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Considerations Before Migrating to Windows XP Professional

📄 Contents

  1. First Things First: Getting a Read on Existing Configurations
  2. Notes on the File System Comparison Matrix
  3. Summary
The intent of this article is to provide you with an idea of just what's involved with deployment and migration strategies for the desktops in your company or workgroup. If you have completed an upgrade to Windows 2000, you'll find the approaches taken in Windows XP Professional comparable to experiences with the former operating system. This article by Louis Columbus discusses the issues you need to resolve before migrating to Windows XP Professional.

The integration of Windows 2000 functionality into Windows XP's Professional and Home Edition illustrates the fact that the much-awaited integration of the reliability and security in Windows 2000 into a more robust desktop operating system is on its way. Initial beta releases of Windows XP show promise and the same level of functionality of Windows 2000 Professional. The Windows XP Home Edition shows the same attributes, with an interface that reflects a more focused approach at ergonomics specifically for home users.

Despite these accolades, Windows XP does have its share of challenges and technical hurdles to overcome. One of the most noticeable is the ongoing support of video device drivers, and the continual evolution of the user and kernel modes and their associated tasks. In other words, there are plenty of issues that Microsoft needs to resolve before launch in October 2001. The intent of this article is to provide you with an idea of just what's involved with deployment and migration strategies for the desktops in your company or workgroup. If you have completed an upgrade to Windows 2000, you'll find the approaches taken in Windows XP Professional comparable to experiences with the former operating system.

First Things First: Getting a Read on Existing Configurations

Any system administrator will attest to the need for checking any new PC or networking hardware with the Windows Hardware Compatibility List to make sure Microsoft's Hardware Compatibility Labs have tested it for compatibility with Windows NT and 2000. This is the best place to begin with the creation of a migration plan for moving workstations and desktop systems from a previous operating system to Windows XP Professional. Here's a list of the other key tasks you need to take on in order to ensure that your existing workstations and desktops will be ready to go for a migration to Windows XP Professional:

  1. If you're adding new hardware at the same time as the upgrade to Windows XP Professional, be sure to consult the Windows Hardware Compatibility List first to make sure any incremental hardware has been tested as compatible and will work with XP. You can find Microsoft's recent revamp to its Hardware Compatibility List at http://www.microsoft.com/hcl/. On the lower section of this screen, notice that Microsoft just released the Microsoft Windows XP Beta2 Hardware Compatibility List (for the x86 platform) on July 3, 2001. You can find a text representation of this compatibility listing at the following ftp location in the Microsoft Web sites' servers:ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/services/whql/hcl/WinXPHCLx86.txt.

  2. Check the BIOS of the systems you intend to upgrade to Windows XP Professional. As with Windows 2000 Professional, the systems you plan to upgrade to Windows XP will need to support Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI). Because of the number of BIOS manufacturers—more than 50 at last count—be sure to get the ACPI status of the motherboards on systems you are modifying before getting started with the install process on Windows XP Professional. Microsoft's call center technicians get their share of calls on this issue, so be sure to check out the following resources that Microsoft has created specifically for this purpose. Check out BIOS Compatibility and Windows 2000, which provides insights into which motherboards have ACPI, a component that is needed by Windows XP Professional to install and run correctly on a desktop or workstation. You can also see the results of Microsoft's efforts at creating knowledge through their relationships with key hardware manufacturers at the following location on the Microsoft Web site: http://www.microsoft.com/Windows 2000/server/howtobuy/upgrading/compat/biosissue.asp.

  3. Check to make sure the systems you are upgrading have met the minimum requirements, as defined by Microsoft for Windows XP Professional. Table 1 summarizes these minimum requirements, and should be used as only a rough guideline for the systems you want to configure, with more demanding applications requiring greater processor capability and memory. The recommendation of an Intel Pentium 233 MHz will get Windows XP Professional loaded and running, but your patience will be tested if you try any of the more demanding applications with this configuration shown in the minimum requirements column.

  4. Table 1 Hardware Requirements for Windows XP Professional

    Windows XP Professional Minimum Requirements

    Windows XP Professional Recommended Requirements

    Intel Pentium (or compatible) 233 MHz or higher processor

    Intel Pentium II (or compatible) 300 MHz or higher processor.

