Most things are going to be hard when 26,000 computers are concerned, but as John Lewis found out, migrating from Windows XP is not the easiest job in the world.

John Lewis Partnership is one of the large companies that decided to upgrade from the retired operating system when Microsoft pulled the plug this April. And as detailed below, migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 was a painful process — in order to ensure that everything went as planned, error free.

In the words of Paul Miles, a project manager with John Lewis Partnership, most of these 26,000 machines were in use at the supermarkets and department stores, while some were at headquarters.

Laptops and desktops, both.

The company thought about buying custom support from Microsoft, but decided against it, given the prices. Miles says that no one thought it would be good value for money.

And as expected, application compatibility ended up being one of the most important issues. A fair amount of software did not work on the newer version of Windows. They decided to go with compatibility solutions, where possible, and rebuilt some custom programs to make them work:

“We had 800 separate applications we were running on XP. There was a lot of activity at the beginning to see which ones will work, and which ones will not work and will never work and need to be upgraded.

A lot of those, we had to completely re-write because they were our most important systems. In the end, some applications we had to keep on XP because there is no alternative. We have had to implement additional security to make sure they stay safe.”

Luckily, some 90% of their software worked fine with Windows 7, the rest they worked around.

However, migrating from Windows XP directly to either Windows 8.1 (or the upcoming Windows 9) could result in more such compatibility issues with legacy software. Especially for organizations that have thousands of computers.

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  • Ray C

    There should only be two concerns in an upgrade: saved data migration and application compatibility. On the compatibility front, that’s why you have testing. Also, many times even with application compatibility issue, it’s not every system that requires the older OS. Sometimes specific computers or special use computers are running older applications, but the bulk of employees aren’t doing anything that requires an older OS. Many times it doesn’t matter what OS you access applications from, it’s the computer that’s hosting or administering the tool that matters. If it’s a browser issue, Microsoft has come a very long way with making IE11 run most applications just as if they were on IE8

  • WillyThePooh

    I guess they must know there are XP mode in windows 7 Ultimate.

  • Claire R

    This is a fair and real concern. I won’t try and argue that it wasn’t time for a change, because it certainly was time for one. I will say that Microsoft should figure out a way to make upgrades more painless in the future for businesses.