Friday, November 13, 2009

Nuke The Site From Orbit - It's The Only Way To Be Sure

This is another Windows 7 entry but this time, I'm not happy.

If you are considering doing an in-place upgrade (where you overwrite the old version and keep all your programs and data intact) from Windows Vista to Windows 7 DON'T DO IT. I'll repeat that. Do not bother trying to do an in-place upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7. It will only cause you stress and test your patience. Back up all your data, gather your program discs and do a clean or custom install as appropriate for your license.

I am testing Windows 7 at work before we start rolling it out to the general public. Normally, I never ever ever do an in-place upgrade. The last time I did was from Windows 95 to 98 and I've learned a lot since then. Basically, I just like to start with a clean slate. Just to see what an end-user may run into, I started an in-place upgrade on my desktop computer at work just before 11:00am.

Normally, an in-place upgrade is a much simpler upgrade. You run the installer, it replaces all of the operating system files, updates drivers as necessary, and leaves your data and programs alone. It generally takes only slightly less time than a basic clean install (just the OS, no programs or updates). Not so with Windows 7.

Microsoft has apparently changed the method they use for an upgrade. Based on the limited feedback I got from the installer and information I learned at the tech briefing, here is what I think happens. The installer copies and encapsulates your files and settings, including the registry. It then clears out the folders where it is going to install itself. Once that's done, it installs very similar to a clean install and, once done, puts your files and settings back where they belong. Easy, right? Apparently, not so much.

First of all, I had to uninstall several programs, including the ATI Catalyst Control Center and Windows Mobile Device Center before the installer would even start the actual installation process. You will want to uninstall your antivirus so it does not interfere with the installation. I managed to do that after fighting the agent for McAfee Enterprise that wanted to put it back every time I took it out.

Once I was underway, things seemed to go pretty smoothly but the installer did seem to be taking its own sweet time. When it got to the point of actually installing, it hung at 21% for quite a long time. The percentage finally started increasing just after noon but there are stories on the web of it sticking at that point for 8 to 12 hours.

When I got back from lunch it was putting my programs and settings back and finished up at about the 3 hour mark. The system rebooted, went through the startup procedures, then exclaimed that it was preparing Windows for the first use. After a bit of waiting, it presented me with the options for automatic updates (i.e. automatic, manual or none). My primary monitor was offline. My secondary monitor had the image. The mouse cursor was in the upper-left corner. The mouse wouldn't move. The keyboard wouldn't respond.

As any good technician will, I rebooted. It went through its dance again and tripped over its own feet at the exact same place. So, I tried safe mode. After much thinking, it rebooted.

When I came up into unsafe mode, it again locked up but the hard drive was still chugging away. Maybe it was doing something? Maybe it had to get to a point where it could respond to the mouse and keyboard. I decided to wait. It is now 4:00pm and I just shut it off. It's been sitting there doing basically nothing for over an hour. The monitor went into standby 15 minutes ago.

My co-worker was upgrading her work laptop. She started at about 2:00pm. She finished about 3:30pm without a hitch. Me? I'm going to have to boot to the install CD and start fresh on Monday morning. Good thing I backed up all my data first.

[Note for those of you who care: The system is a Dell Optiplex GX620 full tower with a dual core processor and was running Vista Business fairly well (though not great)]

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