, step-by-step instructions for using both tools, and concludes by referring you to more advanced guidance for further configuring and automating USMT. You do not need previous experience with user state migration to follow the instructions in this guide. Even if you’ve never attempted this task before, you can follow the steps it outlines to successfully move user documents and settings from an earlier version of an operating system, such as Windows XP, to Windows Vista.

Choosing the Best Migration Tool

As you learned in the previous section, Microsoft provides two tools for moving user documents and settings to Windows Vista®:

  • Windows Easy Transfer

Windows® Easy Transfer is the Windows Vista version of the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard in Windows XP. A tool designed primarily for end users and consumers, Windows Easy Transfer asks users a series of questions to determine which documents and settings to move and where to temporarily store the data (for example, on a USB drive or network share). Windows Easy Transfer also supports transferring user documents and settings directly from one computer to another using an Easy Transfer Cable, which is a special USB cable available in most computer stores, or through a network connection. An optional download, the Windows Easy Transfer Companion can also move 100 of the most popular applications from computers running Windows XP to Windows Vista. It doesn’t move only the documents and settings; it actually moves the entire program.

  • User State Migration Tool (USMT)

USMT is a tool that Microsoft designed for high-volume, automated deployment projects. It’s not a tool that end users or consumers use to move their documents and settings to Windows Vista. Instead, it’s a tool that information technology (IT) professionals configure and add to their deployment solution to automatically save and restore user documents and settings before and after automatically installing Windows Vista. The fact that Microsoft designed USMT for IT professionals shouldn’t scare you away, however. In its simplest form, using USMT to move user documents and settings is no more difficult than running two commands, one before and one after installing Windows Vista. The only real challenges for customers with no user state migration experience is optionally customizing USMT to move settings that it doesn’t already move, choosing a secure location to temporarily store users’ data, and figuring out how to automatically run the tool during deployment.

So, which tool do you choose? Both tools support Microsoft® Windows 2000 with Service Pack (SP) 4, Windows XP with SP2, and Windows Vista as sources for user documents and settings. Both tools allow you to use almost any media (including removable drives, network shares, and the local hard drive) as temporary storage.

The choice comes down to whether you are automating deployment, and your skill level. If you are automating deployment, using Business Desktop Deployment 2007 or another solution, then Microsoft suggests you use USMT. If you are manually installing Windows Vista, have just one or two systems to migrate, or you are not comfortable with scripting, then use Windows Easy Transfer.

Installation Scenarios

Before showing you how to use Windows® Easy Transfer or the User State Migration Tool, this guide describes the different deployment scenarios that Microsoft recommends. It also describes different approaches you can take to migrating user documents and settings in each scenario:

•New Computer

•Upgrade Computer

•Refresh Computer

•Replace Computer

New Computer

In the New Computer scenario, you are installing Windows Vista® on a new computer that does not already have an operating system running on it. Because of this, a migration process is not required in this scenario.

If you are installing Windows Vista on a new computer, with which you intend to replace a user’s existing computer, then this really becomes a Replace Computer scenario. You are replacing a user’s existing computer with a new computer that’s running Windows Vista. If so, see the section “Replace Computer.”

Upgrade Computer

In the Upgrade Computer scenario, you are upgrading from an earlier version of Windows to Windows Vista in place. You don’t format the hard drive before installing Windows Vista. Instead, you start the earlier version of Windows and then run the Windows Vista setup program. During installation, the Windows Vista setup program automatically moves the user documents and settings from the previous operating system to the new Windows Vista installation. As a result, a separate migration process is not required in this scenario.

Refresh Computer

The Refresh Computer scenario is a bit more involved than the first two scenarios. In this scenario, you first remove the computer’s operating system by formatting the hard drive. Then, you install Windows Vista. The result is a new installation of Windows Vista with none of the issues that the previous Windows installation might have had. This scenario definitely has a migration component to it.

To preserve user documents and settings in the Refresh Computer scenario, you must have temporary storage. This guide recommends against using CDs and DVDs in a business environment, because they present a security risk (users’ important data is stored on them) and they are too unwieldy to use for more than a few migrations. You can use a portable USB drive or a network share:

•Portable USB drive. A portable USB drive has the benefit of using no network bandwidth to temporarily store user documents and settings. Of course, using a portable drive is only appropriate when you are attending to each installation, as opposed automating an installation. When using a portable drive, however, make sure you wipe it after each installation to secure the user’s data.

