The Highs and Lows of Upgrading to Windows 7

2009 was a great year at PC Pitstop. We have a lot to be proud of in the past year. We now have three products that can be considered best in breed, PC Matic, Optimize 3.0, and Driver Alert 2.0. More importantly, we have assembled an incredible team of dedicated and talented individuals. From development, to marketing, to customer service to technical support, we are striving to be the best we can be.

2009 was also an incredible year because Microsoft introduced Windows 7. After 2.5 years of Apple battering Microsoft in market share and over the top advertising, Microsoft finally responded. What a relief!

I love my Sony Vaio and upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate.

I quickly decided to upgrade my main computer to Windows 7, as I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping at Office Depot. After looking at the boxes in the display box, I chose Windows 7 Home Premium. I brought it home and BANG. An error. It is not possible to upgrade from Vista Ultimate to Home Premium without losing all of your data. That’s not a price I was willing to pay. I trekked back to Office Depot and the lady would not give me a refund. I talked to the Office Manager and he told me that I had to prove to him that I had Vista Ultimate. I trekked back to my house and brought the Office Depot Manager my trusty laptop. I fired it up, and he quickly figured out that I wasn’t one of those operating system scam artists. Honestly, he felt bad and gave me Windows 7 Ultimate for the price of Windows 7 Home Premium. I guess it was worth the trouble.

For the second time, I stuck the Windows 7 upgrade DVD in my trusty Sony laptop. Did I mention that I love my laptop? I would not be upgrading to Windows 7 if it were not for love. It ground a bunch, I put in my license key, and then it started doing its business. There was a note on the screen that the upgrade could take several hours. My wife and I took the kids out to dinner, and when I came back it was still churning. It seemed like it is stuck, but I decided to let it churn over night. I woke up the next morning and it was still churning. I checked the time and I realize that the upgrade was now on its 14th hour. Something wasn’t right.

The first Windows 7 install was 16 hours before I aborted.

Now, the nervous thoughts were going in my head. Was my system hosed? Was I stuck in the never land between Vista and Windows 7? There was no graceful way to abort the installation other than ctl-alt-del. Several times my hands moved to the keyboard and several times, I thought not. But finally, I did it. CTL-ALT-DEL.

My beautiful and precious Sony laptop began the start up process and somewhere in the middle of the initialization process, Windows realized that Vista had been uninstalled but the Windows 7 installation did not complete. A note flashed on the screen that it would now try to revert to Vista. The hard drive light went dead solid and Windows was using all of its magical power to get my laptop back to a known state. This went on for about 30 minutes, but it felt more like weeks or years. It was painful. Your mind starts to play games with you. What if this kills my lovely laptop? Will I ever work again? But thankfully, after 30 minutes, my Sony laptop was running Vista Ultimate.

Hurray! Hurray! All was not lost. There was a bird singing outside my window. The sun was shining. The kids were playing nicely with each other. What a great feeling! But wait. After 16 hours, I was right back where I started. It was too early for Groundhog Day.

Windows 7 is noticeably faster than Vista.

Then I thought, “What could I do differently?”. I sure didn’t want to do the whole thing over again and 16 hours later, I am back at the same point. Then it dawned on me, that there was a setting that allowed Windows 7 to install from the internet. It was the recommended setting, but maybe there was some problem with the latest version on the internet. The version on the DVD might be more stable. I jammed the DVD into my wonderful laptop and tried it again. Guess what? It worked. Not only that, it all installed in about an hour. The second time was a charm.

The first thing I noticed was the Windows 7 appears faster than Vista. Windows 7 is snappier. When you click on something, it shows up faster. When you mouse over, the action happens faster. Secondly, web pages render faster. Both these changes made me and my Sony laptop happier. After 18 hours, we were happy again.

It’s now been two weeks, and there are three things that I have fixed to make Windows 7 work better.

My amazing Sony laptop has an incredible 1366 x 768 high contrast screen. It weighs in at about 4 pounds but has a screen on laptops that weigh twice that. With all this screen real estate available, I like having multiple windows open on my screen, and moving them around. Windows 7 has a strange feature which they call Snap. If you move a window to the top screen, it automatically maximizes the whole window. Move it off the top, and it moves it back to the original size. The problem is that it isn’t easy to turn off snap. I finally found it in mouse settings. First go into the Ease of Access Center, and then go into mouse settings. Secondly, as you can see, they don’t call it the Snap feature instead they call it the “automatically arranging windows” feature.

