eWeek: SmartDeploy Eases Windows 7 Migration

If you’re looking at better ways to automate your Windows 7 deployment, you might want to consider Prowess’ SmartDeploy Enterprise. This is one of numerous tools that enable collections of PCs to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7. You can see other articles that I have written about this and other tools on my Windows 7 page here.

And you can read the full review that eWeek published here.

Making the move to Windows 7

If you are still running XP on your desktop, like me, you may be thinking about upgrading to Windows 7. XP is getting long in the tooth, many newer programs (especially those from Microsoft) aren’t easy to run on it without a lot of effort, and you can’t upgrade Internet Explorer if you are interested in sticking with Microsoft for your Web browsing.

Of course, you may just want to stick with XP until your aging PC emits its last dying gasp and then just buy a new PC with Win7 already on it. That can be fine for some people.

But if you do want to upgrade, Microsoft doesn’t make it easy. The only way you can install Windows 7 is to wipe your disk clean and start with a fresh install. While this is appealing in a spring-cleaning sort of way, it may not be what you want to do. What they call an “in-place upgrade” – meaning that you can preserve your files, your applications, and your other customized settings – will only work if you are upgrading from Vista.

I have tested six different products that enable this migration directly from XP to Win7, and each has its good and bad points. Which product will work for you depend on a few different factors. Two of them are ideal for single PCs, or maybe up to ten individual PCs, but not for bulk migrations if you are planning on doing this across your entire corporation. These are Zinstall ($89) and Laplink’s PCmover ($20 to $60). I was initially attracted to Zinstall because it offers a very elegant solution: you create an XP virtual machine that can be summoned at the push of a button while running Win7 on your desktop. Inside this VM, you can add new apps or do anything that you would do with your regular XP PC. The only problem is that instead of running two operating systems I ended up running a useless piece of metal with no operating systems, because of something that was wrong with Zinstall’s install. Laplink’s software converts things as you would expect, so you can’t go back to XP once you have done the upgrade.

The other four tools are Microsoft’s Windows Automated Installation Kit (free), the Dell/Kace Kbox 2100 hardware appliance ($4500 for 100 PCs), Viewfinity User Migration (free while in beta), and Prowess’ SmartDeploy ($2000 per enterprise-wide license). Each of them has similar processes, because you aren’t really keeping XP around, just the hardware it is running on. The trick is preserving enough of your user’s footprints to make it feel like home. They work as follows:

• The tools start out with a fresh copy of Windows 7 as a master image.
• The entire machine is reimaged with Windows 7 — just without you having to sit in front of it while the bits are put on the machine from a standard install DVD.
• Next, they stir in the particular applications that you want to deploy across your enterprise. This gives you the opportunity to clean house and create a more managed environment, which may not be what your end users want to hear, but gets back to that spring cleaning sentiment mentioned earlier.
• Each tool has ways to deal with the variety of hardware configurations that you place the image onto, and some make it easier to copy the user application settings and data files over to the new world of Windows 7.
• Finally, you send forth the image to your desktops and have them reboot with the new copy of Windows 7.

Sounds complicated? Yes, it is harder than jamming a DVD into your drive and letting it do its thing for an hour or so. But if you get the tool working properly, you can do a massive upgrade in a matter of a few hours, no matter how many PCs you need to touch.

What do I recommend if you have dozens of PCs to upgrade? I would start with either SmartDeploy or the Kbox. Both handle things somewhat differently, and you are going to want to read and watch my reviews to understand some of the issues.

If you are in Chicago next Thursday evening May 20th, you are welcome to come by the Chicago Windows User Group meeting where I will be speaking about this topic and showing how to use each product in a little more detail. Email me privately if you would like to meet up.

If you want to read more, go to a page where I have links to the various articles and video reviews that I have done for sites such as ITexpertVoice.com, SearchEnterpriseDesktop.com and CIOupdate.com. You can go to links on each of the reviews on all six products here.

Don’t worry, the videos are just a couple of minutes long. Good luck with your own migration.

SearchEnterpriseDesktop: Understanding Windows 7 migration tools

Many businesses that skipped upgrading to Microsoft Vista are considering moving to Windows 7. While migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 is no easy task, there are several tools — from Microsoft as well as third-party vendors — that can  help.

In this story and accompanying screenshots, I review the options.

ITExpertVoice.com: How to Use Microsoft’s RemoteApp:

Windows Server 2008 introduced a series of programs called RemoteApp that appear as if they are running on a local computer, even though they are accessed remotely. With Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, these programs can be grouped along with entire virtual desktop sessions, and both can appear in the local Start menu of your desktops. It is a pretty neat trick.

You can read the full story here.

CIOUpdate: Managing your Windows 7 migration

Many businesses who thankfully skipped Vista are now considering upgrading their aging XP desktops to Windows 7. And while there are some crude tools from Microsoft to help with this transition, there are better choices from third-party vendors that can mass migrate desktops while preserving some of the existing user information.

There are at least six different products and I review the basics on each in this story posted this week on CIOUpdate.

eSecurityPlanet: New networking features in Windows Server 2008 R2

While Windows 7 has all the sexy TV commercials (who knew so many good looking people “invented” the new operating system?), Microsoft has been busy updating Windows Server, with the 2008 R2 version released last year and an upcoming SP1 planned for sometime in the next few months.While Windows 7 has all the sexy TV commercials (who knew so many good looking people “invented” the new operating system?), Microsoft has been busy updating Windows Server, with the 2008 R2 version released last year and an upcoming SP1 planned for sometime in the next few months.

You can read the entire article posted here on some of its latest networking features.

Interview with John Jainschigg on our next cyber war

My column on Google v. China (here) stimulated an interview with John Jainschigg of IBM’s SmarterTechnology.com site  that was held in Second Life. It has been a while since I have been “in world” as they say, and I found the mechanics of getting a lecture setup as inscrutable as ever.  John and had an hour-long chat about the ways that Google has gotten into this mess, how far behind the US is in terms of cyber defenses, and other topics that I covered in my blog post.

You can play the interview here.

ITExpertVoice: Understanding Microsoft’s Server Roadmap

While Windows 7 is getting all the attention, especially here at ITExpertVoice, Microsoft has a few other irons in the fire and has been hard at work updating its rather extensive server line. Some of new technologies in its latest desktop are slowly finding their way into its Windows Servers series of products. Let’s give you a roadmap to understand what is new in the server side of things and how they all fit together and make use of Windows 7.

Microsoft provides five dizzying ways that you can take a closer look at their servers. Many of these products have free trial versions that you can download, some for 30 or 120 or even 180 days before you have to purchase a real license. Others are set up on Microsoft-hosted sites that you can experiment with using just your Web browser to try them out. And some even have Virtual Hard Disk images (VHDs) that you can download and then run on a HyperV server to set up your own test network of virtual machines. There are also a series of “Virtual Labs” where you can watch videos and be guided through the product here on MSDN. There is no membership required, but you will need IE and XP to run the lab software. Finally, Microsoft is also beginning to make Amazon Machine Images available on Amazon’s cloud-based services so you can set up your own test networks there.

ITworld: The new changes to Microsoft Windows 2008 Servers

Microsoft has some new additions to its Windows 2008 Server line, but sadly it needs to have a better naming convention to make it easier to keep track. If you haven’t looked at this operating system since it was introduced in February 2008, now is the time to get closer and try it out.

This article in ITworld reviews the latest R2 SP1 version of Windows Server 2008 as well as previous versions, and what is new and notable.