Windows XP Upgrade: A Final Checklist for IT Service Providers

Windows XP Upgrade: A Final Checklist for IT Service Providers

March 4

April 8 is rapidly approaching. If you’ve been keeping up with Microsoft, you know this is the date the tech giant will officially end support for Windows XP. To quickly recap, that means no more patches and security updates will be rolled o for the operating system that has managed to chug along since 2001. More importantly, it means that those who are still running XP have some crucial decisions to make.

With the threat of compatibility, performance, and security issues looming, migrating to a newer system like Windows 7 or Windows 8 is just the smart thing to do. However, that’s easier said than done for the business that is responsible for dozens or hundreds of machines. We’ve talked about how to upgrade from XP the easy way, but this checklist will outline the steps IT vendors should take to successfully upgrade before time runs out.

Identify System Requirements

The good thing about migrating from XP is that you don’t necessarily need a sophisticated server or computer to run one of these modern systems. Here are the basic requirements for Windows 8:

Processor: 1 GHz or higher

RAM: 32-bit: 1 GB or  64-bit: 2 GB

Hard disk: 32-bit: 16 GB or 64-bit: 20 GB

Graphics card: DirectX 9-compatible

The requirements for Windows 7 are almost identical. Microsoft also has system requirements for specific features. For example, you’ll need a touch-friendly monitor or tablet to interact with the slick tile interface, and a 64-bit system in order to use Client Hyper V, which comes bundled in Windows 8. IT companies will be looking at requirements and functionality that impacts the services they provide to clients.

Check Status of Device Drivers

Most peripheral devices that work in Windows 7 will work flawlessly on Windows 8. Problems start to crop up when you try plugging up a device you had connected to XP to one of these newer systems. IT service providers using legacy devices and peripherals are strongly advised to make sure drivers are available for the system they want to migrate to. You can find out by stopping by the Windows Compatibility Center or checking out the hardware manufacturer’s website.

Address Application Infrastructure

One of the biggest challenges organizations may face when migrating from Windows XP is porting existing software over to a new system. Some programs will respond just fine in the modern environment. Others are stubborn. Windows 8 has its own hypervisor that comes in handy for running instances of multiple operating systems and applications in the same machine. Just beware of the licensing issues that accompany this software when deployed into what are technically new hardware environments.

Prepare Data for the Move

With your hardware and software challenges out of the way, the next step in your migration mission will likely involve making preparations for your data. This part may seem scary, but technology has made it so transferring huge volumes of data is a piece of cake. Between cloud computing and the vast array of storage mediums, transporting your data should be the easiest part of the upgrade.

Don’t Forget to Backup

There is no moving your data without a backup plan. In a transition of this magnitude, you want to put extra insurance on the files, documents, emails, and other content that falls in a mission-critical category for your business. We’ve learned from past posts that hard drives can be a little fluky, and been reminded about the fragility of the current cloud computing space. A comprehensive backup plan will protect you in the event that something wacky happens during the move. Some good backup software will make sure securing your data is a zip.

Choose a Migration Path

Microsoft gives you two ways to upgrade from XP. The first route is the clean install, which is pretty much what you get when you buy a new PC. It’s essentially a fresh start as none of your user data, apps, or settings are carried over. This method is mandatory if you’re moving from a 32-bit system to a 64-bit platform, and highly recommended if you’ve got all your data safely packed and backed up. The other option is to perform a direct upgrade from XP, which basically just keeps your user files intact. XP is too old to successfully transfer any settings or applications.

Make the Transition Smooth for Your Team

I’m a goof who is still having a tough time navigating Windows 8 and entry-level smartphones. Your IT team is surely more tech savvy than this, but they still may run into challenges once things get up and running. Maybe they find it frustrating to navigate through the sea of colorful app icons in search of the programs that really matter. Or maybe they can’t figure out how to close down certain applications. There will be growing pains, so IT service providers can benefit by putting together support documentation that shortens the learning curve for the user base.

Moving on from Windows XP is a process, but one that is well worth all the trouble. Have you upgraded yet? Is there anything else that should be on this checklist?

Photo Credit: Vibrant Spirit via Flickr