Windows XP to Windows 7 migration difficulties are being exaggerated by many organisations because they are over-estimating the importance of little-used applications, a survey suggests.

Consultancy firm Centrix Software's research of project managers responsible for Windows migrations at 50 large organisations discovered that the level of application incompatibility when moving from XP was around 20%.

However, of these applications at least three quarters were never used anyway, reducing the migration problems to a smaller and more manageable subset. A surprising 50% of applications on XP were not used at all, a huge degree of software redundancy that underlines the way that newer applications hold more productive value.

Nine out of 10 applications were used less than 10% of the time with unused (but licensed) applications costing an estimated $500 (£322) per desktop, the firm said.

According to Centrix – which markets its own migration analytics software – companies contemplating migration from XP should do so after carrying out usage analysis.

“It is critical for IT departments to be in possession of these facts, when they are already so overwhelmed by the scope and challenges of migration, that they typically put off projects as long as they can,” said Centrix Software’s director of product marketing, Richard Pegden.

One of the firm’s customers had identified 525 applications that were incompatible with Windows 7, which sounded like a cause for worry, said Pegden. But only 14 of these applications were actually being used by employees, meaning that that the migration worries were being exaggerated.

“This type of information dramatically reduces both the upheaval and cost of migration.”

Last month, the size of the XP challenge started to become apparent after a clutch of surveys found that many UK organisations had barely even started their migrations.

A sizable number appear to feel that there is limited benefit to migration for certain kinds of desktop once the costs are factored in.

With Microsoft’s XP support deadline set as April 8 next year it is starting to look as if many firms won’t meet the deadline. Some even seem happy to continue using XP beyond that deadline on the basis that most serious security flaws are now found in applications rather than the OS itself.