•Network share. Using a network share is far more convenient than using a portable USB drive. It is also easier to script for automatic migration. But it is slower than using a portable drive; and it uses a considerable amount of network bandwidth and storage space. However, you can recover the storage space after deploying Windows Vista to the computer.

NoteMost organizations prefer the Refresh Computer scenario over the New Computer scenario. Microsoft considers the Refresh Computer scenario a best practice. The reason is that it creates a computer configuration that’s in a known state. If you upgrade from an earlier version of Windows, you can’t know the state of the computer with any certainty.

Replace Computer

In the Replace Computer scenario, you physically replace a computer running an earlier version of Windows with a computer that is running Windows Vista. You can treat this scenario similarly to the Refresh Computer scenario. To do this, you store user documents and settings from the old computer in a temporary location, and then restore them after physically replacing their old computers with new computers. If you choose to use the User State Migration Tool, this is the method you must use.

If you choose to use Windows Easy Transfer, however, another option is available. You can transfer the user documents and settings directly from the old computer to the new computer. To do this, you can connect the two computers through a network or by using an Easy Transfer Cable. The section “Using Windows Easy Transfer” describes how to move user documents and settings from their old computers to their new computers through a network connection, because most businesses have networks. For more information about using an Easy Transfer Cable, see Windows Vista Help and Support.

Using Windows Easy Transfer

Whether you are refreshing computers or replacing computers, Windows® Easy Transfer can move user accounts, files and folders, program settings, Internet settings and favorites, and e-mail settings from a computer running earlier versions of Windows to Windows Vista®. Before using Windows Easy Transfer, though, you must prepare it for use by copying it to media that you can use to run it on earlier versions of Windows. To do this:

1.Start Windows Easy Transfer: click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, click System Tools, and then click Windows Easy Transfer.

2.On the welcome screen, click Next to continue.

3.If you have any programs open, Windows Easy Transfer will prompt you to close them. You can close them yourself, or you can click Close All in Windows Easy Transfer, and it will close them for you. Then, click Next to continue. If you don’t see the Windows Vista taskbar, press the Windows key.

4.Click Start a new transfer.

5.Click My new computer.

6.Click No, show me more options.

7.Click No, I need to install it now.

8.Choose the destination for the Windows Easy Transfer files, as shown in Figure 2. If you want to use a USB flash disk (UFD) or portable USB hard drive, make sure it’s plugged in to the computer. If you want to put the files on a network share, make sure the computer is on the network. In any case, any computer on which you want to run Windows Easy Transfer using these files must also have access to the same hard disk or network share. This guide does not recommend creating a Windows Easy Transfer CD or DVD, because using removable media or a network share is quicker and more convenient.

Windows Easy Transfer

Figure 2. Windows Easy Transfer preparation

9.Type the path of the folder in which to put the Windows Easy Transfer files, and then click Next.

10.Click No, I need to use a CD, DVD, or other removable media.

11.Click Close.

After preparing the Windows Easy Transfer files, you will have a removable drive or network share that contains program files you run on the source computer—the computer from which you are moving the user’s documents and settings. Use the instructions in the following sections, depending on the scenario: Refresh Computer or Replace Computer.

Refresh Computer

This section describes how to use Windows Easy Transfer with the Refresh Computer scenario. Recall that in this scenario, you are not replacing the computer. Instead, you are formatting the hard drive and then installing Windows Vista on it. As a result, you must save user documents and settings in a temporary location. To do this:

1.On the user’s computer, run Windows Easy Transfer. To start Windows Easy Transfer, open the path that contains the Windows Easy Transfer files (on a UFD, removable USB drive, or network share), and then double-click Migwiz.exe.

2.Click Use a CD, DVD, or other removable media.

3.Connect the portable USB drive or network share, and then click External hard disk or to a network location. This guide does not recommend using CDs or a UFD. CDs are slow and inconvenient, and UFDs are unlikely to hold all of an average user’s documents and settings.

4.In Network location, type the path of the file in which you want to store the migration data (see Figure 3). This is not a folder path; it’s the path and name of the file you want Windows Easy Transfer to create. The location can be on a network share, or it can be on a portable drive. Microsoft recommends that you create a password to protect the information. Then, click Next.

Network location

Figure 3. Windows Easy Transfer data location

5.Click All user accounts, files, and settings to transfer documents and settings for users who share the computer. You can also limit the files that Windows Easy Transfer moves by clicking My user account, files, and settings only, or by clicking Advanced options.

6.Review the list of files and settings that Windows Easy Transfer will transfer. If you want to customize the list, click Customize. When you are ready, click Transfer to begin the process.

