Windows 7 upgrade tools

Windows 7 is proving as popular as Microsoft could have hoped and you can expect to have customers ask you to upgrade them. What tools are on offer to help you to help them?

Installing Windows 7 is simple enough, but upgrading existing PCs means migrating user data and re-installing applications too. A range of tools from vendors like Avocent, Belkin, Laplink, RES Software and Acronis promise to simplify the process – doing everything from planning the deployment strategy to migrating apps on individual PC. Which ones are worth using, and which will give your customers the migration experience you and they hope for?

LapLink PCMover

The Easy Transfer Cable for Windows 7 can be used to connect PCs directly to each other via their USB slots. This can be particularly useful if you want to upgrade a netbook.
The Easy Transfer Cable for Windows 7 can be used to connect PCs directly to each other via their USB slots. This can be particularly useful if you want to upgrade a netbook.
Acronis True Image lets you take a snapshot of the entire existing operating system with its applications, data, user settings, drivers, temporary files.
Acronis True Image lets you take a snapshot of the entire existing operating system with its applications, data, user settings, drivers, temporary files.

LapLink PCMover is a migration utility that moves programs, files, and settings from one PC to another. It isn’t purely a Windows 7 migration utility; it’s a more general package for moving users’ programs, files, and settings, including the list of users, to new machines. However, it does come with an option for upgrading to Windows 7. The Upgrade Assistant edition will help you migrate customers’ PCs from versions of Windows from Windows 2000 onwards to Windows 7, including the frequently encountered Windows XP. It doesn’t need the original media or serial numbers in order to migrate applications, and it will register the software on the new machine. Once you’ve created the new machine, most of the original applications should run as normal though more unusual applications may need a second step.

PCMover can be used in a number of ways. You can move profiles using a Windows EasyTransfer cable, USB cable, or network connection. You can also choose to create a set of ‘mover’ CDs or DVDs that can be created on the original machine then used as the installation media for the new PC.

More usefully for many customers, it can also be used for upgrades that will stay on the same machine.

PCMover has an assistant to guide you through the process of moving. You can choose the users, map which drive to use on the destination PC, and cast an eye over the files and applications that will be taken across. You can choose not to move temporary files and folders, which has the advantage of cleaning up the system while upgrading, but personally I’d take all the customers’ files across. That way, it reduces the risk of them being unable to find that vital document when it turns out that the only copy was in the Temp directory. You can deselect applications if they aren’t used any more, though again, this is probably a dangerous assumption if you’re upgrading customers’ machines. If there are applications that would be placed in the autorun section that PCMover doesn’t recognise, it will disable them. Once the new system is started a further step pops up where you can enable them if they’re legitimate and welcome apps.

It’s definitely worth running Microsoft Upgrade before you run PCMover; this will give you a list of applications that will cause problems under Windows 7. Show the list to your customer before you start to avoid recriminations down the line.

There are some files PCMover doesn’t transfer; it won’t copy hardware drivers to a new machine, and any multimedia files that are copy protected may not play once moved. It doesn’t copy browser toolbars either, so make sure you take a note of what’s installed before you do the transfer and install them ‘by hand’ afterwards. Software that needs to be activated – Microsoft Office is a prime example – may need to be activated by hand the other side of the upgrade.

If you’re carrying out an upgrade ‘in place’, you use the Windows 7 Upgrade Assistant, which takes you through the process of choosing the files, applications, settings and user accounts that the customer wants on their revamped machine. These are then stored in a file called the ‘Moving Van’ that is saved on the local disk drive. You then carry out a clean install of Windows 7 over the top of the XP partition – without formatting the hard disk. Once the new version of Windows is installed, you then run the Upgrade Assistant from the new operating system and unpack the Moving Van.

Not everything comes across perfectly, and you may have to reconfigure some applications for account and password information. Because of this, I’d still suggest you store a document with all the configuration information on a separate machine before starting the upgrade process.

If your customer sites are large enough, you may want to consider PCMover Enterprise. This lets you work from a central management console to define a policy that says what can and cannot be transferred from one PC to another. A client is then used on individual PCs to carry out the migration. The client is stored in a network share and accessed remotely from the client PCs.

This is a package really aimed at system administrators who need to migrate many machines, and who want to specify policy rules such as not transferring music or video files, along with an authorised list saying which applications will be transferred. It’s less for keeping end users happy, and more for getting the corporate real estate up and running Windows 7. You can specify how the migration should be carried out in terms of via a USB or cable connection or across the network, and say whether the data being transferred is saved onto removable media or to a network share. For companies using Active Directory, one drawback is that PCMover Enterprise doesn’t make use of Organisational Units or Domains; you have to work with the login names. You can set up multiple policies to take account of the needs of different sets of people within the organisation, so it would be useful to be able to link this to OUs.

