Sunday, August 09, 2009

Windows Linkfest Mowdown

CC photo credit "mower" by todbaker on flickr

More Microsoft bits and pieces…

Upgrading to Windows 7 is as clear as, well…

  • What do you get with Windows 7 – DelaneySoft’s Blog – really nice chart that lines up all the included features in each version of Windows 7.  It took me a while to figure out how to see both pages of the chart.  In Firefox I had to enable NoScript to run all the scripts.  Then when I clicked on it it floated above the page and I could select the next page icon at the bottom right corner.  Nice chart just not an intuitive way of launching it.  No real surprises.  The only elements that I don’t find present in Windows Home Premium that are in Windows Ultimate that I will miss are both XP Mode and Boot from VHD.  That last one surprises me.  However, as I was able to use the Windows 7 Ultimate RC bootloader with Vista just fine, I’m hoping that I will be able to swap out the same ones, using the same technique, in Win7 Home Premium.

  • Deciphering Windows 7 Upgrades: The Official Chart - Walt Mossberg’s AllThingsD – Bless Mr. Mossberg’s heart. It was in the right place.  The MS chart-designers were just too enthusiastic for everyone’s own good!  It was highly detailed and too confusing.  Just what was wrong with it? Let’s hop next to Betanew’s take.

  • Windows 7 Upgrades: Are they going to be too much trouble or just about right? -  Betanews.  Quoting from the post:

    ”Out of 66 upgrade scenarios, only 14 allow for "in-place" upgrades. The majority of scenarios require "custom install," which means either installing Windows 7 to a new directory or onto a clean hard drive. While data can be backed up and recovered, applications would need to be reinstalled.”

In our enterprise, we don’t in-place upgrade, we migrate.  That means we copy the user-data to a safe location (server/USB drive), wipe the system, then install a fresh, pre-configured image, and then put the user’s data back in the profile locations.  At home, being a techie, I want a clean-install so I take a similar tack on our systems.  I just don’t like the idea of trying to keep all the apps/data in place and upgrading the whole OS over an existing installation.  However, considering the chart and the options, I’m wondering if more than a few average home users are going to find the upgrade process frustrating or particularly daunting to handle.  Betanews’s article seems to wonder that same thing…

  • Microsoft blunders with a confusing Windows 7 upgrade chart - Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report.  Ed Bott redoes the chart into a much more simple to understand version.  Basically, if you are going from XP to Win7, you are facing a custom install.  If you are going from x32 of anything to x64 of any Win7 version you are facing a custom install.  If you are going from Vista to Win7 (same bits) you can pull off some form of in-place upgrade.

  • Windows 7 Easy Upgrade Path Truth Table/Chart – Scott Hanselman’s Computer Zen – takes a closer but easy-to-understand look at Ed’s own migration table.

  • A major Windows 7 upgrade question gets an answer – TechBlog – And Dwight clears up one final question…what about Win7 RC users? The answer: Basically you are facing a “custom-install” like XP users and those going from x32 to x64 bit versions. What does a “custom-install” entail you ask?  Dwight succinctly sums it up thusly:

This is essentially a clean install, but your existing operating system, programs and data are squirreled away in a folder labeled WINDOWS.OLD. You end up with a fresh Windows 7 setup, but you can access that folder to get to any needed data. (Sorry, the programs in there won't work - you'll need to reinstall them.)

So What Am I Facing as an XP User?

Let’s take a look at what an typical (?) XP user will confront when getting ready to upgrade their system to Windows 7

    1. With XP running, follow Scott’s first section after reading this Microsoft Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 TechNet article.  The trick is to run the Windows Easy Transfer utility buried in the Win 7 setup disk.  Too bad it isn’t included as an option directly off the Windows 7 setup process…
    2. Follow the steps, identify an off-system-disk location to back the files up to, then let it run (it took Scott about an hour).
    3. When done you get a single “.MIG” (MIGration) file that has all the stuff you are tucking away.
    4. Reboot the system with the Win7 disk and follow the setup steps to do a Win7 install.
    5. When done, log into the starting account you created and re-run the Windows Easy Transfer utility from the Win7 Start Menu.  Follow the steps and feed it the .MIG file from earlier.
    6. When done you will be presented with a list reminding you of software applications you must manually install (if not pre-included in the Win7 install).

So it really isn’t an upgrade but a user-data migration.

Windows Easy Transfer is the consumer version of the User State Migration Tool (USMT) that Microsoft provides to enterprise users.  It’s heavier duty and much more technically needy.  I actually have a ton of links about USMT that that are in a standby post I hope to get to very soon!

I think the important thing here is that while you are able to (generally) save all your data, documents, pictures, videos, etc. in this manner (assuming they are stored in the expected places) you still aren’t getting your applications transferred over this way. Those must still be reinstalled.

Vista users will have it much easier and could in most cases install Win7 on top of Vista, preserving all their settings and applications in the process.  Though I’d still do a clean-install anyway myself.

For the Technically Impressed…

Bug? Not so much…

First it was a potential Win 7 RTM blockbusting show-stopper, then it wasn’t, now it’s a yawn.

And then cdman83 points out this "feature” of Win7.  I’ve run into it as well and it is more of an annoyance than anything else.  Why does it have to be so hard to get the correct right-click context menu to appear under Win7?

And while poking around on Channel 9, I found this neat video that provides background perspectives on the cool Windows 7 backgrounds.

So will that be x32 or x64?

The last item for some consumers/geeks who are upgrading existing systems to Windows 7 will be trying to decide if they will go with the x32 or x64 bit version.  I suppose if your hardware doesn’t support x64-bit processing then the decision is easy.

But for others, it might need some due consideration.

Three of our systems (all laptops) support x64 bit OS.  After installing x64 bit Win7 RC on them all, I have been astonished at the stability and ease of use.  While all of them are pegged at a 2GB system RAM max due to the hardware limitation, in the future, having systems that support more will eventually allow us to run 4GB or greater RAM amounts and access all of it.  Performance is fast, but not really any more so than under x32 bit for now.  As more x64-bit optimized applications are released however, that will certainly change for the better.

So I will be going ahead and installing the x64 bits of Windows 7 when we go with the final versions.

Here are a few more posts from technical bloggers extolling the virtues of x64 Windows 7 installs.

Claus V.

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