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10 Best Practices for Migrating From Windows 7 to Windows 10

I recently spoke to many customers at VMworld in Las Vegas on Windows 7 to Windows 10 migration projects and had the opportunity to present this topic to more than 500 attendees—proof that Windows remains top of mind for many customers.

For those not in attendance, consider the following 10 best practices prior and during Window 10 adoption.

Best Practice #1: Understand That This Windows Migration Is a Transformation

Unlike prior Windows migrations, Windows 10 presents an opportunity for organizations to really rethink how they do Windows management.

In Windows 10, Microsoft includes new enterprise mobility management (EMM) features that offer customers the chance to manage PCs as if they are mobile devices. This is significant for several reasons.

  • First, this change allows customers to manage all end-user computing (EUC) devices with a common set of tools, regardless of operating system (OS).
  • Second, EMM allows for anywhere/anytime management, even off the domain.
  • Third, EMM is easier, lightweight and more modern management.

Best Practice #2: Realize That Traditional PC Management Is Expensive

According to independent studies, traditional PC lifecycle management (PCLM) is still costly to do. Organizations often spend several thousands of dollars per user in the care and feeding of Windows PCs because of things like software distribution staging servers, PCs not on the domain and patches that fail to get properly deployed.

PCLM tools have done a great job for some customers, but other customers have complained that the affordability of PCLM remains a constant challenge.

Best Practice #3: Pick the Right Version of Windows 10

With Windows 10, Microsoft makes three versions of Windows available that customers will need to choose from.

  1. The Windows Insider Program (WIP) offers customers the opportunity to be an early adopter of the latest features that will eventually make their way into the mainstream version. WIP should never be deployed in production. Rather, WIP is intended to give customers an early look at what’s ahead, as well as to provide Microsoft with feedback as to functionality.
  2. The Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) is intended for devices that do not change and are fixed in function. Examples of these devices include point-of-sale (POS) devices, kiosks, bank teller devices and PCs attached to manufacturing or healthcare devices. The LTSC is not intended for mainstream PCs and should not be deployed for general purpose PCs.
  3. The version that should be deployed is the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC). The SAC target audience is business computers for production and is designed for most common scenarios, devices and applications. Each SAC release is available for 18 months, and the first phase of SAC, known as pilot, is typically available for three months. Pilot phase moves to broad phase, which is when SAC goes mainstream (approximately 3–4 months after release).

Best Practice #4: Put the Right Team Together

Most organizations have successfully completed other Windows migrations, but because of the potential impact to a broader audience, Windows 10 migrations require a cross-team effort to achieve desired results.

In no particular order, be sure to have:

  • A strong project manager who can manage effectively,
  • A strong technical lead who can design correctly,
  • Representation from appdev and
  • User business units, so their interests can be included.

Extended teams should also include experts from networking, the help desk, security and procurement. This team should be committed at least part time for 3–6 months (or longer) depending on size, complexity and priorities.

Best Practice #5: Reduce Complexity Through Standardization

Simplify, simplify, simplify! By its very nature, PC computing becomes overly complex due to the variables of device types, application updates and user-injected activities (e.g. downloads, plugins) constantly changing the makeup of what becomes a standard configuration.

A Windows 10 migration is an ideal time to start fresh and eliminate any superfluous configurations that add to that complexity. To the best of their ability, IT should eliminate unnecessary applications, reduce the number of device types and minimize the variability of user configurations that likely exist today.

Best Practice #6: Plan the Work, Then Work the Plan

Completing a Windows 10 migration is no small effort. This really requires consider a solid plan.

A typical Windows 10 migration plan would likely include much of the following.


Best Practice #7: Consider Different Approaches to a Windows Migration

There are predominantly four different ways that a Windows migration occurs:

  1. PC Refresh: PC refreshes are popular because with new PCs, fresh and clean from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), there’s no legacy technology to be concerned with. These can be costly, however. The OEM image often includes bloatware and is generally incomplete for most users.
  2. In-Place Upgrade: In-place upgrades are particularly popular for Windows 10 because Microsoft has made the upgrade process simple and straightforward. The downside of in-place upgrades include legacy app compatibility issues and the fact that less-than-ideal configurations get moved as part of this process.
  3. Re-Imaging: Re-imaging is also popular, as it extends the life of existing PC assets. Re-imaging resets the image to a known-good state that has been tested and vetted properly. But re-imaging can also be expensive, as new images need to be created for existing PCs. This process can take several weeks for complex needs.
  4. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): Finally, VDI provides a great alternative for customers wanting high degrees of standardization in a secure way from a centralized infrastructure. VDI migrations are ideal for organizational users that have identical application needs, such as those in a call center or remote agents. VDI does require infrastructure, which can be challenging for some customers.

As for a best practice, most customers will need a variety of migration methods and should plan accordingly.

Best Practice #8: Embrace the New, Eliminate the Old

Because Windows 10 offers a fresh start, some things should be introduced as the new standard, while other things should be eliminated. Consider the following changes that customers have described as a best practice.


Best Practice #9: Use Simple Application Provisioning

Being able to separate applications from Windows is not only a best practice, but should also be considered a requirement for all Windows environments today. By containerizing applications, organizations gain flexibility and freedom in how and where those applications get delivered.

Over time, application provisioning will decrease complex image management, making it easier to update to new versions and troubleshoot application interoperability issues.

Best Practice #10: Embrace Modern IT & UEM

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, adopt a modern IT management style that leverages unified endpoint management (UEM). This approach provides benefits across physical devices, enhances security through modern configuration management of user policies, handles the deployment of applications and manages OS patch management activities. This modern approach means organizations can manage Windows with the same skills being used today on mobile, while also unifying activities across all EUC environments.


This Windows migration possesses many similar attributes of prior Windows projects (e.g. Windows XP to Windows 7), but unlike prior projects, this Windows migration presents opportunities that have never existed before. New management features, such as out-of-box enrollment and off-domain administration, available in Windows 10 make this project more of Windows transformation than a Windows migration.

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