Taking a Bott beating

Taking a Bott beating

Summary: My colleague Ed Bott, who writes the Windows column for ZDNet, takes issue with the problem solving approach that I used when I went about migrating my friend Christine's old PC over to Vista. From the nature of the talkbacks to that original post, I would say a number of you do as well.

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My colleague Ed Bott, who writes the Windows column for ZDNet, takes issue with the problem solving approach that I used when I went about migrating my friend Christine's old PC over to Vista. From the nature of the talkbacks to that original post, I would say a number of you do as well.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

With all due respect to my colleague Mr Bott -- who is someone for which I have immense professional regard in what he has achieved in his career as a technology writer and who's hands-on Windows Kung Fu is currently superior to my own, I would like to state that the solution that he proposes is "Old School" and what I attempted and successfully executed with my friend is "New School" and is a technique that will become increasingly common, particularly in large enterprises which template XP installations from master install images.

I maintain that the approach I used is less invasive, is inherently safer when the correct caution is undertaken, and has more potential for end-user satisfaction than the traditional PC migration procedure that he proposes. I will also note that virtualization of the existing legacy environment is the only guaranteed and sure fire way to ensure complete end-user business continuity from one system to the next. I also believe that this  should be a major design element for the next version of Windows -- and Bott has also disagreed with me as well on this issue so naturally his response can be attributed to his belief that end-user virtualization for PC migrations is overkill.

As a Systems Architect, integrator and a virtualization specialist, my world view and use of computing tools and techniques are different than Bott's, who is more end-user focused. The methodology and solution approach that Bott proposes is valid, and it will work, but it's not without its own pitfalls.

First is the issue of data transfers. Bott as well as some of you propose that attaching a USB hard disk on the old PC and using a system recovery boot CD to copy the data "out of band" is slower and more painful than simply yanking the original disk out and attaching it to the newer, faster PC by using a SATA to IDE interface dongle or some sort of external housing. Yes, my method is certainly slower, and that's a limitation of USB 1.1's vastly more reduced transfer rate compared to USB 2.0 or a direct SATA connection.

img_1075-1.JPGHowever I will note that I had a very good reason for doing what I was doing, and that was to be as LEAST INVASIVE AS POSSIBLE. As someone who has spent 20 years in this industry, and a significant amount of my early career cracking open tons of PCs and servers and minicomputers as a field service tech in Fortune 500 companies in every work environment possible, from the biggest banks on Wall Street to industrial manufacturing clients, I can tell you from experience that there is always the chance that with an older system, the inside of the chassis and the mainboard and other critical components will be caked on with dust and other particulates, especially if it has been shoved under someone's desk for several years and has never been vacuumed out or cleaned in any way. If you crack open the case and yank that hard disk, you will run the chance of electrostatic discharge and damaging the hard drive, even if you use a wrist collar.

img_1074-1.JPGIn the case of this particular PC -- of which you can now look inside -- it was in the house of someone who was a smoker, that smoked near their PC when they used it, and the inside of the chassis and the hard disk was caked on with dust bunnies and ash. While you could blow the dust bunnies off with an air blower, you again risk a discharge and damaging system components that you may need access to later. On newer systems that have been adequately ventilated and are used in relatively dust-free environments Bott's technique is valid. That's fine for an ideal world. It is much less valid when the system itself is at risk, and I knew just how risky it was the second I eyeballed the machine for the first time.

Bott also brings up the subject of interviews and finding out where all the data is stored and simply copying that data off.  This I did do, and Christine now has all her Office documents, digital photos and her Outlook data imported. However, Bott's solution does not address applications for which the installation media does not exist or are simply incompatible with Vista. He is also completely ignoring scenarios where certain critical applications are "abandonware" and/or are not certified to run on the new OS by the originating vendor. In Christine's case, she actually had a valid business need to continue to use Office 2003 and a number of other applications which would make no sense to install in Vista.

