Step 4: User Files and Settings Migration

Moving users’ files and settings to their new or refreshed PCs is a critical process, failure is not an option. You can migrate each PC manually or you choose one of several ways to automate the process. Whichever migration method you choose there are three main considerations to be addressed – the transfer of users’ files, their settings, and managing Windows 10 Start and taskbar layouts.

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Step 4: User Files and Settings

When refreshing or replacing PCs, save time by automating user state backup and restore. New options for cloud file sync allow you to enforce per user sync of Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders to OneDrive for seamless file access from new Windows installs.

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While you can continue to use migration processes you have used in the past, with your shift to Office 365 ProPlus we recommend you use OneDrive ‘Known Folder Move’ (see below). To see the full desktop deployment process, visit the Desktop Deployment Center.

One of the trickiest and often most manual tasks of a large-scale deployment is the transferring of your users' files and settings. In this article we will cover the options available to you to migrate users to new, refreshed and re-imaged PCs.

Manual Migration

When it comes to deciding on what to keep when moving to a new PC or a new version of Windows some users may want to keep everything, others may want to take the opportunity to clean up their drives. Because of this, some IT departments choose to handle user file migration manually, sometimes by having support teams visit users; sometimes by setting up support centers for users to bring their PCs to the support team. Either way users can be involved in deciding what to transfer and what to discard.

Whether this is an option in your organization will depend on the scale of the migration you are planning. Clearly it is limited to the time and physics involved in working directly with users, understanding their needs, copying files across to their new, or freshly updated PC.

If you are opting for a manual migration, you may need to assess whether you will be able to complete the task by January 2020, when support for Windows 7 ends. If this looks doubtful, look into using one of the automated options below, or request more people to help.

Automated Migration using USMT

For large-scale deployments you can automate much of the process using task sequence-based deployment automation tools such as System Center Configuration Manager or the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT). Both these solutions make use User State Migration Tool (USMT) as part of their end-to-end deployment process. USMT is part of the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK)

USMT captures user accounts, user files, operating system settings, and application settings, and them migrates them to a new Windows installation. It also gives you, the IT Admin, control of exactly what gets migrated and, optionally, can exclude unwanted file types – for example audio and video files, or executables.

During the migration process you will need to have sufficient server storage capacity available to act as your temporary migration store. Here USMT offers two important features. First, it can estimate, per PC, the amount of storage you will need. Second, it allows for migration stores to be encrypted, reducing the risk of data being compromised while being stored on file servers.

Where you are performing a PC refresh and not reformatting the primary Windows partition, you also have the option of using a hard-link migration store with USMT. This process preserves user state on the PC while the old operating system and apps are removed and refreshed. With the restore process coming from the same local partition, this option offers significant improvements on performance, and reduces network traffic.

User State Migration Tool (USMT) Overview

OneDrive Known Folder Move

If your users are on OneDrive or you are adding OneDrive in as part of this deployment, there is new option available to you. Using the cloud to synchronize user files, OneDrive “Known Folder Move” feature provides a level of flexibility not possible with local network-based file migration options. If enabled prior to migration, it provides secure access on new or refreshed PCs and, it eliminates the need to create temporary migration stores on your own servers. It is also has the potential to be completely transparent to the user.

Redirect and move Windows known folders to OneDrive

If you’re already using OneDrive, you will know that users can select the folders and locations they would like to sync from OneDrive or SharePoint to their device, but that effectively puts the burden on the end user to set it up. With Known Folder Move, you can target the Documents, Desktop and Pictures folders within a user profile and protect it all on OneDrive. A user can do this themselves or, importantly for this scenario, you can enforce this using Group Policy settings.

With Known Folder Move, users don’t change their workflow – everything looks the same before, during and after synchronization with OneDrive is complete. Through Group Policy you can even choose whether or not to notify users that their documents, pictures and desktop are protected in OneDrive. If you choose not to, it all happens silently in the background. The users will only be aware when they take delivery of a new PC or their PC is refreshed. As soon as they sign in to their OneDrive account, these files will be available again, and will be restored to their new PC. And of course, OneDrive means they will also their files securely at any time from their phones and other devices.

Authentication for OneDrive powered by Azure Active Directory, so for extra security, you can easily enable multi-factor authentication, and you can set policies to control the upload and download bandwidth OneDrive uses to limit network activity.

You don’t have to migrate every use at the same time. You may want phase the roll-out of the Group Policy settings, or limit file sync to domain-joined PCs.

Start Menu and Task Bar Customization

OneDrive is designed to sync and protect files and folders; it does not sync application or Windows settings. To do this in the past you may have used the copy profile method to configure standard layouts for users’ Start menus and taskbar settings. In Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education, you can use Group Policy, MDM, PowerShell, or provisioning packages, to deploy customized Start and taskbar layouts. No reimaging is required, and the layout can be updated simply by overwriting the .xml file that contains the layout.

To create a new layout simply configure a sample system, and use the PowerShell Export-StartLayout cmdlet to generate an XML file, then place this file on a network share, or cache it locally as part of your deployment sequence; it just needs to be reachable as Read-only file once the user signs in. You can then use policy or the Import-StartLayout cmdlet to reference this file.

Removing unwanted in-box apps

Windows 10 includes many useful built-in apps as part of the standard installation, but you may want to remove some of these from your managed PCs, and even configure your installation to prevent those apps from returning, for example, XBOX or Zune Music. You can retrieve a list of these apps using the PowerShell Get-AppxPackage commands, and remove those you do not want using the Remove-AppxPackage command. Alternatively, you can mount the Windows Image (.img) file offline before deployment, and extract packages you do not want using the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command line tool and the Remove-AppxProvisionedPackage command.

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