With Window 7, Microsoft provides a direct upgrade path only from Windows Vista, not allowing a similar scenario when it comes down to Windows XP. However, despite this detail, Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrades are indeed possible, but customers will have to turn to an alternative path, provided by the Microsoft Deployment Tool 2010. MDT 2010 is a tool offered by the Redmond company as a free download and offers components such as the User State Migration Tool, a solution capable of making sure that user settings for applications and the desktop as well as user files are transferred from XP to Windows 7 in the upgrade process.
In a demo XP to Windows 7 migration, Sebastian Vijeu, Microsoft IT Pro Community Lead, explained that the USMT worked in the same manner as a “traditional” upgrade process. Namely, The User State Migration Tool would save the user state with all the associated settings and files, and subsequently re-install Windows 7, having wiped the disk beforehand. In this sense, USMT would perform what Microsoft referred to as hardlink migration.
“The .WIM (windows imaging format) exists since the advent of Windows Vista,” Vijeu explained. “It’s a formant in which both Windows Vista and Windows 7 are componentized, the operating systems coming with modules containing programs, drivers, etc. This allows for a high level of flexibility. The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit may not be as flexible as our System Center Configuration Manager, which is not free, but that allows customers to cover all possible scenarios, but it does allow for Windows XP to Windows 7 upgrades with the User State Migration Tool.”
Migrating from XP to Windows 7 via USMT no longer requires duplicating the full user state with double instances of the files gathered and saved either locally or in a remote location, preferably a network share or even an external hard drive. USMT instead turns to hardlink migration. The upgrade process is based on keeping single instance of the files in place, but building a catalog of links to the items in XP. After the disk is wiped clean, with the exception of the files that have to be migrated, Windows 7 is clean installed on top, and all that USMT has to do now is put the links back into the right location.
“We are now up to USMT 4.0, a release which improves consistently on the performance of the migration process, as it no longer transfers the files from the location where the upgrade is performed, but instead simply marks their position in an index file, and that file is responsible for all items to be in placed in the XP to Windows 7 upgrade, Vijeu added.
Unfortunately, I am unable to share with you Vijeu’s excellent demonstration of the XP to Windows 7 migration, but I can offer a similar demo put together with the help of Jeremy Chapman, senior product manager, Windows 7 Deployment, in the video embedded below.