Desktop/Server Upgrade Strategies
Last Updated: 27 Mar 2004
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There are several Upgrade strategies that can be employed
when desktops or servers must be upgraded to a new version
of the operating system: IN-PLACE UPGRADES and SWAP-GRADES
The primary benefit of an IN-PLACE UPGRADE is that the
application settings are maintained, and you don't require
any additional hardware to perform the upgrade.
You need to have a full backup of the current system
before upgrading, just as a contingency plan.
This is the method of upgrading where you build the new
OS onto a new system, then reinstall the relevent apps
and approximate the application settings. The current
system remains in operation until the new system is
ready for cut-over. While you should always have current
backups, it isn't absolutely required for this sort of
The primary benefits of this approach include less
downtime for the end-user(s) and an easier recovery path
if the new system doesn't work out. Also, any unnecessary
apps or registry rot which might have been installed in
the old system, don't get carried over.
On the CONS side, you do require more systems, but it
does not have to be a 1:1 ratio. You could get by with
one or two floater machines. Just be sure to leave a bit
of time between one upgrade and the next, or backup the
old machine right after the swap...
In general, a clean install is highly desireable when
moving from one version of the OS to another, although
this is far less of an issue within the NT-family itself.
Microsoft condones (and even encourages) upgrades from
from Win9x/ME to 2000/XP, but some paths are much better,
and far more desirable than others, whereas some paths
should be avoided at all costs.
Systems that are upgraded from Win9x to 2000 or XP tend
to be far more sluggish, or exhibit weird bootup or
shutdown problems vs machines that are installed clean,
or upgraded from NT4 or later.
The guideline below represents the cumulative upgrade
experience of myself and several trusted friends and
colleagues. In all cases, assume that the machine in
question is well maintained, without a whole lot of
crappy software, and that any low-level 3rd party
utilities (i.e. System Maintenance tools or antivirus
software) are uninstalled before the upgrade begins.
Do not attempt to fix software problems with the OS by
simply upgrading to a new version, as quite often, the
problems are just carried over.
XP Home to XP Pro ........ Highly Recommended Upgrade
NT to 2000 or XP ......... Highly Recommended Upgrade
2000 to XP ............... Highly Recommended Upgrade
Win 95/98 to NT .......... Not Recommended Upgrade
Win 95/98 to 2000 ........ Not Recommended Upgrade
Win 95/98 to XP .......... Barely Recommended Upgrade
WinME to anything ........ DO NOT EVER DO THIS unless you
enjoy trouble or are looking
to improve your troubleshooting
UPGRADING, INSTALLING & DEPLOYMENTS
TOOLS FOR MIGRATIONS
• Generally, in-place upgrades are not advised, but
within the past few years, it has become easier to
do this with various Microsoft products.
• Upgrading from XP Home to XP Pro is pretty painless,
provided you disable AV software and other 3rd party
• NT4 to Win2K upgrades are straightforward. If you
have a *recent* install of Win9x, then it shouldn't
be too hard (or painful) to upgrade to Win2K, but
it is still less desirable than a squeaky clean
install of Win2K on a new system.
• Interestingly enough, upgrading to WinXP from Win9x
will actually be a clean install, with your previous
registry settings reapplied, so even Microsoft is
not that fond of Win9x to NT/2000/XP upgrades.
• I like swap-grades for users anyway. Less overall
downtime for them, less chance of carrying over
junk, far easier to revert to the previous system
if things don't work out....