Unattended installs of Windows have become a lot easier, thanks to automation tools such as Microsoft's Sysprep...
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tool and the many system-imaging utilities. But one task is still as hard as ever: migrating user accounts from an old machine to a new one.
User settings are multi-faceted and often difficult to do in one fell swoop without advanced knowledge of how Windows preserves user settings. There are files, Registry settings and the user accounts themselves, all of which often have to be moved separately.
To deal with this issue, Microsoft has revised one of its most powerful tools: the Windows User State Migration Tool (v. 2.6.1). This tool is designed to migrate files and settings from one installation of Windows to another (on the same machine or a different one) and will copy user accounts on Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows XP (32- and 64-bit) machines to Windows 2000 or XP machines. (It has not been tested on Windows Server 2003.) The program is designed to work with unattended deployments, so an entire machine can be set up and have its user profiles migrated in without any additional administrative work.
The new version of the Windows User State Migration Tool consists of two command-line tools: Scanstate and Loadstate. Scanstate runs on the machine you're migrating the user account from -- it reads in all the relevant information about the user and writes out that data to a single file. Loadstate reads in this file and restores all the recorded information on the target computer.
Because each user migration scenario is different, both the Scanstate and Loadstate programs contain .INF files that are used to configure different aspects of the migration: one for applications, one for system settings, one for the user's own settings, one for system files such as device drivers and so on.
Microsoft also offers a step-by-step guide to its User Statement Migration Tool, which tells you how to migrate settings in different environments (i.e., managed corporate desktops vs. a conventional home setup).
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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