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Doug's Mailbag: Windows 7 Upgrade Odysseys

More readers share their upgrade stories, from those that went flawlessly to those that, well, didn't:

Did a Windows 7 x64 upgrade from Vista x64 with no problems. I ran the Upgrade Advisor Report first and dealt with the several items listed that might cause a problem along with uninstalling and re-installing software as recommended. All third-party vendors with the exception of Symantec's Backup Exec provided drivers, agents, etc. compatible with Windows 7. Was impressed with how seamless and easy the upgrade was and quickly moved on to taking a look at the new features. After a couple weeks of use, no problems at all!

A good friend of mine had his upgrade crap out. He got some sort of .EXE-based upgrade from DreamSpark (I think). Whatever it is, it doesn't even make it through the unpacking process. Their resolution is to wait for the media to be mailed. Why they didn't do an ISO-based distro escapes me.

I purchased the upgrade version from MS and applied it when it arrived. I didn't uninstall anything my HP IQ506 had installed on it, just selected upgrade and let it rip. It ran for over three hours but did complete with no hitches. The only issue I have noticed is that the NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS driver didn't install correctly and I don't have all the features of Aero yet. I'm still working on that one.

But here's an odd one: An application I had developed in VS C# would never run as a scheduled task under Vista. But guess what? It's running now and I didn't make any changes to get it to do so.

Much to my dismay, it has taken me nearly two days to get Windows 7 64-bit on my PC. I ran the upgrade advisor and was told go forth and 64. I called the MS online store, told them I had a pseudo-legal version of Windows 7 Pro 32-bit and wanted to upgrade to 64. They said no problem. I paid $199 for the upgrade only to discover after going through the process that I had just reinstalled the 32-bit. Called the MS tech dept and they sent me to customer service, who said to download the 64-bit again and re-install. I did, only to find out that after what seemed like an hours-long download, the files wouldn't unpack. After 87 minutes with a great tech guy in India, I was told that it is impossible to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit. I called the MS store and was told I had created my own problem. And that I needed to buy a clean install disk for $299!

So here I sit, $500 and over 28 hours later, and Windows 7 64-bit is almost installed. I am getting a refund for my $199 spent on the upgrade, but still can't activate because after three attempts, MS still can't get me a product key that works. This has been quite an ordeal! I don't think MS is clear enough about what is needed to migrate to 64-bit. They use confusing terms such as custom install and clean install which almost was my undoing!

This weekend I successfully upgraded my HP DV9820 notebook from Vista 32-bit to Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. I had zero problems, except for a couple of driver issues. (Surprisingly, my 18-month old notebook from HP has a couple of drivers missing. HP seems to take pride on their driver webpage that they will not be bothered to produce drivers for older equipment. I did not think 2-year-old notebooks are ancient. Very disappointed about that.)

I ran Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit RC for a few months, then in October upgraded this to Windows 7 Ultimate when the software became available. The only issue I had with this upgrade is that I wiped my hard drive before reading that you had to have a previous install on the hard drive. It took me several days to find my old XP licensed CD/DVD. I of course loaded that then everything went well.

Maybe I'll just go to Snow Leopard. And it's only $30.

Everyone likes to talk "upgrades" but the bottom line is that any time one attempts to do an in-place upgrade of a system, they are asking for trouble. The BEST solution is always to upgrade to the new OS with a clean install. This means that the user must re-install all their applications as well, but it makes things almost entirely trouble free. Believe me, it takes a lot more work to track down a subtle bug left over from that 4-year-old software than it takes to re-install all of your applications. Plus, Windows 7 makes this completely pain-free by putting all of your personal files in a folder called Windows.old so restoring your personal data is very easy.

And finally, Fred counters reader Chris' claim that clean installs avoid "inheriting any cruft, problems, registry bloat and other unexplained idiosyncrasies of the previous OS":

Yeah, such cruft and idiosyncracies as all the peripherals, programs and utilities you've come to rely on over the years...that won't run in Windows 7.

Check in on Friday for more letters! Meanwhile, comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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


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