Choosing the Best Scenario for Deploying Windows XP Professional

By Paul Spencer, Jerry Honeycutt


When planning a Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional enterprise deployment, one of the fundamental decisions your organization must make is whether to upgrade or wipe-and-load. The first scenario is upgrading earlier versions of Microsoft Windows to Windows XP Professional. The second scenario is formatting the computer’s hard disk, installing Windows XP Professional cleanly, and then migrating documents and settings. This white paper describes the advantages and disadvantages of each scenario and ends with a strong recommendation that you choose to use wipe-and-load instead of upgrading computers. This white paper is applicable only to enterprise customers with Software Assurance license agreements.

On This Page

In-Place Upgrade Risks
Upgrading with Caution
Wipe-and-Load Risks
Wipe-and-Load Is Best


The deployment plan is the foundation of your Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional deployment project, and the planning guide “Deploying Windows XP Part I: Planning” will help you develop this plan. A critical decision that you make during this planning phase is whether to perform an in-place upgrade or wipe-and-load scenario. In the in-place upgrade scenario, you upgrade existing computers to Windows XP Professional, maintaining their configurations. In the wipe-and-load scenario, you replace the computers’ current configurations with new ones, selectively migrating portions of their previous configurations.

At first glance, the in-place upgrade scenario might seem to be the best choice. Windows XP Setup runs unattended, and users maintain their existing configurations. As this white paper describes, however, the in-place upgrade scenario is inferior to the wipe-and-load scenario. Migrating existing configurations to the new version of Windows brings forward all of the problems, known and unknown, contained in the previous configuration. The result is a more complicated, error-prone deployment process that’s more expensive to manage and support after deployment.

The following sections, “In-Place Upgrade” and “Wipe-and-Load,” describe the upgrade and wipe-and-load scenarios. Table 1 summarizes the risks and benefits of each method, and the remainder of this white paper addresses each risk and benefit in more detail.

Table 1. Risks and Benefits of Deployment Scenarios




In-Place Upgrade

  • Some applications don’t work properly after upgrading from earlier versions of Windows to Windows XP Professional.

  • Not all security settings migrate to Windows XP Professional, requiring you to harden security post installation, and exploits (viruses, spyware, and so on) migrate with the upgrade.

  • Upgrading carries forward performance problems that occur due to normal performance degradation.

  • Confusion due to inconsistent configurations leads to an increased total cost of ownership (TCO).

  • Upgrading doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to start fresh with standardized reference configurations.

  • The upgrade deployment process is significantly more complicated than the wipe-and-load deployment process.

  • Users’ documents and settings migrate with no additional effort.

  • Many installed applications migrate successfully from earlier versions of Windows to Windows XP Professional.


  • Discretionary applications that aren’t part of the reference configuration must be reinstalled, assuming that access to the source media is even available.

  • Steps must be taken to migrate users’ documents and settings from previous configurations to the new reference configuration.

  • Wipe-and-load requires access to the network infrastructure and storage space for source files, migration data files, system backups, and so on.

  • Devices for which Windows XP Professional provides no in-box drivers require you to add third-party device drivers to the installation source files or install device drivers after installation.

  • Wipe-and-load avoids the application migration issues associated with the in-place upgrade scenario.

  • Exploits (virus, spyware, and so on) don’t migrate to the computer’s new configuration, and security settings are easily hardened by using Group Policy and Security Templates.

  • Wipe-and-load avoids the performance degradation issues associated with the in-place upgrade scenarios, since you’re deploying a new configuration.

  • Deploying clean configurations by using wipe-and-load reduces the TCO.

  • Wipe-and-load takes advantage of the opportunity for a fresh start, a significant advantage when creating a managed environment.

  • The wipe-and-load deployment process is less complex than the upgrade deployment process, reducing the overall cost of the project.

In-Place Upgrade

In an upgrade scenario, you upgrade a computer running an earlier version of Windows to Windows XP Professional. Windows XP Setup runs fully unattended, and you can specify additional settings by using unattended-setup answer files. Windows XP Setup also migrates users’ existing documents and settings (desktop and application). All previously installed applications remain, too, but some might not work properly after upgrading (see the section “Application Migration” for more information).

Typical steps in an in-place upgrade scenario include the following:

  1. Back up the computer’s entire hard disk. You can use the backup program built in to whichever version of Windows you’re upgrading, or you can use a third-party backup program. If you have access to disk-imaging software, you can use it to save an image of the computer’s hard disk. This provides a superior safety net in the event that the upgrade process fails.

  2. Run Windows XP Setup (Winnt32.exe) to upgrade to Windows XP Professional unattended. By default, Windows XP Setup runs unattended when you upgrade from an earlier version of Windows. It uses the existing operating system’s settings to automate installation. You can further tune the installation by running the setup program with an unattended-setup answer file. For example, you can use an answer file to automatically join the computer to the domain after upgrading from Microsoft® Windows® 98.

