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Choosing the Path to Windows 7

Choosing the Path to Windows 7

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A successful deployment of a desktop operating system begins long before the first client machines are touched. The collection of information about your client machines forms the basis for creating a successful deployment plan. In this first of three posts we’ll cover the first steps and the tools available to you as you start on the road to Windows 7 deployment.

The first step on the road to Choosing a Deployment Strategy is to gather the information needed to make informed decisions. Regardless of whether you are dealing with hundreds of client machines or just helping a friend, knowing the current environment is critical. Some of the basic information includes

  • Number of computers to deploy Windows 7 to.
  • What version of Windows do you currently have installed?
  • What hardware is in these machines?
  • …and finally what applications do you use.

Depending on the size of the organization some of these questions could be tricky to answer. If you are just working on one machine or a handful of machines you can use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor; this will do most of the work for you, but it is not practical beyond just a few machines since you have to install it and run it on each machine individually. When you have hundreds of clients you need something a little more powerful and easier to run without much intervention. One tool is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit. This solution accelerator that can be used to generate this inventory of assets for you, another is the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), which we will come onto next.

Once you have a full understanding of what is in your organization you can then plan the deployment process. The asset list will help you determine which machines can run Windows 7 with none or minimal hardware updates and which machines will be unable to run Windows 7 and therefore require replacement.

Regardless of whether you plan to do a clean installation or an upgrade, the applications run that on these machines will need to be checked for compatibility. Application compatibility is always one of the top challenges organization face when changing a desktop OS. To help, there is the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) - this article talks in more detail about the toolkit and how to use it. The ACT is a vital part of a deployment process, it can detect the applications running on client machines, and as mentioned above it also has the ability to report on hardware and devices that it finds on client machines. It provides you with a comprehensive list of what is out there, and don’t be surprised to be surprised about what you find. Getting this view of your environment is a major step towards a successful deployment. Once armed with this information then comes the real fun, rationalization. You will have to look through all the applications on your list to determine if there is duplication, you could easily find there are 4 or 5 different programs just to read the same file format, then you need to decide which one(s) work with Windows 7 and then really which one to standardize on. The more thorough you are here could mean the difference between testing a 100 applications or testing a 1000 applications.

After the rationalization, that is not the end of the application story, even with say 100 applications each one has to be checked for compatibility with Windows 7. This may be as easy and looking on the ISVs site to see the compatibility information. You may also be faced with in-house applications that will need testing or modifications. Your deployment plan will then need to include the teams responsible for those applications so they can schedule time to work on them. You may also have applications that require you to manually try them. Some applications can have compatibility fixes – shims – applied to make them work. A large number of applications can be made to work very quickly and easily using shims, for example making an application think it’s running as an administrator when it’s not or that it’s running on Windows XP and has IE 6 installed. For those applications that the compatibility fixes do not work on, you may need to employ a virtualization technology such as using Virtual PC and running Windows XP Mode, using App-V or MED-V, maybe even using Terminal Services technologies. As mentioned before, there are ways to get most applications that are currently running in your environment to run while using Windows 7. The time, effort and cost to make that happen will govern the path you take.

Applications play a big part in the deployment story, even in an ideal world where all you applications run on Windows 7; you need to consider how to deploy them with your images. In the next post we’ll cover images and the tools for creating and deployment them.

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