Windows 7 is right around the corner. The official release date is Oct. 22, but some PC makers will ship it before then. Most businesses skipped the poorly received Vista, choosing instead to run the now eight-year-old XP. So after holding off on a Windows upgrade for so long, many are no doubt ready to adopt Windows 7.
But how should you migrate to Windows 7? The answers depend on several factors specific to your environment, but let me walk you through the key decisions and options you'll have to address to ensure a successful migration to Windows 7.
[ Watch InfoWorld's screencasts of Windows 7's top 20 new features and Windows 7 hands-on guide. | Get InfoWorld's 21-page Windows 7 Deep Dive PDF special report, including the InfoWorld Test Center's Windows 7 benchmarks. ]
First off, you need to consider the number of systems on which you plan to deploy Windows 7. As part of that, ask yourself if you can use existing hardware or if you must purchase new PCs. Windows 7, for example, requires at least 2GB of RAM, and you'll want at least a 1GHz dual-core CPU and at least 16GB of installation space for the 32-bit version of Windows 7 and 20GB for the 64-bit version. The PCs should also have a DirectX 9-compatible graphics processor or card with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.
You may be thinking, "I'll need all (or many) new PCs to run Windows 7, so I'll automatically go with the 64-bit version of the OS." But before you do that, weigh the pros and cons. Although any new PC should be capable of supporting both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, you may not yet want the 64-bit version in your production environment.
The 64-bit OS supports much more RAM than the 32-bit version (which in practice is limited to about 3GB of available RAM), and it offers enhanced security through hardware data execution prevention, kernel patch protection, and mandatory driver signing. But many peripherals' drivers do not work with the 64-bit OS -- and neither do 16-bit applications nor unsigned kernel-mode drivers. Thus, adopting the 64-bit Windows 7 may require a wholesale change in your hardware and application environment, not just new PCs. Plus, some 32-bit applications may run slower on the 64-bit OS.
Your next logical step is to determine which versions of Windows 7 you will need for your deployment. Keep in mind that the edition you choose may not have the features you thought it did. For example, if you want BitLocker encryption on the system, perhaps for your laptop deployments, the Professional Edition isn't going to work for you; you need either the Enterprise Edition (which requires a volume license) or the Ultimate Edition.
The same holds true for working with DirectAccess (VPN-less access for mobile users) and BranchCache; both require the Ultimate or Enterprise editions. These two editions also offer the Windows 7 UI in 35 languages in a single OS image for global deployment. But one advanced feature -- Windows XP Mode (aka XPM), for running XP in a virtual machine -- is available in the Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions.
In addition, the Enterprise Edition supports federated search across remote repositories, AppLockerpolicy-based management of user apps, and multiple-monitor and microphone support in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments.