Adventures with Windows 7 – Installation of the RC

Microsoft made a Windows 7 release candidate (RC) available for download in May. RCs precede the ready to manufacture (RTM) stage, so there are still issues to fix and tweaks to be done. Microsoft has instrumented this version to phone home when users are online, and usage tracking gives them a chance to see interactions with the myriad of machines, options, and software environments that will occur in the wild.

I’ve always installed new OSs as soon as I could; I recall writing about my excitement at having subdirectories in DOS for the NY PC User Group decades ago. This time around, we’re all a bit more jaded – most people I talk to are primarily interested in whether the problems they associate with Vista are fixed. For my part, I’ve been using Vista on my home machine for a while; I upgraded the HP Pavilion  laptop in March after having an XP-based one for years. I’ve had no real problems with Vista to speak of, although it certainly took a long time to boot.

The Windows 7 install process appeared straightforward – you download a massive install file first, as you would expect. You’ll get a screen with an activation key that you’ll use much later; print it, because that screen will be long gone by the time you need the key. You’ll see two buttons – one for download and one for instructions; I’d recommend printing the instructions too, although it’s not absolutely necessary. A download utility provided by Akamai starts when you press the button; when it’s complete, you are to burn a disk.

Sounds simple, but there were a few little annoyances – be sure to read the directions thoroughly in advance so you’re not surprised. There is no graceful next step info from the download stage, which can take a long time (an hour or more) – it just completes. The utility’s box on your screen offers to let you exit or “launch”; I tried the latter and got a message about a missing component. Oops. Better download again. That was my first mistake – it turns out to have been unnecessary. You’re just supposed to exit. So I wasted an hour or two on a second download.

Next you look for the file you’ve downloaded, which is an ISO disk image. Therein lies the second little annoyance. I don’t know much about DVD formats, but assumed that Microsoft’s own DVD burning tool did. Wrong. It turned out that “ISO disk” is not one of the options you are offered. To be fair to them, Microsoft did mention the availability of free ISO utilities in the directions; they didn’t exactly say I’d need one, so I assumed – and we all know what happens when you assume.

So, after burning two data disks that would not launch when I put them in, I downloaded an ISO disk burning utility and burned a disk with the downloaded image. No troubles with that. Restart computer, insert disk, and launch. For my install, it was simple – upgrades from Vista work in place and you don’t have a lot of things to worry about other than to be sure you’ve backed up important files just in case.  I didn’t want to create a new partition, so it was on to the next step…but wait.

Now, for the first time, I was shown a compatibility tester that I could download and run. Why they didn’t tell me this before all this processing I don’t know. It might have told me things that made me change my mind about upgrading, and I would have been several hours of wasted time to the bad. As it happens, after I downloaded and ran it, I was warned to uninstall a few things that so far are not compatible – in my case Norton Internet Security, and a few little bits of HP-specific stuff: device drivers and such. I was OK with all that. I exited the process, fired up the control panel, uninstalled and updated,  rebooted and relaunched.

At last: the moment of truth. Time to run the installation. It warned me that there would be several hours of whirring and clicking and several restarts, and that was accurate. The usual OS install info about loading, expanding and running files, collecting settings and programs, installing Windows files and then applying those settings and programs ensued, with several restarts as promised. Interesting fact: apparently I had over 400,000 settings and programs to record and restore. Who woulda thunk?

The good news? It ran flawlessly. When it was done, it asked for my key, accepted it with no complaint and restarted fine, remembered my info (including the nifty little fingerprint reader that I swipe to log on), and so far, everything seems to be in good order. My docs were there; MS Office runs fine.  Explorer is working too, although I had to reset my home page (it still had all my Favorites, so that was no problem.) Oddly, Google Chrome was installed, although I didn’t ask for it. WordPress is working, as is Skype. Haven’t tried Tweetdeck yet, and I’m offline as I write this so I’ll discuss that next time.

The adventure begins. Now I’ll start rolling through the info about what’s new, and I’ll check back in soon with a scouting report. Be careful out there.

Published by Merv Adrian

Independent information technology market analyst and consultant, 40 years of industry experience, covering software in and around the data management space.

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