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Hardlink Migration in Windows 7 in MDT

Posted By:  Adam Bomb
Publish Date: 11/30/2010

One of the more popular videos here on Edge is this one I did with Jeremy Chapman on XP to Windows 7 Migration with with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT):

One of the cool features you can take advantage of when you use MDT to deploy Windows 7 is Hardlink Migration - instead of copying all the users files off the machine, then copying them back again after the Windows 7 install completes, Hardlink Migration keeps all the files on the machine, and just updates the pointers to them in Windows 7. It saves a lot of time during the install process.
Someone recently left a comment on that original post, asking why we never used this feature before. We asked Jeremy about it, and here was his reply:
It's a couple of things:

  1. Imaging tools were predominantly sector-based until about 2006. Even though WIM files existed in a limited way using SMS 2003 OSD Feature Pack, they were still rarely used for OS imaging. A sector-based image will wipe out hard-linked local files instantly, so it needs files-based imaging to work. File-based imaging really didn't become mature until Windows Vista.
  2. Vista typically required hardware upgrades compared to Windows XP, so the feature was less urgent. If you have to move the files off the drive to eventually go into another computer, then hard-links cannot be used anyway. Windows 7 was quite viable on existing hardware purchased 2-3 years prior to its release - computer refresh scenarios are more relevant now.
  3. All of this would have influenced planning, customer input and deployment advisory council recommendations in terms of USMT's scope. The USMT PM for that release was quite knowledgeable/passionate about the space, so that helped a lot as well.

Hope this sheds some light on it.