Enterprises should begin testing the capabilities of Windows 7 this year, and should be planning to "eliminate" the use of Windows XP by 2012, according to a new report from Gartner.
The analyst firm urged organisations to have a target date in mind for the switchover to help decide whether systems and hardware need to be upgraded.
Many companies have overlooked Vista, leaving no obvious alternative but to adopt the new Microsoft operating system, Gartner said.
"In various Gartner polls and surveys, 80 per cent of respondents report skipping Windows Vista. With Windows XP getting older and Windows 8 nowhere in sight, organisations need to be planning their migrations to Windows 7," said Michael Silver, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
"Windows 7 has been getting positive reviews, and many clients report that they have plans to start their production deployments, but there are some that are still undecided about when to start and how quickly to do the migration."
One key factor in the decision to upgrade is that Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP in April 2014. New applications launched in the run up to this date may not therefore support the old operating system.
"Organisations wanting to do as much of the migration as possible though PC refresh or attrition should begin by deciding on a start date," said Steve Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner.
"These organisations should take into account when their independent software vendors will provide sufficient Windows 7 support for their applications, and when they will have enough time to test applications, build images and pilot Windows 7. This will give them their start date."
Kleynhans added that this will give companies a good understanding of the time needed to complete a migration project, and that most would need 12 to 18 months for planning, testing and piloting.
Worried about data privacy? Here are several ways to secure your Facebook account
The ICO is seeking an urgent warrant to investigate a major data breach - everything you need to know as the story continues to unfold
Microsoft comes up with a new way to foist its unloved and little used Edge web browser on people