  3. Upgrade, uninstall, and install additional applications as required. Many applications work correctly after upgrading to Windows XP Professional, but some don’t. You can upgrade or reinstall applications that don’t work after upgrading, and they’ll work in most cases. Disk and other utilities usually require an upgrade from the Independent Software Vendor (ISV).

The in-place upgrade has the apparent benefit of migrating existing configurations. Although this aspect is certainly attractive to users, particularly consumers, but it’s not necessarily attractive in business environments in which the goal is a managed environment with reduced TCO. Although the in-place upgrade scenario is simple to execute, it’s fraught with problems. For example, upgrading an earlier version of Windows to Windows XP Professional doesn’t reset the computer to a reference configuration. Applications sometimes don’t work properly after upgrading to Windows XP Professional. For more information about problems with the in-place upgrade scenario, see the section “In-Place Upgrade Risks.”


In the wipe-and-load scenario, you format the computer’s hard disk and do a clean install of Windows XP Professional. You can fully automate the installation of the operating system by using unattended-setup answer files and disk-imaging techniques, such as Sysprep or Remote Installation Service (RIS). You also preserve users’ documents and settings by using a tool like the User State Migration Tool. The result is resetting the target computer to a standardized, reference configuration.

Typical steps in a wipe-and-load scenario include the following:

  1. Back up the computer’s entire hard disk. You can use the backup program built in to whichever version of Windows you’re upgrading, or you can use a third-party backup program. Since you are likely to use disk-imaging techniques to deploy the operating system, you can use the same techniques to save an image of the computer’s hard disk, providing a safety net in the event that the installation process fails.

  2. Save users’ documents and settings for migration. In one-off scenarios, you can use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard that comes with Windows XP Professional to save a user’s settings. In large-scale deployments, you can use the User State Migration Tool, customizing it to save exactly the settings you want to migrate. (Many third-party migration tools are also available.)

  3. Format the hard disk to clean it. While you can install Windows XP Professional in a different directory, leaving the original Windows directory in tact, Microsoft doesn’t recommend that you do so. Instead, format the hard disk to prepare it for a clean installation. A variety of partitioning and formatting tools are available. If you’re starting target computers with Microsoft Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE), however, Microsoft recommends that you partition and format the hard disk by using Diskpart.exe. If you’re using Sysprep with disk-imaging software or RIS to install a disk image on the computer, then you don’t need to format the hard disk in advance.

  4. Install a Windows XP Professional reference configuration. By default, Windows XP Setup doesn’t run unattended when performing a clean installation. You can fully automate the installation by running the setup program with an unattended-setup answer file, however. If you’re using Sysprep with disk-imaging software or RIS to install a disk image on the computer, installation is also automated by using an unattended-setup answer file.

  5. Restore users’ documents and setting from step 2. You use the same tool to restore users’ documents and settings that you used to save them in step 2. You can easily automate the entire migration process so users don’t have to interact with it.

  6. Install applications not contained in the reference configuration from step 4. If you’re deploying Windows XP Professional by using Sysprep with disk-imaging software or RIS, then you can include applications in the disk image. You’ll likely not include all required applications in your disk images; instead, you’ll include standard applications in the disk image and then install one-off applications after deploying the image. If you’re not deploying Windows XP Professional by using disk images, then you’ll install most applications after installing the operating system.

One of the wipe-and-load scenario benefits is that it addresses the risks associated with the in-place upgrade scenario. This is primarily due to not bringing forward existing configurations’ known and unknown problems. This scenario is the best choice for standardizing configurations across your entire organization. Each computer begins with the same reference configuration, which includes all applications, files, and settings—reducing deployment, management, and support costs. Leveraging policies will help maintain a controlled configuration. For more information about the minimal risks and significant benefits of the wipe-and-load scenario, see the sections “Wipe-and-Load Risks” and “Wipe-and-Load Is Best,” respectively.

In-Place Upgrade Risks

The following sections describe the risks of upgrading in-place to Windows XP Professional:

  • “Application Migration.” Some of the applications already installed on users’ computers might not work properly after upgrading to Windows XP Professional from an earlier version of Windows. This section addresses the risks associated with application migration.

  • “Security and Privacy.” Windows XP Professional is more secure than earlier versions of Windows. While Windows XP Setup migrates many security settings from earlier versions, many security settings don’t migrate and require configuration after upgrading the computer. Other issues exist, such as exploits that already exist on computers, which an in-place upgrade carries forward to the new operating system.

  • “Performance Issues.” The performance of computer systems and the operating systems installed on them degrade over time. Issues affecting performance are largely due to fragmentation, but upgrading computers to Windows XP Professional leaves unused temporary files, applications, and so on.

