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How to migrate to Windows 10

For consumers, migrating to Windows 10 is a relatively straightforward process. Simply download and install the update, which is free for users of Windows 7 or 8, and you can enjoy new features like Cortana and Microsoft Edge.

You’re even given a 30-day trial period during which you can downgrade back to your old operating system. For businesses, however, a Windows 10 migration is likely to cause a few headaches. Aside from security and usability issues there’s the migration process itself to consider.

The first stage of migration is preparing your business processes and applications for Windows 10. Unlike ordinary consumers, enterprises will not be offered the OS update free-of-charge but can instead participate in the Window Software Assurance (SA) program, giving them greater flexibility and control regarding how updates are deployed. Once enrolled, organisations should carry out an audit of their existing business applications, evaluating which ones can be removed and which ones might be better off virtualised.

Although most apps used with Windows 7 and 8 should be compatible with Microsoft’s latest offering, some issues have been encountered. Unlike Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, which used the 6.x version number, Windows 10 has jumped to 10.0. This could cause compatibility issues, so it’s important to make sure that any key applications will be able to function before finalising the migration. Virtualisation can solve some compatibility issues and also provides an efficient method of distributing your apps to the new OS.

When you are confident that your applications will work with Windows 10, enterprises need to decide which software they will use to automate the migration process. There are a number of enterprise tools to assist with large-scale migration, including many developed by Microsoft itself such as Windows Deployment Services (WDS) and User State Migration Tool (USMT). Once you’ve selected the tool that best suits your enterprise, it’s time to pilot the migration.

The Pilot

A pilot migration is essentially when a business rolls out new software or hardware to a small group of users as a test, before deciding on company-wide adoption. The test group are expected to provide feedback on the new technology and help train other employees should the pilot be approved.

The pilot migration should involve as many different configurations of Windows 10 as possible and cover any different forms of hardware that a business may be using. A thorough pilot migration may take time, but it could also prevent a lot of issues occurring further down the line.


Once enterprise firms are confident that Windows 10 is right for them, the installation process can begin. The specific deployment process will depend on which tool businesses opt for. Common steps that must be completed before the upgrade can be finalised include creating the deployment share and task sequence. Whichever approach enterprise firms decide upon, it’s important that each step is completed in full before you move onto the next.

Depending on the size of the organisation, it is also likely that businesses will want to install Windows 10 in stages. They may decide to migrate one department or team at a time in order to make the process more manageable, for example. Employees should also be informed about the migration process and told that disruptions are possible. Finally, backups to critical data and systems should be in place before the migration occurs, in the event of any data loss.

After the migration

When moving to a new operating system like Windows 10, migration is not the end of the story. Enterprise firms should also consider management and support, in the short and long term, following the deployment.

Device management must be an important consideration, particularly with regard to security issues and policy conflict. Enterprises may also want to customise certain Windows 10 features, including the Start menu, across particular devices, and servicing and update options will likely prove an ongoing consideration. Providing the appropriate level of support for Windows 10 will also need to be constantly reassessed. Microsoft will add security patches to prevent large scale threats, but individual businesses will also need to ensure that they provide employees with the right level of support, including security best practices and training programmes.

Finally, it is important that enterprise firms do not rush migration to Windows 10. Depending on the size of the enterprise, the process could take in excess of a year, as it is better to take your time and get it right rather than having to deal with disruption to your core processes.

Windows 10 has the potential to be one of the most popular operating systems since Windows XP, but if businesses are to benefit from all of its new features, they need to first complete the migration process successfully.

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