There are some special considerations when migrating from 32-bit to 64-bit, as well as some tools and techniques that can help.
Remember the Chris Isaak song, “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”? When it comes to deploying Windows 7, tunnel vision is a bad, bad thing. Even the best OSes need to be properly installed, configured and operated to run as expected.
If you haven’t considered it before, now is the time to seriously evaluate going to the 64-bit version of Windows. Most desktop PCs sold within the last three years are 64-bit capable and can run 64-bit Windows 7. Laptops are a slightly different story. Most laptops sold within the last 18 months are likely to be 64-bit capable, but there’s no guarantee.
You’ll find that 64-bit Windows 7 performs much better than its 32-bit counterpart. There are some gotchas, however. For example, Windows only natively runs 64-bit drivers. In the past, this might have meant using generic drivers in some cases. The good news with Windows 7 is that for the most part, we’re finally at the sweet spot for 64-bit technology.
Hardware vendors have been doing their 64-bit homework and they’ve implemented and proven 64-bit drivers for the vast majority of products. Don’t jump ship without ensuring vendor-specific 64-bit drivers are available for your hardware, though.
Although hardware finally is at the sweet spot for 64-bit, the same is not true with software. When it comes to current 64-bit offerings, be sure to read the fine print. Some applications in a particular application suite might be full on 64-bit architected software (and not 32-bit software masquerading as the same). Others may not.
So why upgrade to 64-bit if software’s not entirely there yet? The 64-bit OS itself runs faster and better. The benefit to using 64-bit drivers is phenomenal performance. Also, 64-bit Windows can natively access more than 4GB of RAM. Windows 7 Home Basic can have up to 8GB of RAM; Windows 7 Home Premium can have up to 16GB of RAM; and higher editions of Windows 7 can have more than 128GB of RAM.
You’ve probably heard about upgrade and migration options available for Windows 7. While Windows Vista represented a radical departure from the previous releases of the Windows desktop OS, Windows 7 continues that evolution. It provides truckloads of new features and capabilities, including:
This brave new world put up a dividing line between earlier desktop releases of Windows and everything that came after. It’s the reason why you can’t upgrade Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME or Windows XP to Windows 7.
Only Windows Vista includes upgrade paths from Windows XP. The baggage required to support the transition from Windows XP to the new architecture is enormous. If you absolutely must upgrade, you could upgrade Windows XP to Windows Vista, then upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7.
As both Windows Vista and Windows 7 implement the new architecture, you can of course upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7. The upgrade options are fairly straightforward, but there are some gotchas, mostly because Windows gives you so many options.
To get started, you’ll need to ensure your computers are running at least Windows Vista SP1 to upgrade. You can only upgrade Windows Vista SP1 or Windows Vista SP2 to Windows 7. Generally, you can upgrade like or higher editions. This means you can upgrade from:
If you’ve purchased a computer with Windows Vista Home Edition, you may want to go to a business edition of Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate). You can do this without having to shell out the additional cash for Windows 7 Ultimate. As with Windows Vista, Windows 7 supports anytime upgrades. With an anytime upgrade, you can go from more basic editions of Windows 7 to higher editions. This means you can upgrade from:
You could upgrade Windows Vista Home Edition to Window 7 Home Basic or Home Premium and then do an anytime upgrade to Windows 7 Professional. If you’ve done an anytime upgrade before, you know it’s fast and easy.
There are a few more gotchas in the upgrade process that could affect migrations. The most important ones affect:
When you upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, you must upgrade to the same architecture, language and variant. This means that you must:
These restrictions actually make perfect sense. For instance, 64-bit Windows is an entirely different animal than 32-bit Windows. Computing is going to 64-bit and you want to be there. Besides, there are always options and workarounds. The User State Migration Tool (USMT) 4.0 lets you migrate 32-bit settings to 64-bit environments. To do this, you’ll need to extract the current state before installing Windows 7.
When you upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, it creates a Windows.old directory with the settings and files from Windows Vista. As long as you do a straight installation (and don’t modify or remove partitions during installation), the Windows.old directory is available. USMT 4.0 can use this directory to transfer settings and files from Windows Vista to Windows 7. In most cases, it can do so after the upgrade.
Although you can’t upgrade Windows XP directly to Windows 7, you can maintain your Windows XP settings when installing Windows 7 on a computer running Windows XP. To do this, you must migrate files and settings prior to installing Windows 7.
One tool that helps you migrate settings is Windows Easy Transfer. You’ll find it on the Windows 7 installation media in the Support\Migwiz folder. You can use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer settings and files from any computer running Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7.
