It’s only a matter of time before each PC in your office becomes obsolete and has to be replaced. In larger companies, replacing a PC is no big deal because each PC adheres to a standard configuration and all of the user’s profiles and data are stored on a network server. Smaller offices, however, don't have this type of standardization, so replacing a PC can be a major undertaking. For instance, you must move all of the user’s profiles and data, as well as ensure that all of the applications are migrated when replacing a PC—a tricky business, especially since application disks have a tendency to disappear. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll share with you some tips for migrating an old Windows 2000 machine onto new hardware, and I'll even throw in a handy checklist you can download for reference.
Scope out the old system
Before you begin the migration process, I recommend getting a handle on what exactly is being migrated. In older operating systems, such as Windows 9x, it was possible to perform a file-level copy of the entire hard disk, thus making sure that everything that needed to be copied was indeed copied. Unfortunately, this technique simply doesn’t work in a Windows 2000 environment. Therefore, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the old computer and its contents before migrating to the new PC. A quick check of Windows Explorer before migrating will help you verify that everything was copied successfully.
Check the current size of each of the old machines' partitions and how much data exists on each partition. Simply double-click My Computer and examine the details for each partition. On the new machine, each partition must be at least as large as its counterpart on the old machine, and must initially use the same file system. You may even decide to make a partition substantially larger if an existing partition is close to being full.
Number of users
Estimate the number of users that will work with the new machine. If only a single person will use the machine, this step may be a nonissue, but it’s still a good idea to check for unknown accounts set up on the old machine. First, open the Control Panel and double-click on the Computer Management icon to bring up the Computer Management console. Navigate through the console to Computer Management (Local) | System Tools | Local Users and Groups | Users. You’ll now see a list of all of the local user accounts that are installed on the system.
Next, check out the Documents and Settings folder. This folder will contain a subfolder for every user who’s ever logged onto the machine, and will contain information on user profiles and desktop settings. Make a note of which folders exist. You can also take this opportunity to do some cleanup work and delete any folders that are no longer in use.
Check to see which applications loaded on the PC are actually working. This test isn’t as simple as just looking at menu options or desktop icons. The best way to figure out what applications are installed and working is to look through the hard disk using Windows Explorer. Pay especially close attention to the Program Files folder. As you locate an application, test it to see if it works. Otherwise, if you migrated a nonfunctioning application, you would probably think that the application had failed as a result of the migration and you would be wasting time trying to figure out why it isn’t working.
Each user could have a unique set of icons and a different Start menu. If one user installs an application, the application may not appear on everyone else’s Start menu.
Make note of the computer’s identification by right-clicking on the My Computer and My Network Places icons and selecting Properties. Record things like the computer's name, what domain the computer is attached to, and its IP address (if you use static addresses). Now is also a good time to determine if the new computer will inherit the old computer’s identity. Because you can’t have two computers on a network with a common identity, you can't reconnect the old computer to the network until it’s been reformatted and assigned a new identity.
Most of the time a hardware check is irrelevant because you’ll be replacing the hardware when migrating to a new machine. However, you’ll often find the old computer has some special hardware installed that an application simply can’t work without. For example, maybe the old PC has a modem and the new one doesn’t.
You can determine the old PC’s hardware by opening the Control Panel and double-clicking on the System icon. When you see the System Properties sheet, select the Hardware tab and then click the Device Manager button. The Device Manager contains a list of all known hardware.
Disable virtual memory
Now that you’re done playing detective, your next step is to disable the older machine’s virtual memory. During the course of normal operations, the virtual memory should always be enabled. However, enabling the virtual memory creates a swap file on the hard disk that can be hundreds of megabytes in size. Disabling the virtual memory can greatly expedite the copy process.
To disable the virtual memory, open the Control Panel and double-click the System icon. When the System Properties sheet appears, select the Advanced tab and click the Performance Options button, followed by the Change button. Now, select the drive that presently contains the paging file and set both the minimum and maximum file size to zero. Next, click the Set button followed by the OK button. Windows will ask you to reboot the computer, so click Yes to do so. When Windows reboots, open the Search tool from the Start Menu and locate the PAGEFILE.SYS file from the root directory. Highlight and delete the PAGEFILE.SYS file.
At this point, you’re almost ready to migrate the PC. There are just a few housekeeping chores left. The first of these chores is to scan the PC for viruses since you don’t want to infect a brand-new machine. Run the resident antivirus software that should already be installed on the old machine. If none exists, you can always run a trial version of McAfee's VirusScan.
Next, empty the Recycle Bin so that you don’t copy a bunch of deleted files. Simply double-click the Recycle Bin icon and choose File | Empty Recycle Bin.
Finally, perform a full defragmentation of all partitions. The copy process tends to go much smoother and more quickly if the partitions have been defragmented. Click on the Start Menu, followed by Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Disk Defragmenter and select the drive that will be migrated for defragmentation.
The copy process
You’re now ready to migrate the PC. There are a number of utilities out there that can copy a hard drive. I personally recommend using Symantec’s Ghost Corporate Edition. The Ghost software operates outside of the Windows operating system and can burn an image of each partition to a recordable CD. If a partition contains too much data to fit on a single CD, the disk image will automatically span multiple CDs.
After you’ve created a Ghost image for each partition, use a boot disk to create the necessary partition scheme on the new PC, and then format the partitions. If your old PC used NTFS partitions, you’ll have to go through some extra steps. The easiest way to recreate an NTFS partition structure is to load a copy of Windows 2000 onto the new machine and use the copy to create the necessary partitions. Just be sure to keep the installation as simple as possible, and do not join a domain.
You’re now ready to restore the ghosted images. If you had to install a temporary copy of Windows 2000, the ghosted image will overwrite your temporary install (assuming that both copies use the same directory).
Testing the new PC
After the migration process completes, remove the old PC from the network. Boot the new PC to Safe Mode. Now, open the Device Manager and remove any references to drivers that were specific to the old PC. This may include things like video cards, network cards, and sound cards. When you’re done, boot the new PC into normal mode.
After booting, the new PC should begin detecting devices and asking for device drivers. After the driver installation process completes, run the Add New Hardware wizard just to make sure that all of the hardware devices were detected. In addition, verify the computer’s identity again because if the network card is on the list of drivers that you had to delete and reinstall, the network settings (including the IP address) would have been lost.
Once you’ve verified your network settings and made any necessary corrections, enable the virtual memory. Finally, check to make sure that all necessary users and profiles exist and that all of the applications function properly.
Check out the checklist
Migrating the Windows 2000 operating system to a new PC is a tedious process, but it can go smoothly if you prepare well. To help you keep track of all of the steps I've described above, I formulated a handy migration checklist for you to download.