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Migrating to Windows 8.x Using VMware Mirage 5.0

VMware Mirage supports Windows 7 migration and, with release 5.0, Mirage adds Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Update 1 migration support. Okay, but what does that mean to you? It might mean a lot.

While Windows 8 offers some advantages over previous Windows versions, especially in the areas of security and performance, the market did not initially respond positively to the strikingly different interface.

However, the updates to Windows 8.1 address some of the major concerns the market had with the operating system. All the same, the migration process itself raises some concerns. This is where Mirage 5.0 can help. Mirage 5.0 addresses the most common migration concerns, making the migration to Windows 8.1 or 8.1 U1 a compelling proposition.

First, let us look at what Mirage 5.0 migration support includes.

  • Upgrading an existing Windows device, in place, to a new operating system

In this context, “in place” refers to the migration of an operating system from one version to another and the migration of the user profile to the new operating system on the same hardware without interrupting the user’s work on the endpoint. Mirage migration support continues to expand, with Mirage 5.0 now including migration from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 (including 8.1 U1). Microsoft has not provided a smooth migration path from Windows XP to 8.1. This is an area where Mirage facilitates the process. With the right processes in place, Mirage can assist you when you venture to perform a migration as complex as Windows XP to 8.1. As illustrated in Table 1, the migration is a two-phased approach from Windows XP to 7, and then from 7 to 8.1.

Table 1: Mirage 5.0 Migration Support for the Same Windows Device

  • Migrating a user’s profile and files from one device to another

This type of migration, also referred to as hardware migration, is similar to data recovery, but while data recovery is in response to a system failure, hardware migration is not. During hardware migration, you have the option of updating the operating system.

Table 2: Mirage 5.0 Migration Support for Profile and Files to a Different Device

In Mirage 5.0, what was previously called the Windows 7 Migration wizard is now called the Windows OS Migration wizard, to indicate that a broader range of Windows OS migrations is available.

Figure 1: Windows OS Migration Wizard in the Mirage Console

Windows Desktop Operating System Market Share

According to Net Market Share, as of June 2014, the percentage of total desktop operating system market share that the most popular Windows operating systems commanded was as follows.

Table 3: Desktop Operating System Market Share – Most Popular Windows Versions

A fact not illustrated in the preceding table is that the adoption of Windows 7 is currently faster than the adoption of Windows 8.x. Presently, migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 is the most popular type of Windows OS migration. Windows 7 has its strengths and weaknesses. What Windows 7 has to offer is familiarity and the stability that comes with maturity, which includes more extensive testing and proven compatibility with peripherals.

Migrating to Windows 8.1 (Including 8.1 Update 1)

Resistance to migrating to Windows 8 was initially quite strong, but now organizations are starting to make the move to 8.1. But why make the move? Can you just go to Windows 7 and stay there? For sure, your users can stay with Windows 7 for a while. But for how much longer?

Incentives for Migrating to Windows 8.1

Let us go over some of the reasons you might want to migrate your organization’s Windows systems to Windows 8.x sooner rather than later:

  • Windows 7 has been on the market for five years. For a Windows operating system, that is a fairly long time. The following are some sobering facts about Windows 7 from the Microsoft Support Lifecycle site:

Mainstream Support End Date for Windows 7:           13 January 2015

Extended Support End Date for Windows 7:              14 January 2020

The Microsoft lifecycle policy provides details on support. A key takeaway is that the complimentary support included with the Windows 7 operating-system license ends with the Mainstream support phase in January 2015.

According to a 2012 IDC white paper, the cost of maintaining Windows XP systems (in user and IT labor) was more than four times higher than the cost of installing and using new Windows 7 systems. Much of the cost was not Windows-XP specific, but related to the general costs of maintaining an older operating system. Therefore, organizations can expect maintenance costs for Windows 7 to eventually outstrip the costs associated with moving to a newer version of Windows.

  • You can roll out Windows 8.1 with little to no employee training. The touch-centric user interface of Windows 8 was a concern for organizations. First, most users did not (and maybe still do not) have touch screens. However, touch screens certainly are not necessary. Second, training seemed necessary for the new interface. This is another area where Mirage 5.0 facilitates the migration. You can modify the default interface to a more desktop-centric, Windows-7-like experience, for example, by making the Start menu available on the desktop and then using Mirage to push those changes out en masse.
  • Windows 8.1 is much more secure than previous Windows versions, offering features such as a free antimalware solution and device encryption.
  • Windows 8.1 introduces a variety of features that create an enhanced bring-your-own-device environment, such as Workplace Join, Mobile Device Management, and Windows To Go.
  • Windows 8.x is generally faster than Windows 7, especially in powering up and powering down. Windows 7 is much faster than XP in this regard and Windows 8.x is quite a bit faster yet. Windows 8.1 usually starts in less than 15 seconds, while Windows 7 takes about twice as long.

Caveats About Migrating to Windows 8.1 (Including 8.1 U1)

Migrating to Windows 8.1 might be simple, but not necessarily.

  • Hardware considerations – Legacy machines, such as XP-era machines, can certainly be a problem. Even if the migration to Windows 8.1 appears successful, some features might not work as designed. However, this issue is not so different from migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7. Make sure that you understand the Windows 8.1 system requirements before migrating. Peripherals are more likely to cause a problem when migrating to Windows 8.x than when migrating to Windows 7.
  • OS and application considerations – Some migrations are easier than others. Migration from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 can be smooth if the hardware can support 8.1. On the other hand, the migration path that Microsoft provides from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 is not seamless, but as mentioned earlier, Mirage can assist in migrating XP to 7, then 7 to 8.1.

Legacy Windows applications can raise concerns for both Windows 8.x and Windows 7, but for the most part, 32-bit and 64-bit Windows applications pose no problems.

Hopefully, you will be able to anticipate any and all problems that a Windows OS migration can present. However, if an issue occurs that you did not anticipate, Mirage has you covered. Before a migration begins, a snapshot is taken. This ensures that if anything bad happens during the migration process, IT can revert to the snapshot that was taken before the migration began. And after the migration is complete, IT can use Mirage for continuous disaster recovery, as well as image management.


Planning, or at least thinking through, your organization’s next Windows migration is a beneficial exercise. Mirage can facilitate the migration, but will Windows 8.x be part of that process? Of course, the answer differs by organization. As Windows 7 ages and Windows 8 updates continue to improve the operating system, an 8.x migration becomes more appealing, especially considering how Mirage 5.0 can facilitate the process. Clearly some organizations will skip Windows 8.x completely and wait to see what the next Windows OS brings. However, the advantages that Windows 8.x and Mirage 5.0 provide when used together, make the migration worth considering.

Mirage 5.0 supports a migration from Windows 7 to 8.1 (including 8.1 U1). For more information about using Mirage for a Windows migration, see the Mirage Reviewer’s Guide and the VMware Mirage Administrator’s Guide.


By John Domenichini, technical writer for VMware, with significant contributions from Stephane Asselin

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