Upgrading to Windows 7 for Small and Midsize Businesses

Applies To: Windows 7



Microsoft® has a variety of tools and resources to help you upgrade your company’s computers to the Windows® 7 operating system, whether they are running Windows Vista® or Windows XP. The number of tools might seem daunting, but don’t confuse the tools with the methods. In reality, we recommend just a few, targeted deployment methods for specific scenarios. These methods are based on tools and technologies that do much of the heavy lifting so that you can focus more on the business and less on getting all the pieces working together.

The guidance in section is designed specifically for small and medium business that may not have prior experience with Windows deployment or do not have enterprise deployment infrastructure.

Watch the companion video tutorial for more information.

Also see the following related documents:


For a complete view of Windows 7 resources, articles, demos, and guidance, please visit the Springboard Series for Windows 7 on the Windows Client TechCenter.
For a downloadable version of this document, see the Upgrading to Windows 7 for Small and Midsize Businesses in the Microsoft Download Center (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=162732).

This Web page helps any person responsible for upgrading to Windows 7 choose the best deployment method for his or her environment. Whether you’re an enthusiast in a small business who has been nominated to deploy Windows 7 or a full-time IT pro with years of deployment experience, this Web page helps you identify your scenario and match a method to it. After choosing a method, you can read more about it, including high-level instructions and additional resources from Microsoft.

The method table that follows defines three recommended deployment methods for business customers:

  • Manual Installation. This is a hands-on, manual deployment of installation media and manual configuration of each computer. We recommend this method if your company lacks a dedicated information technology (IT) staff and has a small, unmanaged network with fewer than 100 client computers.

  • Standard Image. This method is similar to Manual Installation but uses an operating system image that includes your customizations and applications. This takes a little more time to set up but can save you time in the end. Use this method if have at least one full-time IT pro (with or without prior deployment experience) on staff and you have small or distributed networks with 50–200 client computers.

  • Automated Installation. This method requires limited interaction at the beginning of installation, but the remainder of the process is automated. We recommend this method if your company has dedicated IT staff and managed networks with 200–500 client computers. Prior deployment experience is not required but is beneficial for using this method.

The methods shown in the table correspond to the skill level of your company’s IT staff as well as to how you license Windows 7, the number of client computers, and the infrastructure. The criteria that the table shows are guidelines, not rules, and you can move among the strategies based on all the criteria.

To use the table, choose the column that best matches your scenario. In cases where you identify with multiple columns, start with the leftmost column. You realize more benefits (cost savings, time savings, and so on) by moving right in the table, but the skills and investment (in time and money) required to get started also increase. Therefore, consider improving your scenario to enable you to move right in the table. For example, if the only criterion preventing you from performing an Automated Installation is that you’re using retail media, consider purchasing a volume license (VL). Click the link at the bottom of the chosen column to read more about implementing that particular strategy.

  Manual Installation Standard Image Automated Installation

IT skill level

IT generalist

Full-time IT pro with deployment experience optional

Full-time IT pro with deployment experience recommended

Windows license

Retail (Full Package Product) or VL



Number of client computers





  • Small, unmanaged networks

  • Manual client computer configuration

  • Distributed locations

  • Small networks

  • Standardized configurations, including applications

  • Distributed locations

  • Managed networks

  • At least one office with more than 25 users

  • Windows Server® products

  • Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (optional)

Application deployment

Manually installed commercial applications

Manually installed commercial or line-of-business (LOB) applications

Automatically installed commercial or LOB applications

User interaction

Manual, hands-on deployment

Manual, hands-on deployment

Limited interaction at the beginning of installation


Manual Installation of Windows 7: Overview

Upgrading to Windows 7 with a Standard Image: Overview

Automated Installation of Windows 7: Overview