  • “Cost of Ownership.” Inconsistencies in computer configurations, deployment troubleshooting, and additional support requirements lead to an increased TCO when you upgrade computers from an earlier version of Windows to Windows XP Professional. This is in comparison to a clean installation of the operating system in which computer configurations are consistent, deployment requires less troubleshooting, and Help desk calls are fewer.

  • “Lost Opportunities.” When upgrading from an earlier version of Windows to Windows XP Professional, the cost of lost opportunities are immeasurable. When you upgrade, you loose the opportunity to take advantage of standardized, reference configurations to create a managed environment.

  • “Deployment Process.” Contrary to popular belief, the deployment process when upgrading is not as straightforward as wipe-and-load. This section describes the complications of in-place upgrades.

Application Migration

Some installed applications won’t work correctly after upgrading from an earlier version of Windows to Windows XP Professional. They will often work properly after reinstalling them, however. This is mostly true when upgrading from 16-bit versions of Windows, as applications tend to migrate from earlier 32-bit versions of Windows properly. This behavior occurs for the following reasons:

  • Registry organization. The organization of the registry is different in the 16-bit versions of Windows versus the 32-bit versions, including Windows XP Professional. After upgrading, the application continues to look for settings using the organization of the registry in 16-bit versions of Windows.

  • Binary file differences. Some applications’ setup programs install different binary files depending on the version of Windows the setup program detects. When you upgrade to Windows XP Professional from a 16-bit version of Windows, the binary files that the application is using are incompatible.

You don’t have to manually reinstall many of these applications. ISVs can write upgrade packs that ensure their applications work correctly after upgrading to Windows XP Professional. Windows XP Setup uses upgrade packs to perform any necessary migration of the application so it will continue to function. If an upgrade pack isn’t available for an application, then you must reinstall it.

While inventorying your network prior to upgrading, you’ll find that some applications aren’t compatible with Windows XP Professional, even after reinstalling them. The ISVs wrote these applications to specific versions of Windows. The best scenario is to obtain an upgrade from the ISV. However, Microsoft provides the Application Compatibility Toolkit to help find incompatibilities and deploy fixes for them.

Some applications can block the upgrade process entirely, requiring you to remove or disable them before continuing. These include virus scanners, third-party file encryption, some file system filters, and so on. To check for these blocking issues, you can run Windows XP Setup in Check Upgrade Only mode. This mode produces a report that lists applications you must remove before upgrading to Windows XP Professional. To run Windows XP Setup in this mode, run Winnt32.exe with the command-line option -checkupgradeonly.

Security and Privacy

Windows XP Professional improves and strengthens security settings to provide a safer, securer, and more private experience than earlier versions of Windows. The operating system provides thousands of security-related settings that your organization can implement individually. Windows XP Professional also includes predefined security templates, which you can implement without change or use as the basis for a more customized security configuration. Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 strengthens security even more.

During an upgrade, Windows XP Setup resets certain critical security settings to the Windows XP Professional defaults. It retains other settings, particularly from Microsoft® Windows 2000 Professional. Therefore, the upgrade process can reduce the hardness of existing security settings by resetting them to the Windows XP Professional defaults. This is true only if you’ve configured an earlier version of Windows, such as Windows 2000 Professional, with harder settings than Windows XP Professional uses by default.

Another risk stemming from the in-place upgrade process is exploits. If a computer running an earlier version of Windows already contains an exploit (worms, viruses, spyware, and so on), the exploit remains after upgrading to Windows XP Professional. An in-place upgrade doesn’t remove exploits from the configuration, just as it doesn’t remove installed applications from it.

When upgrading to Windows XP Professional, Microsoft recommends that you use a slipstreamed version of the operating system that includes the latest service pack. You can also slipstream critical and recommended updates that include Update.exe by following the instructions in the Microsoft Windows XP Hotfix Installation and Deployment Guide. You can’t slipstream critical and recommended updates without Update.exe. As a result, after upgrading to Windows XP Professional, the operating system might start without some of the critical and recommended updates that you require. In this case, you’ll need to design a post-installation process that installs the remaining critical and recommended updates. During this time, the computer remains vulnerable until the end of the post-installation process.

Performance Issues

Numerous events occur during normal usage of a computer system, and these events affect the performance of the computer over time. They include the following:

  • Disk fragmentation. After erasing and writing many files to disk, fragmentation occurs. Fragmentation also occurs when users edit files, such as word documents, as they add and remove content and save updated versions. Fragmentation is normal and happens when pieces of single files are inefficiently distributed across many locations on a disk. The result is an increase in the time it takes to access a file. Running a disk-defragmentation program repairs this problem by rearranging the files so that their entire contents are stored on the disk contiguously.