Disabling Windows 7 Snap Feature Isn’t So Snappy

I get a lot of zip files. I get monster spreadsheets that are pre-zipped. I get sets of videos that are zipped together, and so on. Suddenly, I could not double click on the zip file and it would open in Windows Explorer. In fact, it threw a nasty error. After scratching my head for a few days, I discovered that Windows 7 does not properly set the association for zip files. File associations now has its own area in Windows 7 in control panel called Default Programs <- Set Associations. Find the .zip extension and point it to Windows Explorer which is generally found in the Windows directory.

Hiding The Task Bar in Windows 7 Can Be Tricky

My last tip may not help a lot of people but it drove me crazy for a while. I like to keep my task bar hidden. The only time it’s visible is when I move the cursor to the very bottom of the screen. In this way, it is always there, but it does not use crucial vertical space which is key in a laptop screen which maxes out at 768 vertical pixels. The problem is that the task bar would not hide in Windows 7. I Googled and Googled and I couldn’t figure it out, but now I have. The problem is that during boot I have two virtual drives on my system. One is for the company VPN and the other is a Maxtor Axis drive which stores all my music. Since Windows cannot see these drives, it puts a notice in the task bar. That’s great but that notice prevents the task bar from auto hiding. There is a simple solution, click on the notice and then miraculously the task bar hides again. It took me 3 weeks to stumble on this solution.

Happy 2010 Everyone.

Rob Cheng

Rob is the CEO of PC Pitstop

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36 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of Upgrading to Windows 7

  1. I keep reading – don’t upgrade – why not – if it is no good then Microsoft should not offer it – and I read that you back up your files and load Windows then reload your data – you forgot about installing the programs which is very time consuming – that is why I did the upgrade – I am also a developer – I use multiple IDE’s and did not want to reconfigure and convert databases – upgrade is there for a reason and SHOULD work – if not then Microsoft failed – a fresh install should not be the only way to get a good install -upgrades are suppose to work – but Microsoft does not know how to code – cheap slave labor has a lot to do with it – they refuse to hire GOOD AMERICAN PROGRAMMERS and prefer cheap labor from countries without any freedoms – the Indian caste system is very wrong and promotes a cheap work force – Windows 7 is worse than Vista as Microsoft has not figured out the global model DOES NOT work.

  2. We bought all new HP’s with windows VII – office pro version with virtual XP. Our operation depends on software that won’t run on VII, unfortunately, we can’t get XP to recognize other computers or printers on our network, so they sit there, waiting for a time when I can research this (we are out in the boonies with no qualified techs to bring in). $mega for nothing.
    And no more Outlook Express? I can’t think of one good reason for microsuck ending a program that has worked so well for so many years, it’s a real pain in the arse to get email without going to virtual XP.
    Thanks Mr. Gates, for nothing.

  3. I recently purchased a Dell with Window’s 7. I am very happy with it. About once every 4-5 boot-ups my system freezes. My keyboard lights up but I can’t do anything, even CTRL-ALT-Del. I’m not sure how to clear up the problem. Any suggestions?

  4. I have had a big problem since I installed windows 7. My wireless routed and adapter would not stay connected. I went through the Belkin that I had, then bought a netgear. I then went to linksys and they were the only ones that were honest and said,”the adapter had a record of having this problem. I have been talking with the local store (I will not name) and their Tech’s. I went to Best Buy and talked to them and they said to try the PCI card. I was very weary of buying one but I did. I had to install the motherboard drivers for windows 7 and when it read the card it went in and have not had a Problem since. I asked Microsoft and am still waiting. (4 weeks)

