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Doug's Mailbag: Windows 7 Migration a Rocky Road for Some

As promised, here are more of your Windows 7 migration stories. Some of them went swimmingly, while others...not so much:

As an MCSD, MCSE and MCDA, I figured I would have no problem installing Windows 7 from the DVD Microsoft sent me. It should have been a clean upgrade for my quad-core system running Vista 64-bit with the latest service pack. Wrong! First the installation adviser demanded I uninstall Live OneCare, which I did, leaving my computer unprotected for several hours until installing the free Microsoft Security Essentials. Worse, I rely on my database servers and when I tried to install Windows 7, it demanded I uninstall the latest version of SQL Server, which I would expect to be compatible with Windows 7. The uninstall wizards run per instance, so I had to run the uninstall multiple times for each of my server instances. Worst of all, the Windows 7 installation then hung on a bogus warning saying that I was trying to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit or vice versa, when I was upgrading from 64-bit Vista and had selected 64-bit Windows 7.

At this point I gave up; the risk to my programs and data from upgrading to Windows 7 was unacceptable. The MSDN site download speed was crawling, perhaps because of developers downloading Windows 7. It took all night to download the gigabyte-plus needed to revive my database servers and an hour the next morning to install and configure it. As someone professionally committed to drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid, this was a disappointing experience!

I luckily fall into the category of user who had a flawless upgrade experience from Vista. I purchased a tricked-out HP Pavilion Elite back in December '08 that came preloaded with Vista 64 Home Premium (quad-core, 4GB, 1TB). In August '09, thanks to MSDN Access, I was able to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and followed the Microsoft instructions to a T. My programs and data were backed up, the OS was upgraded, the applications and data restored without a flaw. I was told in advance which drivers and applications would be incompatible (minimal) post-upgrade, so I uninstalled them and updated them after the upgrade.

In the three months since then, I've had zero problems with the fabulous new OS. I should mention that Vista caused no problems for me either, but having a high-end machine certainly helped in that regard.

I upgraded my home computer on Saturday. I bought a new hard drive and did a clean install. I already upgraded from XP to Vista and didn't want to run into problems, nor did I want to lose my old installation of Vista should major problems arise. The clean install went well until it asked me to enter the product key. I kept getting a message that the product key was invalid. I called the Microsoft support number only to reach a message saying that they were closed! I called at 3:30 p.m. PDT on a Saturday. I was stunned to find that Microsoft support was closed after such a huge launch. Most people upgrading would be home users and installing outside normal work hours.

It took about a half-hour to find a fix on the Internet (fortunately, I have more than one PC). The fix was to continue the install leaving the product key blank. Then, I needed to go back and upgrade Windows 7 over the existing copy just installed. It worked and accepted my product key.

Did two in-place upgrades from Vista with no problems: 32-bit Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium, and 32-bit Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate. But I did an upgrade of Vista Business to Windows 7 Enterprise (32-bit) and Symantec Endpoint Protection gave lots of problems and still can't get Cisco VPN client to install without a blue screen. At least Windows 7 recovers and reboots back into Windows 7.

My assistant and I each did an upgrade of Vista Business to Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit) with no problems. I have done fresh installs of Windows 7 Enterprise (64 bit) on three new hard drives and had no problems. So our experience has been mostly favorable.

I have not run into this issue after upgrading four different machines, but what I did experience were long upgrade times and performance that I was not fully satisfied with when compared with the RC I was running (although performance was definitely improved over Vista).

I migrated the family PC this weekend from XP to 7. I have been migrating computers since moving from DOS and I must say that Microsoft has finally made migration a boring exercise -- boring because it did everything it was supposed to do and I did not spend time troubleshooting errors. It just worked. I spent most of my time in two of three phases: pre-install (making a fresh image in case I wanted to revert back to XP, making extra backups of specific data that I never want to lose since the XP migration is a fresh OS install, and using Microsoft's Easy Transfer feature which did exactly what it said it would do) and post-install (again, Easy Transfer and then deciding which programs to reload on 7 and installing them). The installation phase of 7 on the PC was smooth and quick.

One of my concerns was that the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor told me that three of my hardware components would have issues with 7. I assumed that was due to the driver being an XP driver and had Windows 7 drivers waiting. Turns out that the install disk had the correct drivers for the hardware already and set them up with no problems.

I was able to complete an XP to Windows 7 Pro upgrade with no major problems. I made an image copy of my XP system using Clonezilla, made backups of my data using conventional copy tools and also ran the Microsoft transfer tools so I was covered for possible issues. I then used Laplink PCmover to capture my settings as I didn't have time to do a clean install. Ran the Custom Install and re-ran Laplink PCmover. So far, the only software needing to be reinstalled was my AV and firewall. System has been working fine since Oct. 23. Boot and shutdown times are much improved.

System is an AMD X2 2.8 GHz with 4GB of RAM and 250GB disk. As my hardware is 64-bit-capable, I tried to use the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Pro but it balked at upgrading an XP 32-bit system. Understand MS is looking at this. May retry the upgrade if MS provides a fix.

On my test box, I installed Windows 7 as a standalone and fresh install. Surprisingly, the install when fairly smooth with only 512MB of RAM and 40GB HD. The installation took two reboots due to my machine being low on resources. It is my guess that the Windows 7 upgrade woes are probably due to not enough RAM installed, or marginal RAM.

I personally don't like or trust upgrades with any OS including Linux. The best success I have had with upgrades is to use a fresh HD set to master, and set the other existing HD to slave. You will also have to unattach the existing HD until the new OS is installed, and all application software is installed. Now you can reattach the other HD, then invoke the 'F key' combination to choose (in this case) Windows 7 to boot. You can now drag all your data to the new drive, or remove the OS and use the drive as a data drive. I hope this helps those who are having trouble with their upgrades.

I spent two days trying to upgrade Vista Ultimate to Windows 7. If I wasn't paying close attention, I would've discovered the computer in a BSOD state. Otherwise, I would notice that it was hanging at 62 percent for too long and I would eventually do a force reboot. Of course, I tried the recommendations from Microsoft, which you have posted, but to no avail. The results were always the same. In the end, I got so fed up that I installed from scratch. I am now trying to do the same on another Vista OS. In this case, I discovered that the computer didn't have SP1 installed. The strange thing is that it doesn't want to take SP1. I have only just begun trying to conquer that issue, however. But I am expecting to run into the same issues as with the other upgrade and wonder whether I should even bother.

I have worked professionally in IT for over 10 years. It was after about three years of fighting with 98, 2000, XP, NT4, ES4, ad nauseum that I began the trek into open source. Despite whatever headaches I have had with Linux/Unix installs, drivers, etc., I was always able to find a community of users wiling and ABLE to help you out. In this case, whereas Microsoft holds all the cards in its hand (proprietary), there is little support the community can offer and Microsoft itself seems surprised by the problems that have arisen. Hence, the solutions Microsoft can offer are limited. Whereas I originally thought Windows 7 would be a game winner for Microsoft, I now think we may see another Vista catastrophe.

Meanwhile, Chris has a few tips for Curtis' problems:

Curtis, you must have what is called an "isolated issue" (see here and here). I haven't tried doing upgrades with Windows 7, but the clean installs I've done have gone without issue. SP1 on Vista is a requirement for an upgrade to 7. In my experience with Windows, the safest bet is to always do a clean install. It has the added benefit of not inheriting any cruft, problems, registry bloat and other unexplained idiosyncrasies of the previous OS.

Or, instead of upgrading to Windows 7, you could try upgrading to Ubuntu 9.10.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/04/2009 at 1:17 PM


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