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Microsoft has created a remarkable collection of free deployment tools for Windows 7. If the last OS you deployed was Windows XP, which was released nine years ago, then you might be interested in knowing about the available technology that helps you get rid of this hopelessly outdated operating system. In this post I will give you a short description of all Windows deployment tools that help you plan installations and evaluate hardware and software compatibility. In the next post I will discuss tools to prepare the Windows 7 master image. In the final post of this series I will introduce Microsoft's free utilities to deliver the OS image—that is, install Windows 7 on your network.
Windows Optimized Desktop Solution Accelerator ^
This is not really a deployment tool in the literal sense. I included this solution accelerator because the Windows Optimized Desktop Scenario Selection Tool helps you get an overview of your PC environment, which can be useful during the planning phase. This Excel application asks you a couple of questions about your IT environment and then tells you which of these five user scenarios applies to your organization: Office Worker, Mobile Worker, Task Worker, Contract/Offshore Worker, and workers who need to Access from Home. Once you know which scenario fits best, you can use the Windows Optimized Desktop Scenarios Assessment Guide, which is included in the solution accelerator, to learn more about the Microsoft products and technologies that can come into play in your environment.
Learn more | Download
Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit 4.0 ^
MAP basically is a hardware inventory tool that helps you assess whether or not the computers in your network are ready for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. The free utility also collects some software-related information such as Microsoft Office installations and SQL Server components. Most important with regard to Windows 7 deployment is that MAP reports the availability of device drivers for your hardware. MAP requires no agent installation because it uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), the Remote Registry Service, Active Directory Domain Services, and the Computer Browser service to access inventory data remotely.
Screenshot from Matt Hester's WebLog
Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) ^
ACT is to software compatibility what MAP is to hardware compatibility evaluation. This tool allows you to analyze the applications in your network to determine whether they are compatible with Windows 7 and you can also use to the tool to fix compatibility issues. ACT also enables you to analyze website compatibility with the latest Internet Explorer version. ACT requires an SQL Server installation, which indicates that the tool addresses the needs of large enterprises. Note that at the time of this writing the “learn more” link below points to the documentation of ACT 5.0, which was developed for Windows Vista. I suppose Microsoft will update this TechNet article soon to reflect the latest version for Windows 7, version 5.5. The download page also contains a link with the ACT 5.5 documentation. You might also be interested in these video tutorials about ACT 5.5. Or, jump right into the TechNET magazine article’s technical details.
Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor ^
ACT and MAP are enterprise tools. If you have to manage only a small network, the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is probably the better choice. It lacks the central inventory capabilities of the other two compatibility evaluation tools. Therefore, you have to install all your applications on your test machine if you want to evaluate their Windows 7 compatibility. If you have PCs with different hardware, you have no other choice than to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor on each of those computers.
In my next post I will discuss Microsoft's free Windows 7 image preparation tools.