Installing Windows 7 – Not so Easy

After over 20 years of Windows upgrade snafus, I have been running Windows 7 beta on a duel boot machine, just to be safe. Whenever my friends, colleagues, and clients ask me about upgrading to a new version of Windows, my advice is always, “Wait until it has been out for awhile and updated a few times.” Not once have I upgraded a Windows machine without at least one or two annoying, and sometimes catastrophic debacles. However, after reading all the rave reviews about how easy and stable the upgrade has been for everybody else, I decided to give it a try. My experience, though not disastrous, was not without incident, and certainly not smooth enough to sing Microsoft’s praises.

In Context

Windows 7 is nice–well, nicer than Vista–but hardly anything to get aroused over. Everybody seems to like it, but some reviewers are not overly impressed. Here’s a luke warm preview from Communications Technology Watch with links to several other not-so-impressed reviews:

However, when you compare Windows 7 to Vista, it truly shines. Check out this review from Engaget:

So, if the new OS isn’t wonderful, why bother? In my case, the decision was simple. I wanted to ditch Vista. After a few years of running it, I was still having annoying performance issues, weird crashes, problems with IE, and so on. I figured that even if I did have a few problems with the Windows 7 installation, chances were they’d be worth it. Anything to finally get rid of Vista!

Hardware and Software Compatibility

Like most people, my PCs are mission critical. I run several applications that if, even for a few days, I had to do without them, I’d be dead in the water. My experience with Windows upgrades has been that at least one or two programs don’t work properly, and some of my hardware devices, such as backup drives and printers, are not recognized. (Since much of my work requires my computers to do some heavy lifting, such as Flash, Indesign, and Photoshop, I keep my machines pretty modern, loaded with RAM, hard disk space and the latest video interfaces.)

All of this is to say, that I wanted to do everything possible to make sure my machine was Windows 7-compatible before I upgraded. My first stop was the Microsoft Website to look for known compatibility issues. At the the Windows 7 Compatibility Center I found a link to the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, a download you can run on your Vista machine to make sure all your hardware and software are Windows 7 compatible.

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor
Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Great! This should make things easier. Right?

Hmmm… Well, no. I tried to download and run the application several times, but kept getting an error that a required component was missing. Frankly, I didn’t try to run down whether the application was faulty or whether it was looking for something in my Vista configuration. What I can tell you is that I was running Vista with Service Pack 2 and all the latest patches. In typical Microsoft fashion, there was no other information–just the name of the missing component, with no instructions on how to solve the problem.

(Ok. Yes, I know how to Google errors and figure out the problem. But I wasn’t about to go to all that trouble to run this utility. Besides, I recalled a similar utility for Vista that I had trouble with, and, once I got it working, it wasn’t all that accurate, anyway.)

My computer is fairly new. It has plenty of RAM and drive space, a recent video adaptor. I figured I was safe on that account. My printers and software are all industry standard. What the hell, I decided to roll the dice.

Ready, Set, Install!

After about 5-10 minutes of churning away, checking my computer for compatibility issues, the Windows 7 installation utility gave me a check list of tasks I needed to perform before the installation could continue. My only option was cancel the installation and perform the required tasks. The tasks were:

  1. Decommission my computer from iTunes and uninstall the iTunes program.
  2. Uninstall Windows Mobile Device Center
  3. Uninstall a couple of Dell diagnostic utilities.
  4. Restart Windows

Not so seamless, right? At least it didn’t want me to uninstall all my Adobe and Microsoft Office programs, which was a relief.

Granted, none of this was a big deal. The one thing that baffled me was why I had to uninstall Mobile Device Center (the application that helps you sync your cell phone with your PC). Windows 7 comes with a replacement called Sync Center. Why didn’t the installation utility just upgrade it?

Anyway, I got off easy. Check out this PC World article for some real installation nightmares, just three days after the Windows 7 release:

And here’s an issue with the student version posted on Gizmodo:

Hurry Up and Wait

After I completed my list of tasks (geez), I launched the install program again and waited for it to do another compatibility check. By now I had about an hour into the install. (Want to make it slicker Microsoft? Just have the checker make sure I did my homework, rather than run this gruelingly slow process again.)

Once the installation process actually started, I got a message telling me that the upgrade “could” or “might” (something like that) take several hours. After a few minutes of watching the progress, I went to bed.

A New Day – A New OS

The next morning I entered the registration key and, bang, I was running Windows 7. So, the upgrade took a while, but it went off without a hitch. Naturally,  I started opening programs and documents to make sure everything worked. For the most part, everything did. In fact, some things work better. IE seems more stable; my RAID tower (which gave me connection headaches in Vista) connected right away; programs open and close faster. So far, so good.

I did have to re-enter the serial numbers on a couple of games I play now and then, but I can live with that.

In Conclusion

After all is said and done, so far Windows 7 is running good for me, and noticeably faster. It was a bit of a pain getting there, but probably worth the effort.

Here is a list of what 27 reviewers have to say about Windows 7 from Gizmodo:

William Harrel –

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