Application migration to Windows 8 might require third-party tools

Third-party Windows upgrade tools might be necessary for application migration to Windows 8.

Some IT shops that have performed a Windows 8 upgrade have run into snags along the way, particularly with application migration from existing PCs to new ones.

Surprisingly, the problems are not with older PCs that have been upgraded to run Windows 8. "Most Windows 7 applications will run just fine on Windows 8," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at research firm Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif. A user can install Windows 8 on an existing machine, and the new system will recognize the user's already installed applications.

Instead, the challenge for many IT shops comes in moving existing applications from older machines to new PCs running Windows 8, without having to reinstall them.

Some Windows shops use a homebrewed application migration method because "it's never a one-box-fits-all approach," said Philip Moss, managing partner at U.K.-based IT solutions provider NTTX.

That's particularly true for large companies with hundreds of business-critical applications. "We are doing quite a few Windows 7 desktop migrations to Windows 8, and we're dealing with the challenges in a number of ways, depending on the migration situation," Moss said. "We are not using any off-the-shelf solutions to make things easier."

Other administrators look to application migration tools to get the job done.

Using Windows 8 tools for upgrade

Quest Software Inc., which Dell Inc. acquired in September, this month launched an update to its ChangeBase application-compatibility package that adds support for testing and migrating virtualized applications on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

ChangeBase Version 5.2 also adds support for the Microsoft App-V 5.0 and Citrix XenApp Streaming Profiler virtual application formats, as well as for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware Server, packaging them in standard Windows Installer (MSI) format.

On the other end of the scale are much more hands-on products, such as Zinstall WinWin and Laplink PCmover, that are designed to move applications, files and personalization settings from one PC to another using a network connection or an Ethernet cable. Both already have versions that handle application migration to Windows 8.

Even with these tools, a Windows 8 upgrade can be labor-intensive, and the software can be costly.

Microsoft has a free tool called Easy Transfer to aid migrations to new PCs, but while it handles migration of files; user settings; photos; music and other significant information, such as account data, the tool doesn't transfer programs.

IT shops might be able to ease the Windows 8 upgrade process by re-imaging their users' applications, said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. It's a common practice, although he acknowledged that there may still be reasons to use third-party tools. "If you're trying to do a massive conversion, then a tool like [ChangeBase] may make sense," he said.

In the longer term, however, corporate developers will eventually have to recast their applications to run natively on Windows 8 to take advantage of its user interface, among other new features, Enderle said. "At some point, they're going to want to put it onto the modern [user interface], so they'd probably be better off saying, 'Screw it,' and just rewriting the code," he said.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

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