As I’ve written before, I really like Windows 7, and the new release candidate is adding to my enjoyment of this new OS. It’s what Windows Vista should have been.
Over the weekend I installed Windows 7 release candidate on four computers chez Saunders – an HP DV6000 multimedia laptop with 2G RAM and AMD Turion x64 dual core processor, the HP Mini 1000 netbook with 2G RAM and Atom N270 Processor , a build-your-own PC with 2G RAM (AMD Turion x64), and the Acer M5620 QuadCore with 8G RAM. I had no difficulties installing on either of the HP machines, and minor programs with the Acer and the homebrew box. Later this week I’m going to do another Acer machine and the aging media center PC as well.
My routine is pretty simple. Backup files, install fresh version of Windows 7, restore files and applications.
Before beginning, I visit the control panel and take a number of snapshots of the applications installed (bitmap only – it would be great if Microsoft could put a link on that page to give the user an instant DOWNLOADABLE software manifesto).
Next I make sure that all the data I care about is backed up to another hard disk. I do this in two ways. First, I’m a heavy users of file synchronization technologies, namely Windows Live Sync, and Live Mesh. I move any stray files on the desktop into synchronizing folders to ensure that copies exist elsewhere. Next, I drop large assets, like Music and Video folders or mail archives onto the Windows Home Server which has a ton of storage space available. I have yet to try the Windows Easy Transfer mentioned in Ina Fried’s column, but I may do that for my next upgrade.
Then I insert the CD and reboot the machine. Installation takes about 45 minutes in total most of which happens completely unattended.
Afterward I immediately install Microsoft Office, LiveMesh, and Windows Live Sync. I recreate my synchronization folders, reconnect Outlook to my Exchange Server, and then run Windows Update. This begins the process of restoring all of my data files to the newly upgraded computer (which takes several hours), while simultaneously fetching updated drivers and the legions of Office updates that Microsoft has released since Office 2007 shipped.
Gotchas with Windows 7 are few and minor:
- Notice that I have done a fresh install each time. It wasn’t for lack of trying with an upgrade install. The upgrade simply failed. Thankfully the Windows Installer has a rollback process and is able to restore your old operating system.
- Logitech’s QuickCam Pro 9000 drivers do not work on Windows 7 64 bit. Period. To Logitech’s credit, the drivers refuse to install. However, like most install programs in Windows 7, Logitech’s can be fooled by running in compatibility mode. Don’t do it for these ones. Installing these drivers caused a dramatic failure of Windows Explorer putting the computer into a no-boot state. I fixed this by booting into safe mode, and running a system restore, rolling the computer back to it’s last known good state.
- The installer missed my HP CLJ1600 printer, classifying it as an unknown device. Running HP’s driver install fixed this.
- The stable release of Google Chrome is still broken in on Windows 7 64 bit. There is a hack, but Google themselves don’t recommend it as it creates security vulnerabilities. Chrome works great on 32 bit versions of Windows 7, however, and the beta release of Chrome 2.0 seems to be fine on Windows 64.
- It’s not uncommon to find that a driver is missing after the install. Generally running Windows Update finds the correct driver and installs it.
Microsoft has clearly been listening since the beta was released. The release candidate has a few changes to the experience, but most importantly it has obviously progressed in stability and driver coverage. I routinely ran the beta only on the HP Mini, but as of this past weekend I’m living with the release candidate full time on all of my PC’s.