Thoughts Behind Large Scale OS Upgrades – Part 1


Recently one of my employers tasked me with creating an automated upgrade process for all of the remaining 37,000 Windows XP machines, so they could be automatically upgraded to Windows 7 in under 5 months.

This caused me to carefully analyze all of the tools available that could be utilized and create a list of possibilities. Understanding what I had available and what I could do in such limited time frame had me thinking of the following items:

  • What products do we own that could be leveraged
    • At the time we owned and had running a full LanDesk 9.0 and limited SCCM 2012R2 environment
  • Can these products perform full OS deployments?
    • Both products support OS deployments quite well
  • Can these products support large simultaneous deployments?
    • Both products scaled well, however we had experienced a lot of issues during previous large deployments with LanDesk (3,000 ~ 5,000 OS deployments during a summer) and nobody had much experience with SCCM outside of myself.
  • What about user’s data? We needed to guarantee user’s data was safe during the move from XP to Windows 7.
    • Both products supported the ability to backup user’s data to a network share and re-download it back onto the machine.
  • How many machines could we do a day/week and how much storage would be required?
    • During our early calculations we would have to migrate over 500 machines a day to make it to our deadline.
    • We would also need an estimate of 3 Terabytes per day if we assumed at least 300 machines would be running XP out of the 200 physical sites we had and each machine had approximately 100gigs of data that would need to be backed up.
  • Are there other alternatives such as an upgrade while keeping the data locally?
    • Both products offered solutions, however the LanDesk platform offered a much more convoluted solution. Instead SCCM would perform a much cleaner upgrade using MDT/USMT.
  • Is the SCCM 2012R2 limited environment ready to run such a large task?
    • The environment was sound, but only running at the main site. There was no time, we needed to get 200 distribution points configured at every single site in under 4 weeks.
  • How fast could we get an SCCM upgrade task sequence running to test the upgrade procedure?
    • There was no time to waste, it would take between 3 to 4 weeks to create something fairly robust.

During the first few weeks a lot of time was spent trying to get SCCM 2012R2 to upgrade a Windows XP machine. However, several hotfixes had to be installed and a WinPE 3.1 boot image had to be created. These unforeseen items just added more pressure to the deadline before real testing could be performed.

There will be more to come in Part 2.

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