  • Drive space usage. Disk usage increases through normal usage. The following list describes the types of files that can consume increasing amounts of space over time (most of these files are automatically removed by running Disk Cleanup [Cleanmgr.exe]):

    • Application installations

    • Catalog files for the Content Indexer

    • Debug dump files

    • Downloaded program files

    • Event logs

    • Incomplete application uninstalls that leave disk clutter

    • Microsoft Error Reporting temporary files

    • Microsoft Office temporary files

    • Offline files

    • Offline Web pages

    • Old Chkdsk files

    • Recycle Bin

    • Setup log files

    • Temporary files

    • Temporary Internet files

    • Temporary offline files

    • Temporary Remote Desktop files

    • Temporary setup files

    • WebClient temporary files

  • Registry size increase and fragmentation. The original design of the registry kept all of the registry files in the paged pool memory, which is limited to approximately 160-megabytes in the 32-bit kernel because of the layout of the kernel virtual address space. A problem arose because a considerable amount of paged pool memory was used for the registry storage alone, potentially leaving too little memory for other kernel-mode components. This is due to applications, such as Terminal Services and Component Object Model (COM), using more space in the registry. After applications write and delete many keys from the registry, fragmentation occurs, similar to how disk fragmentation occurs. The result is that accessing information in the registry can take longer. Similarly, inefficient applications that constantly increase the size of a value in small increments cause fragmentation. And application uninstall programs might not remove all settings from the registry, resulting in unnecessary entries cluttering the registry.

  • Master File Table size increase. The NTFS file system uses the Master File Table (MFT) to catalog information about every file on the disk. All information about a file; including its size; time and date stamps; permissions; and data content is stored either in MFT entries or in space outside the MFT that is described by MFT entries. As files are added to the file system, more entries are added to the MFT and the MFT increases in size. When files are deleted from the file system, NTFS marks their MFT entries as free and reuses them. However, disk space that has been allocated for these entries isn’t reallocated, and the size of the MFT doesn’t decrease.

  • Page file fragmentation. All versions of Windows use a technique called virtual memory to run processes that require more main memory than is physically available. Each process has its own virtual address space that enables the application to address more memory than is physically installed on the computer. To implement this technique, space on the hard drive is used to mimic the extra memory. This space is called a page file. Over time, the memory manager writes to and extends the page file, causing fragmentation. Page file fragmentation is a source of performance degradation.

  • Discretionary applications. Discretionary applications are those that users install. Examples are games, educational software, personal finance software, Web applications, photo-editing programs, utilities, power toys, and so on. Discretionary applications remain on the computer after upgrading to Windows XP Professional. They might impact performance, through COM registration, shell extensions, disk usage, and registry usage. Unwanted discretionary applications waste disk space, create unnecessary distractions, and potentially cause instability.

  • User profiles. Unneeded user profiles clutter the computer and remain after upgrading to Windows XP Professional. All user profiles remain after upgrading to Windows XP Professional.

  • Device drivers. Windows XP Setup migrates standard in-box Windows 2000 Professional device drivers to their Windows XP Professional counterpart, unless the version in Windows 2000 Professional is newer than the in-box Windows XP Professional device driver. If the setup program uses a device driver that’s already installed in Windows 2000 Professional, the driver might perform sub-optimally in Windows XP Professional. The 16-bit device drivers aren’t compatible with Windows XP Professional—Windows XP Setup attempts to identify and replace 16-bit device drivers with in-box device drivers. In both scenarios, you might need to download a device driver written specifically for Windows XP Professional from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

  • Networking protocols. Limiting the number of installed protocols enhances network performance and reduces network traffic. Protocols that are no longer required aren’t removed during the in-place upgrade process. You should remove unnecessary protocols manually to improve performance.

Cost of Ownership

The in-place upgrade scenario can lead to inconsistencies with other computers on which you installed Windows XP Professional cleanly. For example, Windows 2000 Professional installs system files in C:\Winnt. Windows XP Professional installs in this same folder when upgrading; however, the setup program installs the operating system in C:\Windows during a clean installation. This inconsistency can cause confusion and issues that lead to frequent Help desk calls and costly administration. Similar inconsistencies exist between the folder in which Microsoft® Windows NT® 4.0 Workstation and Windows XP Professional stores user profiles.

In previously unmanaged environments, upgrading computers from an earlier version of Windows to Windows XP Professional doesn’t magically turn them into managed desktops. This is particularly true if you’re upgrading from 16-bit versions of Windows, which are difficult to manage due to their lack of security. If the desktops in your organization are largely unmanaged with inconsistent configurations, upgrading to Windows XP Professional does nothing to alleviate these inconsistencies—it just carries forward previous problems. Each computer might have different settings, different applications, and so on. A larger issue matrix is the result, making it more difficult to troubleshoot, reproduce, and resolve issues during and after deploying the in-place upgrade.

