Migrating to Windows 11: Microsoft Partner Zinstall on What You Need To Know

When it comes to upgrading, Windows 11 has a few potential catches. Zinstall director Tony Bergman describes what you should know about moving to Windows 11, from 32-bit migrations to hardware requirements.

Microsoft recently described its hardware requirements for Windows 11, it's emerging client operating system -- and they are somewhat vague.

Despite that, Microsoft partner Zinstall is ready with its products to help individuals and organizations make the transition. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company makes software solutions to help with Windows client and server migrations, plus it offers backup tools.

Zinstall sells its software directly to consumers, while its business solutions more typically get used by managed service providers, IT service providers and system integrators. Its products include Zinstall Transfer for PC migrations, Zinstall Migration Kit for Azure Active Directory migrations and Zinstall WinServ for server migrations, among others.

Earlier this month, I chatted with Zinstall director Tony Bergman about the ins and outs of migrating to Windows 11.

RCP: So you're involved more with Zinstall products for businesses, rather than consumers?
Bergman: Yes, but essentially it's same problem on the consumer side as on the business side -- the problem of tools and how do we get from where we are now to where we want to go. The cloud and Azure Active Directory are a big considerations, especially given remote work. People also are looking at buying a new laptop with Windows 11, and they'll need to move stuff there. That migration support is what we do at Zinstall. And that's why we are very aware of the potential issues with Windows 11 on the hardware requirements side.

Has Microsoft has solidified its Windows 11 hardware requirements? There was a statement about the new operating system supporting eighth-generation processors, but then Microsoft talked about seventh-generation processor support.
I think most of the industry isn't sure yet. The official hardware requirements still say eighth generation. Maybe some seventh-generations CPUs will support Windows 11.

Windows 10 users pretty much have the disk space and RAM that's needed to move to Windows 11. What's different this time around with Windows 11 is the generation of the CPU being important. If you ask a regular person what generation is their CPU, they don't know what you are talking about.

If Windows 11 requirements turn out to just apply to eighth-generation CPUs, then Microsoft will basically be saying that a laptop bought three years ago may not run Windows 11. And that's a problem for a lot of people. When Windows 10 was released, it would run on laptops that were 8 to 10 years old, so three years seems short.

On the consumer side, you see very old Windows machines still in use. On the business side, a lot of companies are just now starting to migrate from Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. Those operating systems haven't been supported for years. It's always the same argument: It works, so let's not fix it, and how do we even move from that operating system. It's those issues that Zinstall addresses.

"Windows 10 users pretty much have the disk space and RAM that's needed to move to Windows 11. What's different this time around with Windows 11 is the generation of the CPU being important. If you ask a regular person what generation is their CPU, they don't know what you are talking about. "

Tony Bergman, Director, Zinstall

Doesn't Zinstall have access to the final Windows 11 specs as a partner with Microsoft?
Zinstall doesn't have inside information -- we are on the same boat as everyone else. Microsoft's Windows 11 announcement was pretty sudden, especially given that Windows 10 was supposed to be the last client OS. Previously, Microsoft would talk about a new Windows years in advance, or at least a year.

The sudden announcement of Windows 11 seems to be associated with a break from the older hardware that's less secure. It's about using a Trusted Platform Module 2.0 [TPM 2.0] with secure boot. It's maybe about responding to ransomware. Windows 11 is similar to Windows 10, though, in terms of its code base and the user interface. Despite that, people may face buying new hardware when they did not expect it, so I don't know if it's a good move.

Are Zinstall tools adding support for Windows 11 migrations? 
We already fully support Windows 11. Customers on the inside track have already used our products for those migrations and backups.

Consumers who don't know how their computers work can buy a new one and transfer their stuff. Our software does the whole thing automatically, and it includes applications, profiles, files, settings and passwords. Our goal is to make you feel at home on the new computer.

Does Zinstall have a tool to check if systems can optimally move to Windows 11? Microsoft mentioned that it has a PC Health Check Tool, but then suspended it. 
No, we don't. We provide tools for Windows transfers to another machine.

How does Windows 11's support for Arm-based processors affect Zinstall's solutions?
Windows 10 had an Arm flavor, but Windows 11 is more native. Our products do allow you to transfer from Windows to Windows on Arm. We even have a backup for Arm that is about the only solution out there. We offer the first backup and the first migration products that work on Windows on Arm, as described in an Arm case study [PDF].

Windows 11 is totally a 64-bit OS, so can people migrate from 32-bit machines?
With Windows 10, that does happen. It's mostly people who have upgraded on Windows 7 and that forces us to have a Windows 10 32-bit OS. We support pretty much anything in terms of source and target combinations. We still have people moving from Windows XP to Windows 10, and soon to Windows 11. It's rare, but it happens.

What trips up organizations when carrying out large client or server migrations? 
I think the two most common issues today are a migration to Azure Active Directory on the client side, and server migrations from Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003.

Moves to Azure Active Directory exploded during COVID, because suddenly everyone wanted to work from home. You connect everyone to the Azure domain, but can't migrate your user profile from the regular domain to the Azure domain on the same computer. When you add a computer to Azure, your old profile no longer applies and the new one is blank. So Zinstall has to move your stuff from your old profile to the Azure profile, and we sell a lot of product for that.

On the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 side, all of those old servers are technically not supported, but they are very much in use. Organizations are just starting projects to move away from them. They're running hundreds of noncompliant servers because they've been around for 10 years and no one remembers how they were installed. The technician that installed them years ago is no longer with the company. They have to take all that stuff and make it work on a different OS and somehow not lose all of your business because you are not in production.

Organizations can use our server migration product to do that. It also supports cross-OS migrations. It permits moves from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2019 or to Windows Server 2022. We also support server moves to cloud services.