Archive: Solutions for ditching Windows XP

As the Windows XP End-Of-Life approaches (April 8th), let’s take a look at some other technology that was released the same year as Windows XP:

The original iPod was released in 2001.

The Nokia 8310, released in 2001. Smartphones didn’t exist yet.

The original Xbox was released in 2001. Halo, anyone?

To be fair, XP has seen hundreds of updates and three major service packs, but it’s now a dead Operating System. If you haven’t already, it’s time to get current. Amazingly, up to 27% of systems out there are still on XP.

If you are worried about the scale of deploying Windows 7 to your organization, there are some great, free tools available. The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) is completely free, and supports very “lite touch” deployments of Windows 7 and 8, which can be initiated inside Windows, over the network, or from bootable media. MDT is essentially a scripted file share that can run from a server or a workstation, automating the entire deployment process, including user migration and application deployment. It can deploy anywhere from just one to thousands of systems. System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) adds central management and “zero touch” deployment to the equation and is a great enterprise tool.

If you are worried about migrating user data from XP to Windows 7, several options are available. USMT is a great, free, customizable tool for automating user migration in the enterprise. The Windows Easy Transfer Tool is a GUI front-end for this, commonly used by consumers. USMT plugs into MDT, SCCM, or can be scripted to run on its own. It’s part of the Windows ADK. You can even migrate application settings now using UE-V, part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). By implementing Folder Redirection through Group Policy, you can easily back up your users’ data to a network share when they are online, so it available when they log onto a newer, different system- a painless way to centralize their profile data. There are also several 3rd party cloud solutions to sync user data depending on your organization’s requirements.

If you are worried about application compatibility in newer version of Windows, several options are available. The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) provides a number of useful services. It will scan your current XP environment for applications and see how well they will run on newer versions of Windows, based on community feedback. It can also help you create “shems” for applications to enable them to run on newer versions of Windows. These shems are only a band-aid, but can fix older applications that are hard-coded for Windows XP. Windows 7 and 8 also provide a built-in XP compatibility mode to circumvent a lot of issues with these old applications. There are also virtualization options that can be used to sandbox the application in an XP environment, such as App-V, Citrix, or Microsoft RDS. If all else fails, you can use Hyper-V or the VM host of your choice to have an XP system on the side when needed. Med-V (part of MDOP) provides a seamless experience to users, where they don’t even have to manage an XP VM that runs in the background- it just gets “called up” when they run the old application. Unfortunately, this still means that you have to manage an XP VM in your environment, but it can be very tightly secured as its function is minimal.

By the way, did you know that Windows 7 is already 5 years old? *Insert Windows 8.1 sales pitch here*

I hope some of these tools prove useful in your upgrades. Though XP will continue to get antivirus updates through July 2015, running it in your environment is quickly becoming a major risk.