7.After Windows Easy Transfer finishes, click Close.

8.With the computer’s user documents and settings safely stored in temporary storage, you can now install Windows Vista on the computer. For help installing the operating system, see Installing and Reinstalling Windows. Continue with the remainder of these steps after successfully installing Windows Vista.

9.After installing Windows Vista, connect the computer to the portable drive or network share on which you stored the migration data. Open the folder containing the migration data in Windows Explorer, and then double-click the migration (.mig) file. This starts Windows Easy Transfer.

10.Type the path and name of the migration file you want to restore, type the password you created to protect the file, and then click Next.

11.For each account from the earlier version of Windows listed (shown in Figure 4 as User account on the old computer), choose an account in Windows Vista to which you want to transfer the documents and settings. You can create a new account by simply typing its name in the text box. Click Next.

Windows Easy Transfer Account Configuration

Figure 4. Windows Easy Transfer account configuration

12.Click Transfer to begin transferring the documents and settings from the migration file to the computer.

13.Click Close when Windows Easy Transfer finishes, and then log off the computer. You must log off the computer for the changes to take effect.

Replace Computer

This section describes how to use Windows Easy Transfer with the Replace Computer scenario. In this scenario, you are replacing a computer running an earlier version of Windows with a new computer running Windows Vista. In this case, you can certainly use the steps that the previous section describes to transfer documents and settings from the old computer to temporary storage, replace the computer, and then restore documents and settings to the new computer. However, transferring documents and settings from the old computer to the new computer through the network is a simpler solution. To do this:

1.Make sure both computers, the old computer and the new computer, are on the network.

2.On the new computer, complete the following steps:

a.Run Windows Easy Transfer. To start Windows Easy Transfer, open the path that contains the Windows Easy Transfer files (on a UFD, removable USB drive, or network share), and then double-click Migwiz.exe. Do not open the file from the Start menu.

b.Click Transfer directly, using a network connection.

c.Click Use a network connection.

d.If Windows Easy Transfer prompts you to unblock itself in Windows Firewall, click Yes.

e.Click No, I need a key; then, write down the eight-character key that Windows Easy Transfer gives you. Windows Easy Transfer uses this key to encrypt the data it transfers over the network.

3.On the old computer, complete the following steps:

a.Run Windows Easy Transfer. To start Windows Easy Transfer, open the path that contains the Windows Easy Transfer files (on a UFD, removable USB drive, or network share), and then double-click Migwiz.exe. Do not open the file from the Start menu.

b.Click Transfer directly, using a network connection.

c.Click Use a network connection.

d.If Windows Easy Transfer prompts you to unblock itself in Windows Firewall, click Yes.

e.Click Yes, I have a key; then, type the eight-character key that Windows Easy Transfer gave you in the previous step. Windows Easy Transfer will then connect to the other computer.

f.Click Next and then confirm that Windows Easy Transfer is connected on both computers.

4.Click All user accounts, files, and settings to transfer documents and settings for users who share the computer. You can also limit the files that Windows Easy Transfer moves by clicking My user account, files, and settings only, or by clicking Advanced options.

5.For each account from the earlier version of Windows listed, choose an account in Windows Vista to which you want to transfer the documents and settings. You can create a new account by simply typing its name in the text box. Click Next.

6.Click Transfer to begin transferring the documents and settings from the migration file to the computer.

7.Click Close when Windows Easy Transfer finishes, and then log off the computer. You must log off the computer for the changes to take effect.

Using the User State Migration Tool

Using the User State Migration Tool (USMT) with its default migration settings is not any more difficult than using Windows® Easy Transfer. As shown in Figure 5, you run Scanstate.exe to save user documents and settings to a temporary location—commonly a network share—install Windows Vista® operating system, and then run Loadstate.exe to restore those documents and settings.

USMT datastore

Figure 5. User State Migration Tool

USMT stores user documents and settings in a data store. As you prepare to use USMT, you must determine the best location for the data store. Although you can use a portable USB drive, the best and most convenient location is a network share. In the Refresh Scenario, USMT can store the data on a local hard drive, which limits the amount of network bandwidth and storage space used.

In keeping with USMT’s role as an advanced user state migration tool for IT professionals, it is highly configurable. For example, you can configure the way USMT compresses data and whether it encrypts the data store to protect its contents during the transition to a new operating system. You can also configure rules that determine which settings and files it moves, in addition to how it applies them on the destination computer. This guide does not cover these more advanced USMT features. For more information about these USMT features, see User State Migration Tool 3.0. The following sections describe how to install USMT, run Scanstate.exe to save user documents and settings, and then run Loadstate.exe to restore them after installing Windows Vista. Doing nothing more than this, you can easily perform a basic migration.

