William here. Let’s get back to our discussion of Windows 7 while continuing to focus on upgrades and migrations. So far we’ve discussed upgrade paths, cross-architecture upgrades, cross-language upgrades, and cross-variant upgrades. [Everybody, you can use the “William Stanek” tag in the blog’s right column to find all of William’s previous posts.] Now let’s look at migrations and automation. If you can’t perform an in-place upgrade of your computer, you may be able to migrate file and settings.

Migration is supported in several scenarios. You can:

  • Migrate files and settings from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7 on the same computer.
  • Migrate files and settings from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7 on a new computer.

With either scenario, the migration techniques you use are similar. In one scenario, you are moving to a new operating system and in the other, you are moving to a new computer. The two main migration tools you’ll use are Windows Easy Transfer and User State Migration Tool (USMT). Although both tools are old standbys from migrations in the past, there are some changes that make the tools easier to use and work with.

With Windows Easy Transfer, you normally transition files and settings in two stages. First you use Windows Easy Transfer to copy them to a network folder or USB flash drive then you use Windows Easy Transfer to move the copied files to the new operating system or the new computer. You also can use an Easy Transfer cable to copy files and settings directly from an old computer to a new computer. Keep in mind a standard USB cable is not an Easy Transfer cable. You’ll need to purchase the cable if you don’t have one.

You use Windows Easy Transfer to move program settings and user files. Generally, the files transitioned only include those files in the user profile folders, such as the contents of C:\Users\%UserName% and all subfolders. Windows Easy Transfer does not move program files or system files, such as fonts or drivers. You’ll need to migrate, then install your programs, fonts and drivers as needed.

In the past, the biggest problem with Windows Easy Transfer has been that the more data you have, the longer it takes to complete the migration process. Transferring a few gigabytes of data over a network twice (once for the copy; once for the final move) is slow (very slow at 100 Mbps and painfully slow at 10 Mbps). The good news: many more computers have 1 Gbps network cards these days, which is 10X faster than 100 Mbps and 100X faster than 10 Mbps. If you’re computers don’t have 1 Gbps network cards, there’s never been a better time to upgrade (and upgrade before migrating if you plan to use Windows Easy Transfer over the network).

You can safely skip all the copy/move over the network craziness by using a USB flash drive (UFD) or an external hard drive. A 16 GB or 32 GB UFD can handle just about any single-computer migration. If you’ve going to use a UFD, make sure you use one that has 100% high-speed flash RAM—you’ll have a smoother, faster migration. Stay away from cheap UFDs. Most of the cheapos have a mixture of slow and fast flash RAM, especially if they are a few years old.

Although Windows Easy Transfer is a good choice for transitioning several computers from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7, it’s not a good choice for transitioning many computers. When you have a lot of computers, you’ll want to automate the process and this is where USMT comes in handy.

Well, that’s it for now. In my next post—Windows 7: Inside Track, Part 5 “Migrations with Windows Easy Transfer”—I’ll walk through the actual migration process. Then in Part 6 “Automating Migrations with USMT 4.0,” I’ll dig into automating the migration process. As an aside, I hope readers know that I don’t get paid for writing these blog entries. The reason I’m writing these blog entries is to help readers learn more about various Microsoft technologies. If you like what you read and enjoy my writing style, I hope you’ll buy my books. Thank you!

William R. Stanek

williamstanek at aol dot com

Twitter at http://twitter.com/WilliamStanek