Now that Microsoft has stopped selling Windows XP, many companies are considering whether or not to upgrade to Windows Vista. While Vista is not without its problems, many of the operating system's migration horror stories are exaggerated. You can avoid some of the problems by simply following a few best practices throughout the migration process. In this article, I'll share some techniques that can make the upgrade process go a lot more smoothly.
Perform hardware and software compatibility testing
The vast majority of Vista migration-related horror stories that I've heard center around hardware and software compatibility issues. There is no arguing that Vista requires beefier hardware than Windows XP and that some legacy hardware may not be powerful enough to work with Windows Vista.
On the flip side, it has been my experience that Vista works better with some of the newer hardware than Windows XP does. This is especially true of 64-bit versions of Windows. The 64-bit version of Vista includes more device drivers than the 64-bit Windows XP. There have been a number of times when I have needed to download a 64-bit driver from the Internet and found Vista drivers, but no XP drivers.
Is your shop ready for Vista? To find out, the first step is to take a full hardware and software inventory. Determine exactly what workstation hardware is in use on your network and which applications your users are running. It's the only way you will be able to find out whether or not you can safely bring Vista into your network.
Once you have compiled a hardware and software inventory, there are two free utilities that I have found to be extremely valuable in assessing upgrade readiness. The first of these tools is the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. It's a simple program that you can run on a Windows XP workstation in order to see if the workstation is ready to upgrade to Windows Vista. The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor definitely isn't an enterprise-class tool, but I have still found it extremely helpful in determining whether various applications will work with Vista. You can learn more about using the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor in this tip.
The other tool is called Business Desktop Deployment 2007, otherwise known as BDD. There are two main things that this utility does. First, it can create a software inventory for you. There is a simple agent to install on your workstations that facilitates the inventory collection process.
The other thing that the utility does is create a compatibility checklist. For the most part, BDD 2007 won't tell you whether or not applications are Vista compatible. It's up to you to figure that out for yourself (although the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor can help with that). As you test each application, mark it as being compatible or incompatible. If there are compatibility problems with an application, you can use BDD 2007 to document the compatibility issues and any workarounds to those issues. You can read more about BDD 2007 in this tip.
How to handle your Vista migration
Step 1: How to handle your Vista migration
Step 2: Plan a pilot deployment program
Step 3: Decide on a deployment mechanism
Step 4: Train the support staff and the end users
Step 5: Assess the results of the pilot deployment program
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional Award four times for his work with Windows Server, IIS and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox.
This was first published in September 2008