Lost Opportunities

Deploying Windows XP Professional is an opportunity for your organization to start fresh, as you can reset each computer’s configuration to a standardized, reference configuration. Choosing the in-place upgrade scenario instead of the wipe-and-load scenario skips this valuable opportunity. The following list describes some of the opportunities that choosing the in-place upgrade diminish:

  • Microsoft Consulting Services reports that some of its customers have saved $46 per computer each year due to 3% fewer desktop visits, 10% fewer Help desk calls, and 25% shorter Help desk call duration.

  • According to Microsoft Consulting Services, its customers can deploy Windows XP Professional by using an average of 60% fewer disk images with 71% fewer configuration errors over previous versions of Windows. The total savings is approximately $104 per computer per year.

Deployment Process

As discussed, application migration, security, performance, and TCO are a few of the issues that can make the deployment process more complicated. The following list outlines some of the complexity that these issues add to the in-place upgrade process:

  • Deploying security fixes not contained in the latest service pack. Deploying critical and recommended updates since the latest service pack is more difficult with in-place upgrade scenarios. The section “Security and Privacy” describes how you can slipstream critical and recommended updates in to your Windows XP Professional source files.

  • Updating existing configurations to reference configurations. After upgrading to Windows XP Professional, updating the configuration to a reference configuration is difficult. For example, you must deploy updated applications (antivirus software, VPN client software, and so on) and update settings to match the reference configuration as closely as possible. Preventing access to and removing unwanted discretionary applications is a complex process.

  • Troubleshooting the deployment process. Troubleshooting and debugging the deployment process is more difficult with in-place upgrade scenarios than with wipe-and-load scenarios. This is due to the system’s unknown configuration in comparison to the reference configuration—many more variables exist.

  • Recovering from application setup failures. After upgrading to Windows XP Professional, you’ll automate the installation of the applications that bring the system up to the reference configuration. However, recovery from installation failures is complicated with in-place upgrade scenarios and will result in higher support requirements.

  • Scheduling an in-place upgrade. Overall, the time required to complete an in-place upgrade scenario will be substantially longer than wipe-and-load scenarios, due to issues to the issues described in the section “In-Place Upgrade Risks.” This increases the overall cost of the project and increases the likelihood of deployment, management, and support problems.

  • Coordinating with backend changes. Importantly, in-place upgrades are difficult to coordinate with backend changes because updating existing configurations to a reference configuration that matches the backend changes is more difficult. For example, an in-place upgrade is difficult to coordinate with a migration from Novel Netware to Microsoft® Active Directory®.

Upgrading with Caution

In the previous section, you learned about a variety of risks associated with in-place upgrade scenarios. Upgrading weakens security and requires security reconfiguration as a post-installation task. And performance issues that carry forward with in-place upgrade scenarios are complex to resolve. Deploying a reference configuration is difficult if not impossible to accomplish with in-place upgrade scenarios. Last, the overall deployment process is more complicated than wipe-and-load scenarios.

For these reasons, Microsoft strongly recommends that you choose a wipe-and-load scenario. Wipe-and-load scenarios have few risks associated with them and far more advantages. If you do choose to use an in-place upgrade scenario, however, the following sections contain best-practices for upgrading to Windows XP Professional and Microsoft® Office 2003 Editions.

Windows XP Professional

The white paper “Deploying Windows XP Part I: Planning” describes considerations for deploying Windows XP Professional in any scenario, whether an in-place upgrade or wipe-and-load. The following contains steps you can take to reduce the risks associated specifically the in-place upgrade scenario:

Application Migration

  • Decompress all Windows 98 compressed volumes. Windows XP Setup can’t upgrade compressed Windows 98 volumes. You must plan to uncompress them before upgrading to Windows XP Professional.

  • Remove applications for which no upgrade is available or necessary. Plan to remove the following types of applications, which don’t work properly after an upgrade and aren’t necessary:

    • Custom power-management solutions and tools. Windows XP Professional support for Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) and Advanced Power Management (APM) replaces these. Remove custom power-management solutions before upgrading.

    • Custom Plug and Play solutions. These are no longer necessary, because Windows XP Professional provides full Plug and Play support. Remove all custom Plug and Play solutions before upgrading.

    • Fault-tolerant options, such as disk mirrors.

    • Other network clients and services written for Windows NT 4.0 Workstation. Networking software from other manufacturers, including TCP/IP or IPX/SPX protocol stacks, written for Windows NT Workstation 4.0 don’t work after upgrading to Windows XP Professional.