Christine herself purchased an Office 2007 license, but in some cases, a user might not want to go out and spend several hundred dollars on a new office suite immediately, and despite the existence of Free and Open Source productivity suites such as OpenOffice and Lotus Symphony, compatibility is not yet completely baked. In this case, a P2V virtualization conversion of their old PC with all their applications and data and settings in place is not only prudent, but the only sure-fire away to know ALL of the data that the end-user needs is copied over. Christine told me about her major directories, but it's hard to tell sometimes if some obscure data file was dropped six directory levels deep under My Documents or in some unconventional location. The user may need to locate it later and move it to the new system. Giving them a USB dongle to their old hard drive is one way to go about it, but if the data is unusable without the original application, its not going to help much.

Virtualization to solve end-user migration problems may sound like overkill for anything but the most demanding enterprises today, but it will eventually become the de-facto way of addressing these problems in the near future even for small businesses and home users. This you can count on, as well as home and end-user virtualization/migration solutions from the usual suspects that will make my labor intensive cleansing and P2V process eventually become as easy as booting a CD and attaching a USB storage device.

So to recap, I believe both Bott is correct and I am correct, but the importance in fully understanding and addressing an end-user's needs is paramount to the solution approach used. But ultimately, I believe virtualization is the only way to ensure a complete and painless migration for the end-user. It may currently be "a headache" or "overkill" for the practitioner but anything worth doing requires effort.

Do you agree or disagree with my approach? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Cloud, Storage, Virtualization

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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Talkback

66 comments
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  • Out-of-Band may be slower.

    But I find that it's much, much safer. It is my preferred method when recovering crashed Windows boxen.

    I've never really had to worry about anyone doing a system migration like your friend. My experience has always been more along the lines of 'My computer stopped working, can you fix it?'

    My first action is to boot with a recovery CD and then copy off all data files that I can. After that, I can begin to determine whether or not the system can be recovered or if a new install is needed. Either way, the data is safely stored away where it can be scanned for badness before being restored.

    BTW - awesome picture. Is that a cherry flavored Slurpee?
    Letophoro
    • SAFETY FIRST

      I'm glad someone agrees here. "Rip the hard drive out" is not the solution. It should be a last resort. What happens if you screw it up when you do that? Where do you go from there if god forbid you have no backup? At the very least, do an out of band backup of the data first.

      And yeah, cherry slurpee.
      jperlow
  • You both got it wrong

    You both overcomplicated the job.
    ShadeTree
    • And your solution.

      ?
      Bozzer
  • I agree with Ed. You made something easy difficult.

    [i]As a Systems Architect, integrator and a virtualization specialist, my world view and use of computing tools and techniques are different than Bott?s, who is more end-user focused. The methodology and solution approach that Bott proposes is valid, and it will work, but it?s not without its own pitfalls.[/i]

    And as such your solution was more the "Systems Architect" solution and not the end-user solution. I suspect if she had the choice Ed's solution would be preferred. Sometimes, as "professional technologists" we propose solutions which are overkill for the end users needs. I think that's what was done here.
    ye
    • When the only thing you know how to use

      is a hammer...
      frgough
    • And i agree with Ye

      For a change.

      Some IT guys get too carried away sometimes, Jason.
      TedKraan
    • What difference does it make, ye?

      [i]I suspect if she had the choice Ed's solution would be preferred.[/i]

      How do you know this? Did you actually talk to her?

      [i]Sometimes, as "professional technologists" we propose solutions which are overkill for the end users needs. I think that's what was done here.[/i]

      I suspect the end user didn't really care how her data was transferred, only that it was and she got the end result that she wanted.
      hasta la Vista, bah-bie
  • A beating? No way!

    Wow, I certainly didn't intend for my post to come across as a "beating." Ovecomplicated, yes, and so I offered my alternative, which I think is more practical for most people. (But if someone wants to do a P2V migration, hey, be my guest.)