Installing the User State Migration Tool

You can install USMT on each computer before using the tool. Copying it to a network share is a better option, though. USMT supports both the x86 and x64 platforms. For each platform, Microsoft provides two installation files: one for Windows Vista and one for Windows 2000 and Windows XP. The Windows Vista installation file is InstallUSMT30_Platform_vista.msu, where Platform is either x86 or x64. The Windows 2000 and Windows XP installation file is InstallUSMT30_Platform_2000andXP.exe.

Download USMT from the Microsoft Download Center.

Run the file you download to install USMT on your computer. Then, create a share on the network for the USMT program files and copy them from C:\Program Files\USMT30 to the new network share. After you have copied the program files to the network, you can run them on any computer with access to the network share.

Running the User State Migration Tool

In either a Refresh Computer or a Replace Computer installation scenario, run Scanstate.exe to store user documents and settings in a temporary location. That can be a portable USB drive or a network share. In the Refresh Scenario, you can also store user documents and settings locally, assuming that you install Windows Vista without actually formatting the hard drive, or if the computer has a second hard drive.

The following steps describe how to use USMT to save and restore user documents and settings when installing Windows Vista:

1.On the old computer run the following command to save user documents and settings: program_path\scanstate data_path /o /c, where program_path is the path to the USMT program files, and data_path is the path and name of the folder in which to store the data (/o causes the process to overwrite the contents of any previous attempt and /c causes Scanstate.exe to continue if it encounters errors). The destination can be a portable USB drive, a network share, or any local hard drive. If you are replacing the computer, the new computer must be able to access the location in which you save the migration data.

Note:By default, Scanstate.exe and Loadstate.exe attempt to migrate all user profiles. To prevent certain profiles from being migrated, use the /ue:username switch. Full syntax for these commands can be found in the USMT help file.

2.Either replace the computer or install Windows Vista on the old computer.

3.After replacing the computer or installing Windows Vista on the old computer, make sure the computer can connect to the location in which you saved the migration data. Then, run the following command to restore user documents and settings: program_path\loadstate data_path /c.

Automating User Migration

The full power of the User State Migration Tool (USMT) is realized when you automate migration. Using scripting techniques—or tools such as Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007—you can automate the migration process during Windows Vista® installation. The following list describes automation options:

•Scripting

You can run USMT with a variety of scripting tools, including Microsoft® Visual Basic® Scripting Edition (VBScript) and batch script files. Using the appropriate command-line options, you can automate the migration process to collect and restore user state data with no interaction required. For more information about scripting, see the Script Center.

•BDD 2007

BDD 2007 fully integrates USMT as part of the Lite Touch Installation (LTI) and Zero Touch Installation (ZTI) deployment processes. BDD 2007 can download USMT and automatically run it during Windows Vista deployment. Using the default USMT configuration with BDD 2007 is an extremely simple, straightforward process. For more information about using USMT with BDD, see Desktop Deployment TechCenter.

•Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007

You can use System Center Configuration Manager 2007 alone or in combination with BDD 2007 to automate migration as part of Windows Vista deployment. For more information about using USMT with Configuration Manager 2007, see Desktop Deployment TechCenter.

Summary

This guide described two tools you can use to move users’ documents and settings to Windows Vista®. The first is Windows® Easy Transfer. This tool is most appropriate when installing Windows Vista manually. For example, if you have a technician visiting each desktop to install the operating system, the technician can run Windows Easy Transfer to move users’ settings to Windows Vista. The second tool is USMT. This tool is most appropriate when you’re automating the installation of Windows Vista.

Migrating users’ documents and settings is an important part of the Windows Vista deployment process. By performing this step for users, either manually by using Windows Easy Transfer or automatically by using the User State Migration Tool (USMT), you save users the time and frustration that they’d otherwise spend on recovering their files and reconfiguring their computers. Migration is the polish on your deployment.

While this guide showed you how to perform a basic migration, there more advanced scenarios and capabilities available to you. To learn more about migration, see Migrating to Windows Vista Through the User State Migration Tool.

About the Author:

Jerry Honeycutt is a writer, speaker, and technologist. He has written more than 25 books, including Microsoft Windows Desktop Deployment Resource Kit (Microsoft Press, 2004).

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