    Maybe this should be posted because I found many posts on many websites

  5. Just read thru the posts and wanted to comment on a few points:
    -Upgrade time: Turn off your antivirus/security software and any 3rd party disk management tools like Perfect Disk and similar products. It’s not manditory, but when upgrading operating systems they can create “file locks” on some machines which hang things up in ways that aren’t easily noticed.
    -Remain connected during install option: This is recommended but not required. What it does is check for newer drivers and software updates that were not available when the Retail MicroSoft install disks were made and assures that said updates passed testing criteria. It does not “install the OS over the web”.
    In fact, I went from Vista Home Premium 64 to Win7 Home Premium 64 with a Family 3-pack install DVD, then to Win7 Pro 64 by way of the Anytime Upgrade option just to see how badly I could screw things up(LOL)
    The latter process happened over the web in under 10 minutes. Presumably it just unlocks ‘Pro features already installed but not active as anything major would take longer than 10 minutes just to download. Beta users may recall the install option to choose a Window7 version; most went with Ultimate, but you could choose lesser versions if desired. I suspect the same thing happens during the final release install except the version selection screen was removed with a default to install the version you bought.
    Everything went very smoothly >>>BUT<<< I had a partition image backup ready in case a trainwreck occurred. One did not.
    Lastly, if doing a 32bit to 64bit update, do yourself a favor:
    Confirm you machine's hardware is 64bit capable.
    Buy a new bigger/faster Hard Disk, swap it with your current drive.
    Either put the old drive in an external enclosure (have to with a laptop)and attach it, or add it back to your desktop as a non-bootable slave.
    Then do your install.
    If your using an 'Upgrade' version, Microsoft will 'see' the disk with the old version on it and allow the upgrade.
    Then use either Microsoft or 3rd party tools to move your data to your new Windows7 64bit environment.
    You will then have your squeaky-clean 64bit OS and your original disk/data as well.
    Yup, it's an A-1 PITA but 32 to 64 bit conversions are always dicey without a verified disk image to fall back to. The hassle is worth it though,so long as you have 64bit-capable hardware and are able to use 4GB or more of RAM.
    Hats Off to Harriet and some of the other "Seniors" here-I always thought I was one of the oldest around here 😉

  6. I’ve read some people complaining about the installation taking so much time. I don’t why, maybe is their system. Mine only took one hour and 10 minutes more or less and my laptop is the crappy aspire 5810t timeline (darn low wattage cpu)

  7. i never upgraded from xp to win 7. i dual booted as i knew i had older software that would not run on win7. i already had my drive partitioned as i dont like a huge hard drive going to waste. could you imagine windows on a 320gb hdd that went pear shape?. i only keep my software on the windows partition and minimal documents. it makes life so easy if i need to cure problems or re install windows. i have win 7 home premium 32bit and had no problems at all. it rocks. this is what vista should have been. when i built my new pc just over a year ago it was not vista i brought but xp. vista sucks and is not worth the case it comes in. lets hope all future versions of windows is as good or better than win 7. 3 CHEERS FOR WIN 7

  8. > What is the difference between Windows 7 and IE 8?

    Windows 7 is an operating system (like XP, Vista, etc).

    IE 8 is a web browser (like IE 6, IE7, Firefox).

    A web browser – like other programs – runs on the operating system.

  9. Interesting post Michel. Reassuring to see you are satisfied with Windows over Mac. Been feeling a little ambivalent myself. Thinking about switching to Linux too. Already bought my copy of Win7, just hesitant to install it yet due to headache reports.

  10. To auto hide the tool bar in Windows 7, go START, Search, hide tool bar, and follow directions.
    Like in the past systems, it will hide and only show when you move the cursor over it.
    Old Guy

  11. I waited until I could buy a new computer (much needed upgrade) until I could get a factory-installed version of Win-7. I absolutely love this new OS — no problems whatsoever. Easy to use, very fast, etc. There was a bit of a “learning curve” moving up from XP, but not that difficult. I would highly recommend the “latest & greatest” from Microsoft.

  12. Thanks for the tip on how to disable Snap! That feature drove me insane…I like to be able to move windows MANUALLY without OS interference, haha!

  13. Another senior makes a comment.
    I built a new system and installed the Windows 7 OEM. Yes, I sold it.
    The installation was completed in less than an hour and was very easy. 7 Premium. Clean HD.
    Drivers were a challenge.I accepted the 8 year old cards and programs that wouldn’t work.
    I have used from Windows 93 to Windows 7. This is what Windows should have been. I learn from others.

  14. I can’t beleive anyone would upgrade any OS ahead of doing a Fresh install.I can’t say I feel sorry for someone I would assume know’s his way around a PC,Wow!

  15. Just to clarify. I did *not* install Windows 7 from the internet. I bought the DVD and then the Windows 7 installer has a recommended option to get the latest version from the internet. I disabled this option to get Windows 7 to install properly.

  16. I’m 72 and two days ago I started the Win7 install. I had eleven downloads to do and they would have gone without a hitch but didn’t because I have a USB Internet connection and it would go off. This was the longest part, when it came up to do the set-up without the Internet connected, it went smoothly and fast. I love the sound on Win7, much better than Vista. I have Win7 64bit and a Toshiba laptop.

  17. For some 25 years, I have been installing and using almost every version of MS-DOS and Windows. Except for the refusal of manufacturers to upgrade their drivers for several very expensive printers, scanners and other devices disabled by Vista, those upgrade transistions were almost seamless.