    • Uninterruptible power software. Windows XP Professional includes built-in support for uninterruptible power supplies. Ensure that a UPS isn’t connected to the computer during the upgrade.

  • Obtain upgrades for incompatible applications. Inventory your network for installed applications. Test high-priority applications for compatibility with the in-place upgrade process. If an application fails to work properly after upgrading to Windows XP Professional, you can contact the ISV for an upgrade pack or plan a post-installation task that reinstalls the application. For example, you must upgrade applications that depend on file-system filters (antivirus software, disk tools, and disk quota software). See the white paper “Deploying Windows XP - Application Compatibility” for more information about application compatibility testing.

  • Run an upgrade check on each computer. Windows XP Setup includes a Check Upgrade Only mode, which you can use to test the upgrade process before actually upgrading. This mode produces a report that flags potential problems that might be encountered during the actual upgrade, such as hardware compatibility issues or software that might not be migrated during the upgrade. To run Windows XP Setup in this mode, run Winnt32.exe with the command-line option checkupgradeonly. For more information, see "Application Compatibility—Migrating from Windows Me or Windows 98.”

Security and Privacy

  • Scan each computer for viruses and other exploits. The section “Security and Privacy” describes how upgrading to Windows XP Professional doesn’t remove already installed exploits. Before you upgrade the operating system, scan for viruses, spyware, and so on to ensure that they don’t migrate.

  • Use Group Policy and Security Templates to harden security settings. After upgrading from earlier versions of Windows to Windows XP Professional, some security settings will reset to their Windows XP Professional defaults. To manage security settings, use Group Policy and Security Templates to define the security settings for your organization. For more information, see “Best Practices for using Security Templates” and “Microsoft Windows XP Security Guide v2 (updated for Service Pack 2) Overview.”

Performance Issues

  • Recover disk space. On each target computer, run Disk Cleanup to recover wasted disk space. Disk Cleanup removes most of the unused files that you learned about in the section “Performance Issues.” If you’re upgrading a version of Windows that doesn’t include Disk Cleanup, write a script to remove these files automatically and then run that script prior to upgrading to Windows XP Professional.

  • Remove unused and unwanted applications. Using Add/Remove Programs, remove unused and undesirable applications from the computer in order to recover additional disk space and eliminate unwanted discretionary applications that could distract users and cause instability.

  • Remove unused user profiles. You can automate the removal of unused user profiles by using command-line utilities or scripts.

  • Remove unnecessary network protocols and software. The section “Performance Issues” described the impact that unnecessary network protocols and software has on performance. Remove these before upgrading to Windows XP Professional.

  • Obtain replacement device drivers. If you’re upgrading from a 16-bit version of Windows, ensure that Windows XP Professional provides in-box drivers for each device installed on the target computers. If you’re upgrading from any other version of Windows, test whether Windows XP Setup will migrate the existing device driver and if that negatively impacts the computer’s performance. If so, contact the OEM for a replacement device driver for Windows XP Professional.

  • Defragment each computer’s hard disk. Immediately after upgrading to Windows XP Professional, defragment the computer’s hard disk. Windows XP Professional includes the Disk Defragmenter utility. For more information, see Windows XP Professional Online Help.

Deployment Process

  • Plan pre-installation and post-installation tasks that update upgraded configurations to reference configurations. These tasks include installing reference applications, such as antivirus software and Virtual Private Network (VPN) clients.

  • Slipstream the latest service pack, critical updates, and recommended updates in to your Windows XP Professional source files. You can slipstream any critical or recommended update that includes Update.exe. You must plan a post-installation task to install critical and recommended updates that don’t include Update.exe.

  • Configure Dynamic Update. Dynamic Update downloads and uses critical content to enhance the Windows XP Setup program. For more information, see “Using Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 in a Managed Environment” and “Planning for Dynamic Update.”

Office 2003 Editions

Upgrading from earlier versions of Microsoft Office to Office 2003 Editions has fewer risks associated with it than upgrading to Windows XP Professional from earlier versions of Windows. Office 2003 Setup handles the upgrade process intelligently, removing earlier versions of Office, installing the current version, and optionally migrating existing feature installation states and settings. The migration of feature installation states and settings is completely in the administrator’s control.

The following list describes steps you can take to reduce the already minimal risks of upgrading to Office 2003 Editions:

  • The most significant risk is document and solution compatibility. The white paper “Microsoft Office 97 to Microsoft Office 2003 Migration Issues” is the best reference to learn about any problems you might encounter when migrating from earlier versions of Office to Office 2003 Editions. It includes 78 pages of known issues, their descriptions, and links to Knowledge Base articles for more information.