Acronis true image and backup

While an in-place migration scheme has many advantages, some customers will feel nervous at the thought that their old PC will no longer be available, and they’ll all want access to their existing data and probably their applications. Acronis products such as True Image for smaller organisations, and Backup & Recovery 10 for larger companies, let you offer customers a belt and braces approach. True Image lets you take a snapshot of the entire existing operating system with its applications, data, user settings, drivers, temporary files. You can then do the migration and use the disk image in one of two ways. The first and most obvious use is as a failsafe backup. You can restore data from the disk image as required by the customer, and they know that if the worst comes to the worst, they can go back to the original setup with all their files and settings complete. If the migration goes well, you can restore user data in total, or as required. Users can also be given the option of retrieving their own data from the image using Windows Explorer.

Restoring data does not include the option of restoring individual applications in Windows 7. This is a choice if you are restoring an entire disk image and going back to the original operating system, but you can’t choose to restore the data and applications without the OS. The idea is that you install the applications cleanly under Windows 7. However, another option offered by True Image is the ability to run the operating system stored in the disk image as a virtual machine within Windows 7 using virtualisation products such as Microsoft’s own Virtual PC, VMware or Parallels. For some customers this is the best of both worlds: a new, clean working environment that they can customise as required, along with their old familiar computer with all its foibles as a separate system.

Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 offers the same basic features, but is designed to work against more machines. In addition to the basic disk image creation, it has tools to help you manage the process from a centralised console. You can manage remote machines, and choose options such as deduplicating data while creating the backup. You can choose to store the disk images in encrypted format to keep corporate data secure, choosing either standard industry encryption methods or variants based on your own custom choices.

Avocent LANDesk

Avocent’s LANDesk Management Suite is good for your larger customers with a server-based systems, as it will help you to help them be ready to migrate. It helps from planning, through implementation and migration, to validation of the new systems. Using LANDesk you can create system readiness reports that show in detail what is likely to go wrong; not good news, but a lot better if you sort it out beforehand rather than dealing with the crisis once migration is underway. It checks application compatibility in terms of both Windows 7 compatibility and licensing correctness.

User profiles and settings can also be migrated and managed using LANDesk’s Universal Migration Assistant utility. Profile migration gives you a good method to move user information to Windows 7. You can store all the user profiles, desktops, settings for applications, network connections, printers, files, and folders before the migration, then reinstate them once you’ve carried out the upgrade. The process can be carried out on as many machines as you need to migrate. You run the User Migration Assistant tool on each PC to capture profiles. The capturing of the profile can be automated as part of a LANDesk script, as can the profile restoration once Windows 7 is deployed. You can also run the UMA as a standalone tool.

LANDesk has a separate add-on module that supports application virtualisation. LANDesk Application Virtualization can be used to virtualise an application so that it will run in an isolated environment without making changes to the Windows installation it runs on. This means you can deploy and manage virtualized applications, so as soon as Windows 7 is installed, users can resume work with all their previous preferences and settings.

Belkin easy transfer

If you’re looking for a simple solution for moving data and user accounts from one PC to another, Belkin’s Easy Transfer Cable for Windows 7 may be what you need. It works with the Windows Easy Transfer utility from Microsoft and includes an 8 foot long USB cable, along with a CD with the software for Windows XP (Windows Vista and Windows 7 include the software by default). To use the software, all you do is to start Windows Easy Transfer on both machines, and choose what needs to be transferred. The default choice is to transfer all user accounts, files and settings, though an advanced option gives you the choice of specifying what should be copied. The default takes all the My Documents folders, email message stores and settings, application settings and user accounts. It doesn’t attempt to copy the applications. The software and cable combination is easy to use and works well.

Res powerfuse

RES Software specialises in User Workspace Management software that lets you set up and manage a personalised and secure workspace for the user separate from the underlying applications, systems software, and hardware. The workspace has details of browser settings, desktop settings, application settings, printer settings, personal data, environment variables, and e-mail profiles. By decoupling the user specific information and settings, moving from one operating system to another is simplified as the user settings remain valid. This obviously requires your customers to take the decision to move to this way of working, but if they like the concept, RES has software to help the migration to Windows 7. The RES Software PowerFuse Windows 7 Migration Pack is a bundle consisting of RES PowerFuse MyWorkspace Edition and RES Wisdom to let you automate the moving of business users on your customers networks to Windows 7.


Windows 7 Upgrade and Migration Guide
This description on Microsoft TechNet has links for migrating from Vista and XP:

New User State Migration Toolkit (USMT) Features for Windows 7
This article describes what’s new in the User State Migration Toolkit:

Migrating to Windows 7 with Laplink PCMover

  1. The first step in migrating with PCMover is to tell it how the migration should be carried out. I’m going to migrate this machine over a network.

  2. You have the option of migrating just files, files and settings, or files, settings and applications. If you choose to migrate applications, you’ll get a chance to select which applications should be migrated.

  3. The data you’ve chosen to migrate can be packed into a ‘Moving Van’, a single file containing all the information that can be unpacked on the new machine.



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