You can transfer files using a network drive, a USB flash drive or an Easy Transfer Cable. Of the three options, my favorite is the USB flash drive. With network drives, you have to transfer data over the network. That’s why I prefer a USB flash drive. Make sure you have a newer flash drive with high-speed memory and a lot of capacity, such as 16GB or 32GB. A 32GB flash drive will handle almost any transfer and will do it much faster than over the network.
You can’t use Windows Easy Transfer to move program files or system files, such as fonts or drivers. Windows Easy Transfer only moves program settings and files. You’ll need to migrate, then install your programs, fonts and drivers as needed. If you can’t perform an in-place upgrade, you might be able to migrate files and settings.
There are two scenarios that support migration. You can:
You would use similar migration techniques for both of these scenarios. In one scenario, you’re moving to a new OS; in the other, to a new computer. Your two primary migration tools are still Windows Easy Transfer and the USMT.
With Windows Easy Transfer, you normally transition files and settings in two stages. Use Windows Easy Transfer to copy them to a network folder or USB flash drive. Then move the copied files to the new OS or the new computer. You also can use an Easy Transfer cable to copy files and settings directly from an old computer to a new computer. Note that a standard USB cable is not an Easy Transfer cable. You’ll need to purchase the cable if you don’t have one.
Although Windows Easy Transfer is a good choice for transitioning a few computers from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7, it’s not as good a choice for transitioning more than ten computers. When you have a higher number of computers, you’ll want to automate the process and this is where USMT comes in handy.
Now let’s look at the actual migration process. Keep in mind that you only have to migrate if you can’t perform an in-place upgrade. Generally, in-place upgrades are supported when you’re moving from a like edition of Windows Vista to a like edition of Windows 7.
One approach involves using external hard drives with Windows Easy Transfer. Most external hard drives have USB 2.0 connections. USB 2.0 generally has a maximum transfer rate of 480Mbps with sustained rates of 10Mbps to 30Mbps. Transferring large gigabytes will take a while.
In contrast, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and eSATA generally will be much faster (up to three times faster with eSATA). There are a few high-performance external hard drives that support these interfaces. The catch is that your computers (both old and new if you’re transitioning from one computer to another) must support the interface and removable media type.
Windows Easy Transfer gives you a two-phase migration:
Start phase one on the old computer or OS using the Windows 7 installation media. The process is similar to the following:
Once you’ve confirmed that the data has been transitioned, you can move the data to the new computer. Or you can upgrade the Windows XP or Windows Vista computer to Windows 7. Perform a clean installation, then move the data back to the computer. Remember, this process with a clean installation is only necessary if you can’t perform an in-place upgrade.
To move the user data to its final destination, the process is similar to the following:
When you have a lot of computers to transition, you’ll want to automate the process using USMT 4.0. Unlike Windows Easy Transfer, which doesn’t require much pre-planning, you’ll need to perform some fairly extensive planning before you use USMT to transition your computers. As part of your planning, you’ll need to identify the settings you want to migrate.
USMT 4.0 can help you migrate OS settings, application settings, user data and more. For example, you can migrate the following OS settings:
USMT 4.0 lets you configure your migration using these migration rule (.xml) files:
To control exactly which files and settings you migrated, you’ll need to modify these scripts to suit your environment. You may need different versions of these rule files for different departments or different types of users.
USMT lets you configure user account migration using ScanState and LoadState command-line tools. Use ScanState to collect settings and data, and LoadState to restore settings and data. USMT 4.0 now supports offline migrations, so you can run ScanState in Windows PE and perform migrations from previous installations of Windows contained in Windows.old directories.
As part of the migration process, you can use the MigUser.Xml file to define the user data to migrate and control how you migrate access control lists for user data. By default, all user folders from each user profile are migrated, including Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures and My Videos. Folders from the All Users in Windows XP and Public profiles in Windows Vista are migrated as well, which ensures any shared data is migrated.
If you use the MigUser.Xml file, ScanState searches fixed drives, collecting and migrating files. The files collected are determined by the file extension. Although you can edit the MigUser.Xml file to add or remove file extensions, the default files collected include those with the following file extensions: .accdb, .ch3, .csv, .dif, .doc*, .dot*, .dqy, .iqy, .mcw, .mdb*, .mpp, .one*, .oqy, .or6, .pot*, .ppa, .pps*, .ppt*, .pre, .pst, .pub, .qdf, .qel, .qph, .qsd, .rqy, .rtf, .scd, .sh3, .slk, .txt, .vl*, .vsd, .wk*, .wpd, .wps, .wq1, .wri, .xl*, .xla, .xlb, .xls*.
USMT 4.0 can migrate access control lists (ACLs) and user data. However, to do so, you must specify the folders to migrate. The source ACL information is migrated only when you explicitly specify the folders to migrate.
So whether you’re upgrading or migrating, choose the tools and techniques that can help make the process smoother. And keep in mind, now is the time to go 64-bit.