- XP is old
Microsoft is rightly proud of XP's longevity, but the fact it still lingers with such tenacity across the enterprise has also become an embarrassment. It's persistence only serves to highlight how few Enterprise Vista migrations there have been.
- Vendors potentially dropping back on XP Support
It will start to happen. Vendors are being forced now into supporting 3 major Windows desktop operating systems (not to mention the x86 and x64 variants), and they too can't wait for Microsoft to drop one of them off the list. This is not just applications I'm talking about, but drivers too.
- Windows 7 looks sexy
We can't help it. We're all suckers for a pretty (inter)face. Windows 7 is certainly a major advance on XP, and we're not just talking resource hogging eye-candy with no real benefit either. Windows 7 actually feels nice.
- Download and start using the Microsoft Windows Automated Installation Kit
Yes, I know its a HUGE download considering all you really want to do is edit an XML file. Do it anyway. This will help you prepare unattend.xml for your scripted Windows 7 installs, and sysprep.xml files for your sysprep deliveries.
I wish I could say that sysprep is a well oiled beast in Windows 7. I can't. I can cheerfully tell you though that it is complex as hell, and a right bugger to work with. Working with XML is never easy, and although the WAIK will write it for you it doesn't actually help much with examples of how to write it. There is no wizard to direct you through the right passes for scripted installs versus sysprep setups. So, how to put that jigsaw together is up to you. The internet (and Connect) is your friend.
- Use sysprep images
Windows 7 has sysprep built in. Build your computer/virtual machine and take a vanilla image. Then just use DS to upload the image, this time using the built-in sysprep functionality in Deployment Server. You can then deliver that image with sysprep either using the default xml file, or your own. That part is really very easy.
- When playing with your XML files, start small.
Yep, bigger is not better. Your sysprep and scripted install XML files will give you hours, and hours of pain if you try to dive in at the deep end. Start simple, and increase your component features slowly. Use version control on your XML, so when something breaks you can always go back to a good point and try again. When I say version control, all I mean is a notepad of changes and postfixing XML files with rev1, rev2 etc. Keep it simple -you'll be confused enough I assure you.
- Be Smart -Use a VM
Don't test your XML files by re-delivering the sysprep image for each trial. This will result in at least a 30-minute test loop for each revision. Deliver the sysprep image to a virtual machine, and then power it down (before it boots into Windows 7 for the mini-setup), and take a snapshot. You can now create a job just to deliver your XML file to the computer in automation, so now you can just keep reverting your snapshot every time you want to test a new revision.
If you must use a physical machine, use a hidden partition with a local image store if you can.
- Be Smart -Don't use PXE
For testing, you will drive your self nuts counting bars as you wait for WinPE to trickle down by PXE. Use a CD, Flash drive or ISO image. Life is too short. In short, use anything but PXE for testing.
- Use WinPE automation
I'm not sure anything else actually works for delivering Windows7 at the moment with Altiris!
- Consider 64-bit
There are many out there who think that 32-bit computing is dying, and I'm afraid I'm one of them. People are now running more apps then ever on their desktops, and these apps are consuming more and more memory. Its now not uncommon to find desktops and laptops in the enterprise with 4GB of RAM but still running a 32-bit OS. Consider using the Windows 7 upgrade as a vehicle for moving also to a 64-bit OS.
- Identify Business Critical Apps
This is a biggie. You need to start testing those business critical apps now, so that you can raise issues urgently with vendors if need be. This means for many actually identifying those business critical apps, and separating them from the user wish-list application pool. Testing takes time, and having a business driven triage is the sensible approach. Read Ed's Blog.
- Use Connect!
There are loads of us out there who can help, and even better we want to. Share your experiences, problems and solutions on Connect. Even though people may never explicitly thankyou for it, you can bet your bottom dollar that if you've hit a problem and found a solution, there will be others out there who will benefit from your brain dumps. Sometimes, even when a solution can't be found it nice to know you are not the only one ;-)
Oh, and if you've ever wondered whether its possible to dream unattend XML files, I can assure you that now, thanks to Windows7, it is.
Note: After Matt flagged up that his HII can use Linux, I tested Linux uploads and downloads of Win7 images on DS6.9SP4 and all is zippy and works well.