    Also, there's no reason why you have to yank the hard drive out of the case. With the connector I use, you can leave the drive in place and just remove the power and data connectors. In 20 years of building and repairing PCs, I have never seen a drive fail because a technician removed a connector. They're not that fragile!

    Finally, on virtualization... I'm a huge fan of virtualization. I use it daily. I just don't think it's necessary in this case nor is it ready for the mainstream. Your original article didn't mention any specific pieces of software where the conditions you cite applied: "abandonware" that couldn't be downloaded and where the original installation media was lost. Instead, this user sounded pretty normal: Outlook for e-mail, iTunes for music, a bunch of digital photos. The exact sort of person for whom I do this all the time.
    Ed Bott
    • It ain't the removing of the connector

      Its the electrostatic discharge of the moving dust bunnies about and destroying the embedded drive controller board in the process. I -have- seen drives fail this way.
      jperlow
      • ESD training?

        How can you discharge or the machine discharge when you are both grounded?
        TedKraan
        • Clothing.

          Maybe he is wearing all polyester shirts, and acrylic jumpers.
          Bozzer
        • What he's talking about is discharge

          between dust particles. Have you ever seen a lightning storm where the the lighting runs from one cloud to another without striking the ground. If you have a positive charged particle and negative charged particle in close proximity then you will get a electrostatic discharge between the two particles.
          alaniane@...
    • Drive Failure...

      "In 20 years of building and repairing PCs, I have never seen a drive fail because a technician removed a connector. They're not that fragile"

      I'm going to have to call you on this one Ed.

      I've seen a hot-plug drive wipe out an entire SCSI array backplane on a server storage unit that Compaq had to replace and the data on the drives were lost. I've seen - just by removing the power connector mind you - a $500 IDE drive fail and we had to grab a spare drive and carefull replace the circuit board before it would come up. I've also seen an executive have to send his hard drive off for repair due to simply swapping the laptop hard drive. Cost him $1200 and it had to completely opened up in their clean room to recover.

      That's just from my direct experiences over my 20 years.

      Ed, just talk to OnTrack data recovery services. They have THOUSANDS of cases of people disabling hard drives just by messing with the cabling.

      I would MUCH rather have Mr. Perlow working on my computer system than you. He seems to have developed a much safer method and process of doing this than just starting to rip physical components out of a mix. In addition, his virtualization method guarantees that the apps and services will continue to run after the migration. With your method, who knows. look at the mess with XP versus Vista apps that occurred. Who wants to go through that?
      lawryll@...
      • I've gotta go with Ed.

        Hard drives are not nearly as fragile as Jason would have us believe. I've handled hundreds of hard drives and never had a problem with ESD. This is not to say there's not the possibility. There is. But Jason is taking it to a ridculous extreme to cover is lack of knowledge.
        ye
        • .....

          Making assumptions again I see... ]:)
          Linux User 147560
          • How so?

            .
            ye
          • By making statements like this...

            [i]But Jason is taking it to a ridculous extreme to cover is lack of knowledge.[/i]
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
      • 500 GB drive.

        <i> I've seen - just by removing the power connector mind you - a $500 IDE drive fail and we had to grab a spare drive and carefull replace the circuit board before it would come up.</i><br><br>
        Do you mean to say, with no power to the device, unattaching the power cable caused it to fail/destroyed it? <br><br>
        I'm not a computer tech but have worked around many during my career and I find that to be a very extreme exception if not hard to believe. <br><br>
        xuniL_z
        • Yes...

          Simply removing the cables caused an issue where the drive would not spin up anymore. We unscrewed and reattached another drives system board to the drive (fortunately we had a spare in stock), and it was working again. If we didn't have the spare drive, it would have been a total loss.

          Whatever occurred when we unplugged and re-plugged the drive back in caused the drive's system board (not the mechanics) to fail.
          lawryll@...