    64MB of RAM

    128MB (4GB maximum) of RAM

    2GB hard disk with 650MB of free disk space (additional disk space required if installing over a network)

    2GB of free hard disk space

    VGA-compatible or higher display adapter

    SVGA display adapter and Plug-and-Play monitor

    Keyboard, mouse, or other pointing device

    Keyboard, mouse, or other pointing device

    CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive (required for CD installations)

    CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive 12x or faster

    Network adapter (required for network installation)

    Network adapter

  5. Create a pilot program to test your Win32 and Win16-based applications for compatibility with Windows XP Professional. This is common sense, yet it's easy to get the impression from the claims of Win 32 and Win16 API compatibility that your existing applications running on Windows NT and Windows 2000 should be easily migrated to Windows XP Professional. Although the underlying subsystem is the same, the layering of new technologies in Windows XP can have unforeseen effects on existing applications. That's because Windows XP Professional has many new features, including file security at the operating system level. There are also system-level checks for antivirus protection and compression of files for maximizing disk space. All these variables taken together have the potential of impacting applications. Check your series of applications and network connections on pilot configurations before integrating Windows XP Professional throughout your entire company.

  6. If you already have a pilot program going with Windows XP Professional and are encountering compatibility problems, here are four ways to deal with the problems associated with getting previous-generation Win32 and Win16 API-based applications to work with Windows XP Professional:

    • Reinstall the applications after the upgrade if they are compatible with Windows XP Professional.

    • Create a new Windows XP Professional–based standard configuration with compatible versions of the applications.

    • Use migration dynamic-link libraries (DLLs) for each application that is not migrated during the upgrade.

    • Use the Run in Compatibility Mode Tool (APPCOMPAT).

  7. Early in the migration plan, decide which file system you will be using with Windows XP Professional. The majority of companies looking to upgrade to Windows XP Professional will have already chosen the File Allocation Table or FAT file system. The strengths of using the FAT file system are that it is readily compatible with legacy Windows-based applications from the days of Windows 3.X and Windows for Workgroups. The downside of the FAT file system is the lack of security that (in an increasingly secure-conscious computing environment) is causing many companies to move to 32-bit file systems that are also supported by Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP Professional. Presented here is a comparison of the file systems supported within Windows XP Professional. Many companies are moving to NTFS due to the enhanced security that file system provide.

Windows XP Professional supports FAT16, FAT32, and NTFS. Because NTFS has all the basic capabilities of FAT16 and FAT32, with the added advantage of advanced storage features such as compression, improved security, and larger partitions and file sizes, it is the recommended file system for Windows XP Professional.

Some features you can use when you choose NTFS:

  • File encryption allows you to protect files and folders from unauthorized access.

  • Permissions can be set on folders and individual files.

  • Recovery logging of disk activities helps restore information quickly in the event of power failure or other system problems.

  • Disk quotas allow you to monitor and control the amount of disk space used by individual users.

Better scalability allows you to use large volumes. The maximum volume size for NTFS is much greater than that for FAT. Additionally, NTFS performance does not degrade as volume size increases, as it does in FAT systems.

If you are performing a clean installation of Windows XP Professional, it is recommended that you use NTFS. If you are upgrading computers that use NTFS as the only file system, you should continue to use NTFS with Windows XP Professional.

Windows XP Professional provides support for existing Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Me file systems, including FAT16 and FAT32 file systems. If you are upgrading computers that use FAT or FAT32 as their file system, consider reformatting or converting the partitions to NTFS. You can convert FAT volumes to NTFS during Setup; however, you will not be able to uninstall Windows XP Professional and revert to the previous operating system if you choose this option. It's important to remember that you can install NTFS-based disks only when running Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP Professional.

Table 2 Comparing Windows XP Professional's File Systems

Subject of Comparison




Operating system compatibility

A computer running Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional can access files on an NTFS partition. A computer running Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 or later can access files on the partition, but some NTFS features, such as Disk Quotas, are not available. Other operating systems allow no access.

Access is available through MS-DOS, all versions of Windows, Windows NT, Windows XP Professional, and OS/2.

Access is available only under Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, and Windows XP Professional.

Volume size capabilities

Recommended minimum volume size is approximately 10MB.

Recommended practical maximum for volumes is 2 terabytes (TB). Much larger sizes are possible.

Cannot be used on floppy disks.

Volumes up to 4GB.

Cannot be used on floppy disks.

Volumes from 512MB to 2TB.

In Windows XP Professional, you can format a FAT32 volume only up to 32GB.

Cannot be used on floppy disks.

File size capabilities

Maximum file size 16TB minus 64KB (244 minus 64KB).

Maximum file size 4GB.

Maximum file size 4GB.

Files per volume

4,294,967,295 (232 minus 1 files).

65,536 (216 files).

Approximately 4,194,304 (222 files).

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