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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Windows 7 guide: Before, during and after migration

Best practices for a Windows XP migration to Windows 7 or Windows 8

Windows XP support ends on April 8, 2014, and businesses that haven't upgraded should follow best practices to move ahead with a Windows XP migration.

IT shops planning their Windows XP migration ahead of next year's end-of-life date can make the process simpler by relying on some best practices.

The looming Windows XP support end date of April 8, 2014 should compel companies that have yet to move off Windows XP to adopt a newer operating system. But Windows XP continues to be a workhorse for many businesses.

Net Market Share recently found that Windows XP still holds nearly 34% of the desktop operating system market. Microsoft stated during its financial analyst meeting that 20% of its installed base is still on Windows XP.

IT consultants said they worry that once the Windows end of life passes, security threats from malware and hackers could wreak havoc on organizations.

There are several ways an enterprise can ready itself for a Windows XP migration to a newer OS.

Windows XP migration considerations

Organizations need to collect the information to get the bigger picture on what has to be done to move a company forward, said Dave Kloba, general manager of endpoint systems management at Dell.

Enterprises should upgrade outdated hardware and software, determine which applications and data are truly needed, and gain more control over their IT environments. They should also investigate how to incorporate new technology -- such as tablets -- into their businesses, he said.

IT pros first need to analyze their entire environment to understand which devices and applications are actually used. Administrators are often surprised to find they don't know what has been installed in their organization, a situation compounded by the bring-your-own-device movement, according to IT consultants and vendors.

More on this topic

Once businesses determine which applications are most important to end users, they should conduct compatibility testing to see which apps will port over to Windows 7 or Windows 8, which ones will be deployed in the new environment, and which apps will not work at all, said Michael Tweddle, senior director of product management at Dell.

IT consulting organizations recommend taking this upgrade process one step further.

"This is a compelling event, and why not apply user segmentation to recalibrate how you're deploying applications?" said Ira Grossman, chief technology officer of end-user and mobile computing at MCPc Inc., an IT consultancy in Cleveland. "We see a number of organizations [with] one big monolithic image thinking it's easier to give everyone all the applications rather than a careful thought as to what applications [are necessary] for each user's role or job profile."

Other best practices include determining how much productivity loss will occur during the Windows XP migration and calculating hidden costs. For example, companies may need to upgrade old peripherals.

Teaching employees to use a new operating system should also be part of the plan.

"The change in the user interface in the OS, Internet Explorer and Office is the biggest hurdle," said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys Inc., a cloud provider in Redwood City, Calif. "But that aspect can be handled with training, so organizations should take the risk and go to Windows 8.1."

Should you migrate to Windows 7 or Windows 8?

While a Windows XP migration to Windows 7 is probably easiest, Windows 8.1 poses an intriguing choice because of its enterprise-grade security features and management of mobile devices, as well as the potential for a longer lifespan.

"The question is, 'How far a jump should companies attempt and to where?'" said Robert Ryan, director of Microsoft services at Fujitsu North America in Sunnyvale, Calif. "In other words: Should organizations move from Windows XP to Windows 7 and over time to Windows 8.x or simply move from Windows XP directly to Windows 8.1?"

A move to Windows 8 may make sense for companies that want to give end users touch devices, MCPc's Grossman said.

In addition, other technologies such as the cloud should be considered as part of any enterprise's technology implementation strategy.

A Windows migration is also a good time to check into cloud replacements for Office productivity applications and decide whether they offer enough functionality to use in day-to-day operations, Kandek said.

"If so, IT [shops] can gain productivity because they can offload the maintenance work that they cause [such as] updates, security patches, backups, etc. that happen automatically for cloud applications," he added.

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Have you completed your Windows XP migration?
Some of our clients don't want to switch and there's nothing forcing them to. It's not like Windows XP will magically stop working. :-)
i run a pretty tight ship, and am confident at this point that the xp pc's will operate well until we are satisfied that moving to widows 7 will not be counter productive. and there is no way im moving the infrastructure to win8 / 2012. no thanks
In the planning stages
in the process of migrating from Win XP to Win 7
i dont know how and dont have extra money right now
Deciding between Windows 7 and Windows 8 is to list all of the applications installed on your XP machine or machines, and figure out which operating system supports more of them
My company plans to migrate from XP to Win 7 during 9 months (it's a huge organisations with many offices across the world)
@micael, can you let us know how your migration goes? I'm sure your peers would be interested!
Going to Win7 due to controversy over Win8. Why couldn't they allow corporate to decide whether or not they want metro on their desktops? I believe in job security, but increasing my training and help calls is not a wise investment.
Overall, I still wonder what prevents Microsoft from producing a foolproof error-proof upgrade path from XP to Win 7 or 8.
From their attitude I deduce that Microsoft hates its own customers so much that they want to scare away as many as possible. MS doesn't listen, it doesn't want to talk, it does not give a damn. I am guessing that anyone working at Microsoft who might have cared about the customer, has in the meantime been replaced by unfeeling and uncaring drones that care as much about their fellow human beings as their current boss.
Reasonable caring humans would make an effort to get things right, to make things workable. It's really a shame. And replacing Ballmer right now is not enough, because all of Microsoft is subverted by unfeeling Ballmer robot drones. That's it in a nutshell.
We've completed our migration
Went off XP to W7 a couple of years ago. Now looking seriously at W8
Current main app is a DOS app, and will not migrate; Also, hardware upgrade is required to go to 7. 8.x is not in the picture at all.
Excel 2007 woreksheets methods such saveAs does not work in windows 7
is this really going to affect everyone? i just heard that XP will be dead in April. I knew the day would come when I would need to upgrade but since it still works well, why change.
Generally, trying to upgrade a computer from XP to Win 7 or Win 8 is a suicidal undertaking. You can't really do it without running into 50 to 100 things that no longer work. The folks at Microsoft simply do not care to make that process smooth, easy and foolproof. They could, but they don't want to. The only option left for the small business user without an IT budget is to buy a new computer with Windows 7 on it, and then continue to run both XP and Win 7 systems parallel, while slowly trying to install programs from the one to the other. I just don't trust Microsoft to be able to take my XP computer to a Windows 7 via upgrade, having seen too much of unusable disasters going from Win 3.11 to Win95, and then again from Win 95 to WinXP.

Two upgrades are as good as a wildfire.
DMWebb, DOS applications do work on Windows 8.1, so long as the version of 8.1 is 32 bit. I've tested this.

The only drawback of course is having to run a 32 bit OS on 64 bit hardware. If that bothers you, put 64 bit Windows 8.1 on the box, and run Windows 8.1 32 bit in emulation. I don't think there's the equivalent of VirtualPC in Windows 8.1, though I may be wrong, so you'd need HyperV or something similar. Of course, once you go the virtualization route, you're free to run the 16 bit app on 32 bit Windows 7 in emulation.

But the bottom line is that with a few tradeoffs, you can still operate.
After migration, there is another need i.e. associated with email platform. Windows 7 or Windows 8 doesn’t support Outlook Express supported DBX file. So, we have a need to convert DBX files into PST files. Last month I have done that too.