    In early December, I began the process of upgrading Windows Vista Home Premium (32 bit)to Win7 Home Premium. After several hours of growing confusion and frustration, Microsoft Tech Support determined that my installation DVD was defective. Staples provided a replacement disk, without hesitation.

    Again, however, I could not get the Win7 upgrade to install, and it took 3 more hours of hand-holding by MS tech support to complete. Then, the real fun began. For the next two weeks(Christmas break), I did little more than troubleshoot all of the problems with previously, and flawlessly, operating devices and programs that Win7 had created. It was one, long, gut-wrenching nightmare. With the help of two different programs for identifying drivers that could be updated/upgraded, a systems analyst, and tech support at Hewlett-Packard, Logitech and LinkSys, I eventually got my desktop back to more-or-less normal operating condition.

    Two pleasant discoveries came out of this ordeal. The first was finding that, unlike my experience with Vista, most device manufacturers were providing device drivers that would work with Win7. This enabled me to recover the use of most of the devices disabled by their earlier abandonment of Vista users. The second is the quickness with which Win7 does most things, including searches.

    I like this new operating system – it works, better than Vista, and seems to be as reliable as XP. However, given the number of painful surprises, and the protracted, exacting and excruciating process of uninstalling, finding, upgrading and reinstalling so many drivers and software updates, it will be a long while before I undertake the challenge of using the remaining two licenses on my DVD to install Win7 on my laptop (Win XP) and office desktop (Vista).

  18. I upgraded to Windows 7 Professional from Vista Home Premium about a month ago from the install DVD with no problems. I always hated Vista and have a dual boot with XP as I have 2 hard drives. In my case, Vista is seemingly totally gone, which makes me so pleased!

  19. Best way to access all windows 7 functions is to create new folder(Desktop) and rename it EasyMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} Voila everything is a click away!!

  20. Upgrade? No point. Always do a clean install. You will find that a clean install is just that. All your existing bugs are ironed out and the system runs fresh as a daisy. You should be in the habit of naturally backing up all your files and documents as a matter of course anyways (please tell me you do do back ups). Simply slide in your copy of all your data from your new back up once the full reformat is complete. As for user settings, well with a shiny new OS you have loads of those to configure anyways! Why spend hours doing an upgrade with existing settings when a clean install can take as little as 25 minutes. Surely even you must have noticed that any Win7 upgrade disc actually has by design has a custom clean install option too.

  21. The most annoying thing about vista for me was the goofy way all the settings were arranged. To me it seemed far LESS usable than win2k and xp where settings are very easy to get to. I found 7 to be just another vista with some minor improvements. After all the hype, what a shame. Anytime something is “dumbed down” it is always harder to use. Ever downloaded drivers from gateway?

  22. To get at file associations in Win 7, hit start, type “file associations”. The new search is probably the best feature on Win 7 in my opinion. And turning UAC way down or off without having to reboot is nice too.

    I’d never do an upgrade, just clean installs. I’ve never had a problem installing several hundred various versions of Win 7 so far either (all clean installs, some new and some not new systems).

    We’re running Win 7 Pro on several systems (won’t use bitlocker and have no need for the languages, which are the only differences on Ultimate). My wife loves it. I like it much better than Vista, but still find myself booting back to XP more often than not (dual boot system).

    Another nice trick with Win 7 is the windows key and arrows to put windows side by side (left & right) up arrow to expand, down arrow to minimize. 🙂

  23. I upgraded my Dell 1521 Inspiron from Vista Ultimate to 7 Ultimate and have had nothing but problems. First my printer would not install – I now have two drivers piggybacking to get it to work – Microsoft and cookies cannot be blocked. Administrator setup cannot access all files – system files blocked – Temporary Internet Files will not delete – always has space allocated but you cannot see it. I hate to continue as this is a lot worse than Vista – looking harder at Linux – Microsoft is as usual terrible software

  24. Hi Rob
    I am so glad you wrote this article.

    I had exactly the same situation as you however mine was with Win7 Home Premium. I waited overnight in the hope that the next morning I would have it all set up and working beautifully…but alas..just like you, I had to make the decision to Ctl/Alt/Del as well. What I did then was remove all external hard drives and anything else attached to the PC that was not needed like the printer etc. I put the CD back in and it worked perfectly the second time and only took just over an hour to install. I did have some problems with very slow internet and had to check the wireless router,call the ISP and call the computer help desk…but in the end, decided to reinstall Win7 yet again. It fixed the problem straight away.

