James O'Neill's Blog

September 10, 2009

Windows 7 upgrades: my experience

Filed under: Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 3:38 pm

I’ve done more than my share of Windows upgrades. I’m fond of telling people that my first proper project in IT as a professional involved updating the software supplied on the company’s computers from Windows 1.03 to Windows 2. I didn’t run NT as my desktop OS until version 4, and never ran Windows 98 or ME, other wise I ran just about every release of DOS from 3.1 forwards, and Windows 1,2, 2.1 (/286 and /386) 3.0, 3.1, 3.1-for-workgroups and 3.11 for workgroups, NT 4, Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7, including the betas of most of them. I’ve managed plenty of non-Microsoft stuff, and all my experience has taught me that in-place upgrades save you a few minutes only to cost you hours later. I understand that there are cases where people need to do an in place upgrade (the classic case being where a machine is supplied with bundled software, and a recovery image disk but no separate installation disks), but its best avoided.

My experience with upgrading to the release version of Windows 7 has been slightly convoluted, and is still the best I’ve had by some margin. Firstly I was running 7 on a spare hard disk. So I went back to my original disk for release. The over the network installation takes a couple of hours, but it needs seconds of my time. It went like this

  • Boot my computer press F12 to get to the one-time boot menu, select network and press F12 again to allow the boot to proceed.
  • From a menu which offers me automated data migration, server installation and so on, choose Windows 7 64  bit with Office 12/14
  • Choose my language settings, and enter my network credentials to get the installation image from the server. Go to a meeting.
  • Come back from the meeting, set-up has paused having installed Windows and various extras, it wants me to decided on released office or the new version. I just can’t have a PC with all released software on it. Office 2010 goes on, and I go to lunch
  • Come back from lunch , logon for the first time, let Windows update do its stuff (which brings a better screen driver in), run Windows Easy Transfer to copy my data back. Go to another meeting.
  • Go into outlook – while it is syncing , install the non-standard, apps which I use
  • Continue working as if nothing had happened.

Someone called me a curmudgeon recently, and the complaint I’m left with after putting Windows 7 on is there is no sense of achievement; no sense of having overcome something: when I used a USB stick to put it onto a netbook at home I was expecting to hunt down drivers and be able to point to something at the end and say “I did that”; it did it all by itself. The image at work just takes that to another level. Microsoft IT have a harder job than you might think – a commitment to running pre-release software in production and most employees think they know better. I can remember a time when the laptop images which Microsoft IT put a machine were so far from being useful the best thing you could was to round up a stack of CDs,wipe it and build it properly yourself. The new imaging technology which came in with vista means they provided a very small number of images and devote their time to getting those right. (Previously they had to maintain many images – and couldn’t spend enough time on any of them. Now the reverse is true – the standard image is now so good that the idea of getting the stuff together to do my own has no appeal whatsoever. One of the guys from Microsoft IT told me they got some great scores on their internal feedback survey about the pre-release of Windows 7, and this will form the basis of a story on IT showcase. It’s made them into heroes.

As it says in a Jonny Cash song “Well, up till now my plan went alright”…  I have just got a new 500GB disk for my secondary laptop – which runs as a hyper-v server and needs the space for a zillion VHD files: now it has the space this machine will dual boot into Server 2008, or a VHD based Server 2008-R2 image. Until this week it has been on 2008 only. The process was to do an image backup of Windows 2008 to plug in an external drive and do a Windows image backup; change hard-disks, boot off the Windows 2008 setup disk and do a full image restore. The process ran like clockwork , but at the end I had a 160GB disk which was going to gather dust and 100GB disk in my laptop. Why hadn’t I done this upgrade first ? Time to swap drives… So  I went to  Windows 7 backup and made an image of the machine I’d just built. At the end of this, the backup process offered to make a recovery disk , and I took that option. I swapped the drive, booted from my new recovery disk and a couple of clicks and a cup of coffee later the machine was waiting for me to logon as if nothing had happened. At least here my 20 years experience upgrading systems paid off – I had to extend the disk partition after the restore. But even that has got so much easier since the days of risky 3rd party tools which would extend a partition.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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