Saying goodbye to Windows XP: 3 free tools for Windows deployment

By now everyone should know that Windows XP support ends on April 8. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has jumped into action. Despite a nearly two-year warning about this deadline, at the end of 2013 more than one in four PCs around the world had yet to break the XP habit. And while the number of PCs running on Windows XP is surely dropping, many organizations still need to step into the light and adopt Windows 7 or Windows 8.

While moving to a new version of Windows might seem like a hassle, organizations should look at it as an opportunity to inspect their entire IT infrastructure beyond just the OS they use and identify any room for improvement.

For those working to upgrade their OS in the next couple months, Microsoft offers three free tools for all organizations, no matter their size, infrastructure, or IT resources, to smooth the transition. Here’s how they can help:

1. Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit. For large companies that potentially own thousands of PCs running Windows XP, the massive deployment of a new OS can overwhelm IT teams and extend the transition process beyond allotted timetables.

But with the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK), adapted from a tool used by OEMs to quickly deploy Windows on machines before they head to market, IT professionals can customize and automate large-scale installations of Windows by inventorying applications, identifying compatibility issues, migrating user data, installing Windows company wide, and managing activation statuses. The kit not only simplifies and expedites deployment for companies with large device stores, but works for small organizations as well, ensuring an easy transition for all parties.

Windows ADK is designed specifically for Windows 8 deployments. Organizations migrating to Windows 7 can use the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).

2. Application Compatibility Toolkit. Another common challenge that companies face when transitioning from XP is application compatibility with Windows 7 or Windows 8. In order to simplify the conversion process, Microsoft offers the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) to help IT teams identify the compatible and incompatible applications within their environments and assess the risk of moving specific applications to the new operating system. For incompatible applications, the ACT identifies the issues within the application and helps to explain how to make the application compatible in the future.

Organizations looking to migrate to Windows 7 or an older OS should use ACT version 5.6 to check compatibility. For Windows 8 deployments, the ACT is integrated into Windows ADK.

3. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013. Many organizations run under unmanaged, multi-user environments, which can muddy the waters for operating system shifts. When companies file information in numerous locations throughout their IT environments, it’s obviously more difficult for IT staff to identify, sort, and move the data stores into a new Windows format.

For companies fearing a difficult transition, Microsoft provides the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2013. This free tool kit readies and deploys your current images and applications to your new operating system of choice, whether Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, or Windows Server 2008 R2. You can even automate desktop and server deployment no matter how complicated your data infrastructure, streamlining the Windows deployment process.

Keep in mind that you’re not alone in the move from XP. While transitioning to a new version of Windows seems like a bear, in reality it’s an opportunity to craft a stronger and more efficient IT infrastructure. Take this time to assess your company’s IT infrastructure, clean out data, and improve security. Look at the new operating system as a chance to alleviate all of the past system pain points and develop a solution to support current and future needs.

If you require assistance with your Windows deployment, please email me at timothy_pomerleau@shi.com.

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