Windows 7 RC

Although this is the totalsuckage blog and therefore most of the things I’ll write about here involve frustrating (usually technical) problems and hopefully the solution to those problems so you don’t have to go through what I went through, this time I’d like to talk about a recent very pleasant upgrade experience from the same company that brought me the Vista Upgrade Nightmare.

My Vista 64bit to Windows 7 RC 64bit upgrade went off entirely without a hitch (even for programs the installer said would probably have a hitch).  This is so extremely unusual I thought I’d send a little shout out to the boys at Microsoft and also describe how I prepared to for the upgrade and what steps I took to protect myself.

First things first

Naturally the first thing one has to do is get a copy of Windows 7 RC.  Visit the Microsoft Windows 7 RC page to grab a copy of the DVD iso file (you’ll need a program like Roxio or Nero to burn the image to a DVD before continuing).  Microsoft will also provide you with a product key which you should print out and have handy.

Second things… well first

I use a disk imaging program called Macrium Reflect Free edition which is an incredibly good backup solution.  It lets you create an image (a single file) that contains the contents of your hard drive.  Naturally you can restore your system from this image directly (using their boot disk) or you can actually mount the file as if it were a hard drive and copy files from it at will. 

The gotcha in this case is that the free edition boot disk won’t handle RAID drives and I have a raid drive.  The solution was to pony up $39.95 and buy the full version which in addition to other nice enhancements like the ability to backup folders in addition to your entire hard drive  it also lets you download a different boot disk that runs on Windows PE and can handle the modern RAID drives that main people, including myself, have.

I created a full image of my existing Vista 64bit hard drive, then burnt the Macrium Windows PE boot disk and then booted from it to ensure that it could see my raid array as a single hard drive (instead of as two separate drives as the linux version of the boot disk did) and after confirming that I started the setup program from inside of Vista.

Step three: wait a hella long time

After starting setup and asking it to do an in-place upgrade it started its work and warned me that it might reboot several times.  The rebooting isn’t much of an issue but the sad truth is that this process takes a long long time.  About 3-4 hours on my (very new 6gb I7 chip system) at a couple points it stayed stuck on the same percentage complete for over a half hour making me believe that the process was locked up.  My best advice is start the upgrade and then go AWAY for at least four hours.  Doing this while you sleep at night could be perfect.

Step four: ENJOY

After it finished and rebooted as Windows 7 (Ultimate!) I started going through all my installed programs to make sure they still worked including Visual Studio 2008 SP1 (setup complained that it might do bad things to SQL Server 2005).  Even SQL Server and Visual Studio did their things without a hitch.  All in all a great setup and upgrade experience.

I should also say that I didn’t expect Windows 7 to be a big improvement over Vista and I was a little bit afraid of the changes Microsoft made to the taskbar, but now that I am using it there are MANY small but significant improvements in Windows 7 and the taskbar is a pure joy to use.

The RC will expire in June, 2010 but Microsoft has set it to start rebooting forcefully every two hours starting in March 2010 to give you incentive to either firebomb their headquarters or purchase a valid version of Windows 7 by March or suffer severe frustration.  All in all a small price to pay for almost a full year of free Windows 7.


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