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In-place upgrades versus ghosting for XP Pro migration

I'm the unofficial desktop management analyst within the IT department at a hospital. I'm attempting to standardize and refine some of our personal computer practices. Our PC tech team uses Symantec Ghost images, which I've helped to create, when configuring new PCs with Windows XP Pro prior to deployment. Conversely they've established an opposing practice of doing in-place upgrades on existing PCs.

(Legal note: We're well within our rights under the licensing agreement we have with Microsoft to use Sysprep and Ghost to create and use images to deploy Microsoft Windows and Office products. No issues there.)

The time required for an in-place OS and application upgrade is substantial when compared to the use of a drive image, regardless of the proficiency of the installer. The end-user is without a vital work tool for a minimum of an hour during this process and a much longer delay is very likely should problems occur during the upgrade. In addition to being without a computer, the end-user is displaced from his/her physical work area for the duration of the upgrade.

Perhaps even more importantly, I believe that this method of migrating to Windows XP also brings forward any "bad baggage" from the old OS and apps, thereby introducing the very likely opportunity for system instability, application errors and unnecessary downtime for the end-users.

Alternatively, re-imaging of the existing computer's hard drive reduces the impact upon the end-user's time and work environment, while still allowing for quick and uniform deployment of the new OS, registry configurations, local group policy settings and applications.

So, I'm trying to make a formal case against doing in-place upgrades to Windows XP Pro and my CIO has requested documentation to substantiate my claims. This seems like it'd be pretty easy, but I'm having a tough time supporting my position. Any suggestions for finding just such documentation?

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There isn't a lot of actually documentation that supports your case; it's pretty much common sense, however. An upgrade from Windows 98 to Windows XP carries too much baggage, as you said: settings, programs, etc. Also it's tough to manage a computer that's running Windows XP after an upgrade from Windows 98. On the other hand, refreshing the computer has relatively little impact, as long as you plan carefully. You can save and restore users' settings, for example, and it's always good to start with a clean, managed installation when making the jump to Windows XP from Windows 98.

This was first published in February 2003

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