Misadventures with Upgrading to Windows 7

I hate those funny I’m a PC – I’m a Mac commercials because they often give misleading information about Microsoft Windows.  However, they were dead on right about the perils of upgrading to Windows 7.  I figure since I had Windows Vista it would be a simple in-place upgrade, but no, I was wrong.  I’m like the girl in the commercial with a boxful of stuff to move – I could, just as easily, start over with a Mac.  But damn, Mr. Jobs, the minimum Mac I want is $1200, and I’m doing my upgrade on the cheap, so I’ll just stick with my old HP.

I wasn’t going to upgrade to Windows 7 until I bought a new machine, because Windows Vista was doing fine by me, and I didn’t want to spend over a hundred dollars to make my desktop look prettier.  However, when I discovered I qualified for a $44.94 academic upgrade, I thought, well, why the hell not.  That offer was for Windows 7 Professional, and I had Vista Home Premium, but I figured I’d take a chance knowing that Microsoft wants like versions to upgrade like versions.  I hoped a more expensive version would upgrade over a less expensive version.  Well, it’s not so Joe.

A few days later after the disc was delivered I popped it into my machine and ran the install.  I was quickly informed I couldn’t do an in-place upgrade.  Bummer.  I was depressed.  At the time I assumed a clean install required reformatting my boot hard drive.  I really didn’t want to reformat my C: drive.  I had a 500gb D: drive, so I thought about switching it with the master drive, but it had 147gb of MP3 songs on it, and even though I have two 250gb external drives I couldn’t find space on them for the songs.  I agonized for a couple of hours thinking of alternative solutions.

Finally I started reading online about Windows 7 upgrades and discovered that a clean install could involve the install program renaming the old windows folder and adding the new operating system without reformatting the drive.  So I went back to the install disk and ran the custom option.  It was then I discovered Windows 7 was willing to install on my secondary 500gb drive, so I let it go there and when everything was said and done I had a dual boot system to Windows 7 and Windows Vista and nothing was deleted.  Not exactly what I wanted, but it was a decent compromise.

The Windows 7 install instructions are scary and confusing.  They should tell people right up front their choices.  In place install, new install on existing drives with no deleting of files, or complete hard drive wipe and fresh install.  Finally, there should be a program to nuke the old copy of Vista and stop the dual booting, but I don’t think there is.

Once I had Windows 7 on my machine I had to start reinstalling all my applications and set up all my configurations, plus reinstall print drivers, etc.  This is very time consuming and still unfinished.  The whole experience gave me lots of ideas for how I’d change Microsoft’s marketing of Windows.

  • First off, there should only be one version of Windows for all users.  It doesn’t have to install all features, but dividing users into classes is just plain stupid.  It adds a lot of aggravation to the user experience.  M$ should find other ways of squeezing out extra bucks from their faithful users.
  • Microsoft charges way too much for Windows.  I have a $499 HP bought 3 years ago.  Paying 1/4th the price of my machine for an upgrade that doesn’t offer that much difference, makes for a disagreeable buying decision, especially when the main reason to upgrade is to fix the previous OS.
  • Why can’t Microsoft invent a way for people to install applications and save configurations that aren’t tied to the OS, or design a method to easily migrated customizations to each new OS version.  I’ve been using personal computers since the late 1970s – so you’d think the idea that we will use our computers for the rest of our lives is the plan and OS makers would find ways to make the personal part of computers stable while undergoing OS transitions.
  • The positive side effect of doing a clean install is it makes the OS run faster for several months.  Microsoft needs to find ways to keep registry rust from slowing down their systems.  Often at work machines get so gunked up with crap that the best thing to do is to nuke them from orbit and start over.  That’s annoying and dumb.
  • The clean install means reconfiguring my music for Rhapsody and iTunes, my media server to my SoundBridge and Blu-Ray player, my audiobook library for Audible.com, my Webshots and Picasso photo collections, and all my digital devices like MP3 players, iPods, GPS, cameras, voice recorders, etc.  This makes my online music collection on Lala.com seem fantastically better than my local collections.  I was able to play songs as soon as I had a browser going.  Cloud computing may be the answer to all these problems.  Go, Google, Go!

This all makes me think the OS should come on a piece of hardware, either an easily replaceable chip, or high speed PCIe card.  The OS should be totally separated from the user programs, data, drivers and configurations. 

I would think such a design would be less vulnerable to attacks by viruses and malware.  It should also keep the OS from slowing down because of registry rusting.  And paying over a hundred dollars for an OS upgrade would be more pleasant if it came on tangible hardware.  Even my bargain $45 upgrade seemed expensive when I got a small envelope from UPS with just a single DVD in a sleeve.

The people who clutch Windows XP machines with cold dying fingers are wise not to upgrade.  I’m tired of messing with computers.  I just want them to work.  The Windows 7 upgrade has caused computing confusion and I have to spend hours rebuilding my setup.  It’s great that I’m getting rid of three years of registry rust, and I will unclutter my machine from all the programs I no longer use, but shouldn’t those features be built into the OS? 

How hard would it be for Windows to ask if I wanted any program removed that I haven’t used for a year?  How hard would it be for Windows to have a self-optimizing, self-repairing registry that also routinely backed itself up?  I have noticed a number of nice features of Windows 7 that make me glad I did upgrade, so maybe I’ll discover such stability evolution in the OS, as I work with it.

If I live as long as my mother, I have another 33 years of life, and I don’t want to reorganize my computer system another 11 times before I die.  I want any time spent organizing my digital life to last for the rest of my years, and even after I die, so my wife will have no trouble cleaning up after me.  This really makes me think the OS should be completely separate from my personal digital life.  Microsoft, think about that when you’re planning your next version of Windows.  But wink, wink, we know the solution is cloud computing – what if nobody’s needs to get behind the 8 ball?

JWH – 12/12/9

3 thoughts on “Misadventures with Upgrading to Windows 7”

  1. Can you imagine how hard it is for me to understand half of what you are talking about….Every time microsoft upgrades I become anxious and mad that I’m being taxed for something I already paid for years ago…bring back windows 95!!!

    1. This is why most Windows XP users never upgraded to Windows Vista. Windows XP is eight years old and it will probably be another 8 years before it disappears.

      I’m now thinking I should never do an OS upgrade, but just stick with whatever came on the machine. Patching is OK, but anything that costs probably comes with too much change.

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