Windows 7 in-place upgrade vs. replace upgrade

Take a look at the differences between a Windows 7 in-place upgrade and replace upgrade and find out what you need to know about Windows 7 automated installations.

The differences between a Windows 7 in-place upgrade and a replace upgrade, and the cost and hardware requirements for each, are key concepts that solutions providers should understand before recommending either option to their customers. Assistant Editor Pat Ouellette, talks with Windows 7 migration experts Stephen Kolbe and Thomas Nieto of Analysis Enterprise Inc. to learn about the factors that need to be considered in the Windows 7 in-place upgrade versus replace upgrade debate. They also tell you what you need to know about Windows 7 automated installations.

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Pat Ouellette: Can you explain the difference between a Windows 7 in-place upgrade and a replace upgrade, as well as the costs associated with each of them?

Stephen Kolbe: One of the key differentials in deciding on a Windows 7 in-place upgrade versus a replace upgrade is the customer's willingness to acquire new hardware. An in-place upgrade means that you are taking a computer offline and then you are upgrading that same computer to Windows 7. A replace upgrade means you are buying a new set of computers in their entirety and then replacing those computers as time goes on.

Some of the things we look for when choosing between a Windows 7 in-place upgrade and replace upgrades is the age of the computer. Particularly, is the computer still under warranty? The cost of a replacement computer these days is anywhere from $300 to $600, which could be a major deciding factor for customers.

Also, if you're working with 32-bit architecture on desktops, there is a real speed and performance benefit that can be gained by upgrading to 64-bit hardware. And again, we're talking about a fairly low cost here. For an entry-level computer, $300 to $600 could be the upgrade cost. And if the difference saves the customer 10 minutes a day in what they're doing, that's a return on investment that anyone can easily calculate. We're talking about big savings there.

Ouellette: What should solutions providers know about Windows 7 automated installations?

Thomas Nieto: It comes down to a cost calculation. How much time would it take you to do a manual deploy? I would say for 50 computers or less you don't need to do automated deployment. Any higher number and you lose the ability to departmentalize and create those machine images. For smaller businesses, you're saving yourself time by not setting up automation features.

Kolbe: So if you go beyond 50, that's where it starts to make sense to use the automated deployment services that Microsoft offers. In these cases, you've got a lot of moving parts -- different applications and software are implemented in different departments. The sales department is using one thing, production is using another and accounting is using another.

If you want to use automated deployment, you need to create a beta environment. I would do this in the proof-of-concept phase with an extra set of computers. You should secure a couple of computers with different software types from different departments, image off an employee's drive to a computer, create the automated process and deploy it onto that system. And that's going to give you the ability to prove the success of the deployment.

A proof-of-concept phase is important. Deployments should be handled in small chunks as opposed to doing it across the board. That's a big no-no. And then, the deployment should be done in a time frame that allows you to have the staff and resources available to immediately mitigate any minor issues or do any fine tuning.

About the experts
Steve Kolbe founded Analysis Enterprise Inc. in 1995 and is the president and CEO of the company. Kolbe has received awards such as Smart CEO's 2008 Smart 100, 2009 Circle of Excellence Winner for excellence in customer service and the Entrepreneur's Exchange 2010 Entrepreneur of The Year. He has also served as an advisor on various technology, educational and local boards and committees, including The Baltimore County Executive Advisory Board for Higher Education.

Thomas Nieto is a Microsoft accredited professional and the Director of Strategic Consulting Services for Analysis Enterprise Inc. Nieto presently oversees strategic planning for clients and directs a team of consultants engaged in projects, project management and consulting services. Prior to his present role, Nieto was the IT Director for Santé Group.

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