The march of progress in computing is both a good thing and an utter nuisance, depending on whom you ask. We grow attached sometimes, to a given operating system. People were hesitant to move from 98 to XP, though XP grew on people. Vista was an unmitigated disaster on a technical level, but people quickly grew to love Windows 7 to the point that it still holds the majority share of Windows installations in the world, even as we approach Microsoft’s end of support for the platform.
Let’s face it, everyone unanimously despised Windows 8, that metro interface being far from a hit with long-time users, and the abandonment of desktops and taskbars being the bane of many businesses at the time. It had this bizarre mobile design behind it that just doesn’t work for productivity.
So, this just consigned many people further to sticking to Windows 7. When 10 came out, showing hints of 8’s DNA with the metro tiles, that much-maligned ribbon UI concept even present in the explorer windows, and the eye-searing bright UI theme, people remained unimpressed.
Unfortunately, on January 14, 2020, Microsoft will be terminating support for Windows 7. This doesn’t mean that Windows 7 will stop working, nor that it can no longer be installed, but the lack of security updates and a growing compatibility schism means that personal users and businesses alike really have no choice but to upgrade.
Fortunately, Windows 10 isn’t as bad as people expect. The UI problems can be fixed with a little TLC, and the user experience itself is actually not very different at all from 7, with almost no training necessary. You may lose a day or two of productivity fixing Microsoft’s questionable UI choices, but once it’s running in an ideal way, you’ll do just fine with Windows 10. Its consistent updates and support are also unmatched and precedent-setting, which is something you can’t really assign a value to.
Let’s take a look at what’s involved in upgrading to Windows 10. If you do this right, it’s actually pretty painless.
Personal users actually have the opportunity to get a free upgrade (the shelf life of this free upgrade is surely limited), but businesses aren’t so lucky, alas. Unless your company has Windows Software Assurance, you will have to license an upgrade or full copy of Windows 10 Professional/Enterprise.
You cannot use Home edition for corporate purposes.
Should I Backup?
In the past, OS upgrades were a real problem, because they pretty much deleted old partitions, reformatted the drive, or at best, dumped previous contents into an unorganized mess of a folder somewhere in verboten corner of the hard drive. Windows 7 and 8 did this, and prior to them, it simply wiped the system altogether. This meant that upgrading required that classic 3-2-1 backup strategy on all devices. This was time consuming, especially the restoration of this data in a potentially different file system.
We recommend still doing the backup process on machines, but the likelihood that restoration will be required (the far more time-consuming aspect) is slim to none. Windows 10’s upgrade system is very slick and well-automated, able to keep almost all of your data intact, and right where you left it. Dynamic provisioning also allows new Windows 10 devices to be added to domains with no need for re-imaging.
Basically, while it’s always a good idea to do a backup first, in-place upgrades for Windows 10 are pretty seamless and trouble-free. Sadly, you may still have to reinstall software in various cases.
Making an Inventory
Any company worth its salt will have an IT inventory of all devices, their priority of importance and their primary purpose within the business environment. From this, working out a strategy for an even-paced series of upgrades (or as we will see momentarily, centralized dispatching) is actually not hard.
What you really need to pay attention to in this inventory isn’t so much devices but rather software. Bespoke applications made in-house may need to be addressed compatibility-wise. If it was built in the XP or early 7 era, there’s a chance it may not run right.
A bigger concern are web-based applications that have been tested working mostly in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. Edge is the default browser when Windows 10 installs – a lot of web-based SaaS or server-based suites don’t support Edge properly. It’s worth noting that Microsoft is looking to replace Edge with something allegedly Chromium-based, so this concern may be somewhat temporary.
Hardware Power and Compatibility
This is where you run into some issues. Windows 10 requires better hardware than Windows 7’s bare minimum requirements, with 20GB of hard drive space, 1GB of ram, 1GHz of processing speed and at least a DirectX 9 compatible GPU/Graphics card. These are pretty weak specifications these days, but if you have a lot of really aging work stations in your environment, you may need to upgrade or replace them, not just switch your operating system.
One major hardware issue of note is that Windows 10 is optimized for SSDs, and boots painfully slowly from traditional platter hard drives (it also installs like molasses on them). Thus, looking into SSD installations across the board is definitely going to be the bigger expense and the most time-consuming part of this whole affair, if you have aging tech in place.
Let’s assume for the moment that you’ve been wise enough to not let ancient technology stay in place in your environment. Maybe you don’t upgrade to top-of-the-line components regularly, but your systems are well within the tolerance needed by Windows 10. This is more likely, given how cheap those minimal specifications are per-machine.
If you have Windows Server 2012 or 2016 running, you can use asset management and update control tools to actually run the upgrades, in-place, from a centralized position. This means that machines don’t need to be disconnected for backups and installations, or people shooed away from their workstations aside from the 45 minutes or less the upgrade itself might take.
So, aside from looking out for browser conflicts and in-house tools being compatible, provided you have relatively modern hardware, this upgrade can be handled in a few days, across an entire company, without having to shut the whole thing down at once. This is a far cry from the old days. With a little added TLC, the UI aspects often criticized with 10 can also be remedied, though that’s beyond the scope here.
To learn more about upgrade preparation and the ramifications for using an unsupported operating system, fill out our contact form today. We’re happy to help!