Product Reviews

Easy Desktop Migrations

Desktop DNA can handle any size network.

Chances are you’ve had to deal with a PC upgrade somewhere along the line. They seem simple at first: Install the operating system, pop in the applications, prep the desktop, set up the default user, and you’re done, right? Oops, forgot about those pesky user preferences and other data that must be transferred from the old system to the new one.

Miramar simplifies the profile management process with a new version of Desktop DNA (DDNA), Enterprise Edition. DDNA is a wizard-based tool that goes through the migration process in a simple, step-by-step manner. Five steps are needed for an interactive migration. The first is to choose the source and the destination of the migration. This can either be within an enterprise network or two computers linked through a crossover cable. No. 2 is to specify what to migrate from the source system. Step three involves modifying the structure of the destination; for example, migrating an Windows NT profile located under %SystemRoot%\Profiles to a target machine running Windows XP, with a profile in the Documents and Settings folder. The fourth step is to validate that the migration will work properly, and the fifth actually performs the migration. An optional sixth step lets you review logs generated by the migration.

We tested DDNA on a network with 1,250 users and 1,000 computer accounts, and quickly found that DDNA supports single, interactive migrations as well as multi-profile, deferred migrations. The DNA Director tool lets you prepare migrations in advance, store them in a migration directory in the format of DNA files, and reuse them as needed. Note that the DDNA agent must be installed on both source and target machines. DNA files created with the DNA Director can include an automatic installation of the agent on target systems. Meanwhile, the Template Editor can build templates for use during interactive migrations.

Desktop DNA's Enterprise Ed.
Desktop DNA's Enterprise edition. (Click image to view larger version.)

New to version 4.6 of the Enterprise Edition is integration with Active Directory (AD). DDNA now allows you to migrate a profile from an NT network or AD domain to a new AD environment and automatically create the user account if it doesn’t exist in the target domain. So when you’re migrating a profile, you’re migrating the user at the same time. But this only handles profiles and local data stores; it doesn’t include support for SID history. Instead, a new security identifier is created for the user account when created in the target domain, and this new SID won’t have access to the user’s files in the source network. But for profile migrations, which aren’t supported by Microsoft’s SIDHistory AD attribute, DDNA is the tool to use. It will even modify target Access Control Lists during the migration.

DDNA can also manage the Default User profile. Many organizations use disk imaging techniques to capture Default User settings and apply them to multiple target machines. It’s tough to copy Default User settings otherwise. DDNA recognizes special profiles such as the Default User. This means you can customize a system, capture the customization within the Default User and use DDNA to create a distributable copy of this custom profile. DDNA can also create executable profiles, which include the agent and can run as a part of another process. This lets you store the Default User profile in an executable profile and include it as part of your system staging process, ensuring that all new systems have the proper default profile. Very powerful, indeed. What’s even better is that you can use this technique to update Default User profiles on machines already deployed, something even disk imaging solutions can’t do.

Whether you have a large enterprise network or simply a couple of PCs in your home network, Desktop DNA is a useful tool to have in your arsenal. One of its greatest features is that you can set it and forget it. Once you’ve created either a template or a DNA migration file, you can reuse the same migration settings over and over again, so you don’t have to relearn how to use the tool every time you have to migrate user settings from one machine to another.

About the Author

Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest, both Microsoft MVPs, are IT professionals focused on technologies futures. They are authors of multiple books, including "Microsoft Windows Server 2008: The Complete Reference" (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2008), which focuses on building virtual workloads with Microsoft's new OS.

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