  • Microsoft® Office® Outlook 2003 users can exchange email messages and scheduling data with users of previous versions of Microsoft email and calendar applications, as well as interact with users of other applications. However, earlier versions of Microsoft Outlook or other applications don’t support all Office Outlook 2003 features. As you plan your upgrade strategy, consider when and how you will take advantage of new features. For more information, see “Upgrading to Outlook 2003.”

  • Office 2003 Editions provide a new distribution method. You can use a compressed CD image to deploy local installation sources. Local installation sources provide better support for mobile users because they don’t require a network connection to repair Office 2003 Editions features. Local installation sources are also easier to patch than the administrative installations, which you use to deploy Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Office XP. For more information, see “Taking Advantage of a Local Installation Source.”

Wipe-and-Load Risks

In comparison to the in-place upgrade scenario, the wipe-and-load scenario has relatively few risks. The following sections discuss the risks that you might encounter by using the wipe-and-load method:

  • “Discretionary Applications.” In the wipe-and-load scenario, users must reinstall discretionary applications that the reference configuration doesn’t contain.

  • “Settings and Data Migration.” Formatting a computer’s hard disk and installing Windows XP Professional removes users’ documents and settings from the computer. The wipe-and-load scenario requires a method to migrate users’ documents and settings.

  • “Infrastructure Requirements.” In most cases, the wipe-and-load scenario requires access to the network infrastructure. Typically, the installation process uses significant network bandwidth. A considerable amount of network storage space is required for system backups, temporary migration data, Windows XP Professional source files, disk images, and so on.

  • “Device Drivers.” You will need to reinstall drivers for devices that Windows XP Professional doesn’t provide in-box device drivers. Optionally, you can add these device drivers to your source files.

Discretionary Applications

After installing the reference configuration on a computer, you must reinstall permitted discretionary applications. This can be an issue for two reasons. First, if your organization is taking advantage of this opportunity to deploy managed desktops, then users won’t have the necessary permissions to install their own applications. Installing these applications will thus require that an administrator spend additional time to install them after the operating-system installation is finished. Second, installing permitted discretionary applications isn’t possible for cases in which the source media is no longer available.

Calling this issue a risk depends on your environment. If your organization’s goal is a managed environment, the absence of discretionary applications and the requirement to have administrator privileges to install them isn’t a risk; instead, it’s a benefit. Discretionary applications often distract users from their tasks and cause instability. A goal of managed environments is to prevent both from happening.

Settings and Data Migration

After installing Windows XP Professional to a formatted hard disk or applying a disk image to the computer, users’ documents and settings are gone. However, Microsoft provides tools like the User State Migration Tool to migrate users’ documents and settings. Using this tool requires you to design a pre-installation task to save users’ documents and settings and a post-installation task to restore them. For more information about using this tool, see “Creating a User State Migration Plan for Image-based Installations.”

This issue, selectively migrating users’ documents and settings, is one of the real benefits of the wipe-and-load scenario. It provides the opportunity to replace random settings with reference configurations. Tools like the User State Migration Tool provide the ability to migrate approved settings while resetting all others to standard values. The risk is in carefully designing migration pre-installation and post-installation tasks that accomplish this task, balancing users’ needs with the company’s requirements for a managed desktop.

Infrastructure Requirements

The wipe-and-load scenario requires access to network infrastructure for the following tasks:

  • To back up computers prior to installing the reference configuration. Network storage space must be available to contain these backup files. Alternatively, local storage on a second partition or removable media such as a USB device is an option. The availability of 4GB and larger USD flash devices fast USB drives offer alternate means of storing and transporting user data and avoiding network impact.

  • To save and restore users’ documents and settings. Network storage space must be available to contain these migration data files.

  • To access to the Windows XP Professional source files or disk image. Network storage space must be available to contain these source and image files.

  • To join the computer to the domain.

Additionally, certain applications might require extended network connectivity. An example is Office Outlook 2003 and its Cached Exchange Mode feature. Cached Exchange Mode provides a better experience when you use a Microsoft® Exchange Server email account. A copy of the user’s mailbox is stored on the local computer. This copy provides quick access to data and is frequently updated with the mail server. Depending on the individual user’s mailbox folder size, the initial synchronization process may be lengthy.

Device Drivers

Users might have installed devices for which Windows XP Professional doesn’t provide in-box drivers. In these cases, you must obtain the appropriate device drivers and install them after installing the reference configuration. This risk can be mitigated, however. If you can anticipate the required device drivers that Windows XP Professional doesn’t provide, you can obtain them from the OEM and then add them to your reference configuration. Windows XP Setup will automatically detect and use them. For more information, see “How to Add OEM Plug and Play Drivers to Windows XP.”

Wipe-and-Load Is Best

This white paper has described the risks of the in-place upgrade and wipe-and-load scenarios. As discussed, the in-place upgrade scenario is significantly complex and fraught with risks. In contrast, the wipe-and-load scenario has few risks, and most of them are easy to mitigate by using tools that Microsoft and third-party software vendors provide.

If your organization is planning to move to a more managed environment, the wipe-and-load scenario is the best choice. The biggest benefit of choosing the wipe-and-load scenario is that it helps ensure all of the desktops in your organization contain a standardized, reference configuration. The scenario eliminates many of the Help desk calls, troubleshooting and debugging time, and other support problems that result from non-standard configurations.

The following describes the many reasons why the wipe-and-load scenario is the best choice:

Application Migration

Wipe-and-load prevents the application migration issues that affect the in-place upgrade scenario. First, since you’re not upgrading from an earlier version of Windows, you don’t have to account for applications that require reinstallation after the upgrade. Second, the reference configuration you deploy contains approved applications, and you can easily prevent the installation of unauthorized discretionary applications that distract users from their work and cause instability.

Security and Privacy

Wipe-and-load resolves the following security and privacy risks:

  • By deploying disk images that include update-to-date critical and recommended updates, you minimize the security exposure caused by un-patched computers during the upgrade process.

  • Security settings will not be softened due to the upgrade process. Instead, you can deploy Windows XP Professional with the level of security required by your organization by using a combination of Group Policy and Security Templates.

  • Existing viruses and other exploits will not carry forward, since you are replacing each computer’s configuration with a new configuration.

Performance Issues

Wipe-and-load resolves the following performance degradation issues by replacing each computer’s configuration with a new configuration:

  • Hard disk fragmentation

  • Hard disk clutter and wasted disk space

  • Registry clutter and fragmentation

  • Page file fragmentation

  • Unnecessary applications

  • Suboptimal device drivers

  • Networking protocols and software reset to standards

Cost of Ownership

Wipe-and-load allows your organization to deploy a managed desktop environment, reducing the overall cost of deployment, management, and support:

  • You can restrict users who currently have full control of their computers. Instead of adding users to the local Administrators groups, you can add them to the Users or Power Users groups, restricting their ability to install unapproved applications or change computer settings you don’t want them to change.

  • Using the wipe-and-load scenario removes unapproved discretionary applications, preventing distractions and instability.

  • The wipe-and-load scenario restores standardized, reference configurations to all computers. The result is a computing environment that’s easier and less costly to deploy, manage, and support. Fewer variables mean reduced costs to manage and support configurations.

  • By deploying a reference configuration, you ensure the presence of required applications. Users might have removed required applications, and the in-place upgrade scenario does not replace these.

Deployment Process

The wipe-and-load scenario is a simpler process than the in-place upgrade scenario. There are fewer considerations and pitfalls with a clean installation than there are with the in-place upgrade scenario. Much of this reduced complexity stems from not having to take the steps described in the section “Upgrading with Caution” to prepare computers before deployment.


This white paper described the risks and benefits of two scenarios for deploying Windows XP Professional: in-place upgrade and wipe-and-load. The first scenario involves upgrading an existing configuration to Windows XP Professional. Users don’t loose their documents and settings, and already installed applications remain. At first glance, the in-place upgrade scenario seems like the easiest method to use, since Windows XP Setup runs fully unattended and users keep their current configurations. However, this scenario is not as straightforward is it seems, and the traits that make this scenario seem easy are the very ones that make it so complex. You learned about these complexities in the section “In-Place Upgrade Risks.”

In the wipe-and-load scenario, you replace a computer’s current configuration with a reference configuration. As you learned in the section “Wipe-and-Load Risks,” this scenario has few risks, and most of the risks associated with it are easily overcome with tools that Microsoft provides for free. In fact, the rewards far exceed the risks. Rather than perpetuating an unmanaged environment, the wipe-and-load scenario resets configurations to a standardized, reference configuration that’s easier to manage and support. In this scenario, you don’t carry forward existing problems—rather, you start fresh. You can learn more about the benefits of this scenario at “Desktop Deployment Center: Evaluate.” For these reasons, Microsoft recommends that you choose the wipe-and-load scenario to deploy Windows XP Professional.


Christy Sutton, Microsoft Corporation

David Talbott, Studio B

Elisa Stelwagon, Microsoft Corporation

Elsa Rosenberg, Studio B

Frank Murphy, Microsoft Corporation

Igor Leybovich, Microsoft Corporation

Ilijana Vavan, Microsoft Corporation

John Colleran, Microsoft Corporation

John Jendrezak, Microsoft Corporation

Nathan Cornillon, Microsoft Corporation

Paul Barr, Microsoft Corporation

Roelof Kroes, Microsoft Corporation

Seth Wilcox, Microsoft Corporation

Tony East, Microsoft Corporation

Trevor Williamson, Microsoft Corporation

Wes Miller, Microsoft Corporation

For More Information