Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Three steps to a full Windows-to-Linux migration

Take all your apps, docs, user settings and preferences along.

Article comments

So you're switching from Windows to Linux? Great. Like other users and organisations who've taken the plunge, it's likely you're making the move to take advantage of Linux's stability and reliance on open standards. Now all you have to do is prepare carefully for your move.

In this case, careful preparation means not just installing Linux on your system - either on your existing computer or a whole new machine - but also transferring your documents, bookmarks, preferences and system settings, and in some cases finding equivalent open-source applications for the Windows applications you were using before.

The Linux installation process itself varies widely between distributions, so if you don't already have some knowledge of the same, put this article aside and get familiar with that process first. Even though it's a lot easier now than it's ever been, it's hugely useful to be as familiar as you can with the setup process. That way you can best plan how to migrate your data and user settings and not be caught off guard.

Three roads to data migration

There are three basic approaches you can take in migrating your user settings and data from Windows to Linux:

  • Let Ubuntu Linux do it for you. Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions out there and, as of right now, the only major distribution that has migration tools built in as part of its setup process.

  • Use a third-party application.

  • Do it yourself.

The last option obviously requires the most expertise of the three, but it also gives you the most flexibility, since you're essentially writing (and punching) your own ticket.

Speaking of maximum flexibility, the work described here is a lot easier if you are migrating to an entirely new PC that has a Linux installation, rather than changing operating systems on an existing PC. With a new machine, you can leave everything exactly as it is on the old system more or less indefinitely. If you must run Linux on the same machine that currently runs your Windows, it's doubly imperative that you back up all your data before you migrate.

But first, back up

Whatever approach you take, the very first thing you should do before attempting a migration is make a full backup of any data that you can't replace. If you choose to migrate documents into new formats, keep the unchanged originals - if a particular document can't be converted correctly now, you'll always have the original to refer back to.

Make your backup in a format that is as platform-neutral as possible, and make it to a device that can be read by either platform. That way, if you later have to restore something on either Windows or Linux, you won't run into any unexpected hassles.

The simplest way to do this is to just copy the files as is to another disk that can be mounted in Linux. Most Linux distributions can now read the FAT32 or NTFS disk formats natively, so you could copy your files to an external hard drive formatted in Windows with either of those file systems, which will then allow you to read the data back easily in Linux. I recommend using NTFS as your target partition type if you're copying from NTFS to begin with, since FAT32 can't support individual files larger than 4GB.

One way to do this is to make a .tgz or .zip archive of the original data to be saved, which you can accomplish with most common archiving utilities. On Windows, 7-Zip has been my favourite choice for a while because it's both free and open source. If you choose to use it as well, use the .zip or .gzip/.tar file formats with the program, not its own proprietary .7z compression format. A Linux version of the program, p7zip, also exists, but since every Linux distribution out there has some way to extract .zip and .gzip archives, those formats are the way to go.

Incidentally, the more stuff you have to move from one platform to the next, the more you may want to reconsider how you store things to begin with. If you're taking the time to migrate to a whole new operating system, maybe now is a good to rethink how you structure your storage. Hard disks have become cheap enough that keeping data entirely segregated on a second drive is no longer an unprecedented concept, and it may save you a lot of work in the long run. (In my own case, I have my personal documents on a second hard drive, separate from the OS installation, and a third drive devoted entirely to my music library.)


Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *