Windows 8 migration station

Everyone knows migrations are no small task, and a Windows 8 migration is certainly not an exception to the rule.

Because it's such a time-consuming (and potentially costly) project, there are some basic things you should consider before you jump into a Windows 8 migration: Is Windows 8 right for you? What tools will you use for the migration? What are you going to do about licensing?

And when you finally do get your migration under way, you'll be juggling a lot of balls, including physical hardware, virtual desktops and legacy applications. If you're looking down the barrel of a Windows 8 migration and don't know what to do next, fear not. Hop aboard the train at our migration station, your one stop for all things related to Windows 8 migrations.

Table of contents:

Make sure a Windows 8 migration is a good fit for you
When a new operating system from Microsoft becomes available, it's important to consider whether the OS is a good fit for your organization before you migrate. Look at where Windows 8 fits. Its touch-friendly user interface has made many IT shops wary of migrating. But if a device runs Windows 7 now, it'll run Windows 8. Many old-school Windows functions still exist in Windows 8; they're just presented differently and have added memory management, hypervisor and virtual machine (VM) functionality.

Handling legacy apps in a Windows 8 migration
Most legacy applications will run on Windows 8 just fine, and there are ways to handle problem apps. It might be time to rewrite 16-bit apps because, in some cases, you'll need to run the 64-bit version of Windows, which doesn't support 16-bit apps. Plus, there's no guarantee that the 16-bit infrastructure will see continued support. But you can also virtualize apps or replace apps with newly rewritten, forward-compatible apps.

Looking at Windows 8 migration tools
Microsoft offers migration tools for two specific jobs: PC refresh and PC replacement. In a Windows 8 migration, employ the User State Migration Tool (USMT) to send user account information, local files, apps and OS settings to a new installation of Windows. Version 5 of USMT has support for Windows 8 migrations. To move data between unmanaged machines, use the Windows Easy Transfer utility that comes with Windows 8.

Picking the right Windows 8 enterprise licensing scheme
You may think that getting a cheaper consumer version of Windows 8 and supplementing it with third-party products will save time and money, but those third-party products can require more management upkeep and money than you can spare. The consumer version may not be worth the money you save over Windows 8 Enterprise, especially considering what you get from its volume-licensing program: Windows To Go, companion device licenses and licenses for as few as five devices.

Consumerization has little effect on Windows 8 migrations
Until organizations migrate off of Windows XP, IT departments aren't really worried about consumerization or users' personal devices. The PC is still the priority. But now is the time to migrate off XP, before Microsoft ends support for the OS. And while you're planning your Windows 8 migration, think about how mobile devices and PCs can work together.

Is Windows 7 your last desktop OS?
When Microsoft ends support for Windows 7 in 2020, those large-scale migrations you're used to may no longer exist. And because many enterprises are just upgrading to Windows 7, they won't rush to make the change to Windows 8. Plus, as users bring their devices to work, they're relying less on PC hardware, so you can get two or three years out of a PC refresh. That means Windows 7 could be your last migration ever.

Application migration to Windows 8 poses a challenge
IT shops that have done a Windows 8 migration have run into problems with migrating applications from existing PCs to new ones. Some departments use homegrown app-migration methods. Other companies look to third-party tools, such as ChangeBase from Quest Software. But you could also use Microsoft's Easy Transfer tool. No matter what you choose, however, the reality is that corporate developers will have to rewrite applications to run on Windows 8 in the long term.

Finding the start menu in Windows 8
Many people may have difficulty getting used to Windows 8's user interface. Users who miss Windows 7's interface shouldn't despair; the Windows 8 start menu can still be found. Get help tracking down and using Windows admin tools.

Microsoft misses the target with Client Hyper-V
Microsoft's Client Hyper-V may focus more on server virtualization pros than virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), but Client Hyper-V can serve as a migration tool for both. Because it's the same Hyper-V that's on Windows Server 2012, the virtual machines are portable. Admins can create them at their desks and migrate them to the data center when the time comes. But if you already have a test server for that purpose, Client Hyper-V won't really do much for you as a VDI admin.

Want Windows 8 virtual desktops? Consider this
Upgrading a virtual desktop environment to a new OS takes careful planning. Before you move to Windows 8 virtual desktops, consider how you'll handle physical hardware provisioning, app compatibility, training for users and staff, and testing.

Are you migrating to Windows 8? Take our survey!