    So, yes there were some problems initially that made me question why I upgraded but I can honestly say now…that it is 100% better than Vista.

    My advice to those thinking of upgrading…Persevere with initial problems because it is well worth it.

  25. Dear Rob,
    I read your explanation. One thing I do not understand. You used your Window7 DVD to install Window 7. Then later you went on the Internet to download Window7? Then you jammed the Window7 DVD in your Laptop again?
    This is not very clear to me.
    Kind regards,

  26. I have Win 7 Pro 64 bits, it does everything I want, I admit that I have keep XP mainly because I have old games that will not run on a 64 bits, mind you most of my games that did work in Vista 32 bits work like a charm on my 64 bits Win 7, so on a desktop and because the hard drive are now so “cheap” if you compare their price to 2 years to 3 years ago I just bought a new one made my Win 7 the only one on it and keep Vista and XP on the other drive for the odd games that won’t play.

    For my Palmpilote Tungsten e2 I use the Virtual XP to permit me a simple sync and to be frank I choose the pro version because of that advantage (Pro and above give you a free access to XP Mode) but mind you it is not made for games as the drivers are limited in a sense that hardware acceleration is not allowed in virtual mode so don’t think of using Win 7 Pro and above for using XP Virtual to play games that require hardware acceleration.

    I just love Win 7 and the advertising of Apple they could stick it in their A… unles you believe that a Computer is just an appliance well get a mac and use it as an appliance just don`t expect to do the same then on a PC i.e. RPG Games with hadware acceleration as this will cost you way more then you think for the same result or less lol.

    I am a PC and I have made Win 7 possible by doing the beta and I am now quite please with the final version of Win 7.

    Viva PC Viva the freedom on a not lock tight box :), mind you I own a iTouch but I now only use iTunes in XP Virtual mode so that blootware of iTunes won’t contaminate my lovely PC again viva the virtual OS.

    For the one that are afraid well don’t and listen to Apple and paid the triple to the quadruple for a lock tight none PC “computer” me I will keep my virus and my headache like you call it and be very happy with some commonsense and basic precaution like taking the free update from Microsoft and a good Anti-virus that are now mostly free if you want or paid at you own taste.

    BTW in Apple advertising they try to make you believe that you could move to Apple well everyone here could move at a very high cost and don’t forget your software and lovely setting will not work anyway on a Mac as they are not compatible unless you go boot camp and all that but if you want that way why not XP and Win 7 on the same PC and get the best of the both world, meaning for the odd program i.e. old games that require adware acceleration of video card for example or even Vista 32 bits and Win 7 64 bits on the same PC for me I have all of them starting from XP to Vista to Win 7 and why, well it is easy to do and because I can and because Windows let me do it so easy that even a 5 years old could do it if you tell him to start the installation from XP going forward and he will succeed without your help or almost as he might need advice about the size of the partition to make but that will be about it as even window will do it for him after telling it about the size that you want.

    And to finish all the owner of an Apple did make a fuss about Microsoft to support time machine backup feature with Windows Home Server, guess what Microsoft did it and never did brag about it, just buy an HP Windows Home Server edition and you will be able to backup to that Microsoft server like I do every night on automatic mode lol except that me I do it for at least half the cost and same performance or better then a Mac if you compare Apple with Apple 😉 or orange with orange as you wish.

  27. I too just made the jump from Vista to 7 and though it was arduous, it was also worth it. I went from 32-bit Vista to 64-bit 7 so the upgrade path was a no-go — I had to do a clean install. The “Easy transfer” tool was easy enough, but I didn’t examine precisely what it wanted to transfer and it ended up saving 680 GB (not a typo). A little care on my part and I could have cut that down by two-thirds. I had an external 2 TB drive that I was going to add to the home network anyway, so there was no problem with space, but it took about 30 hours to do the copy.

    “Custom” installing worked well enough (about 4 hours) but then locked up in the infamous “Black Screen of Death” at the end of the process. I waited nervously for a few hours and then powered the CPU down. Unplugging my second monitor did the trick: when the system rebooted, it happily completed the installation (less than an hour) and I was back in business.

    Reinstalling my applications was also no particular fuss — I had been assured by both Microsoft and Adobe that a reinstall of their products back onto the same machine would not cause any activation issues and darn if they weren’t telling the truth. Other less mission-critical applications have also been well behaved, not only in reinstallation but in working properly under the new OS.

    On the whole the system is notably faster and less obnoxious. Several minor hardware glitches that drove me crazy under Vista have vanished and I’m getting to like the interface improvements.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure that businesses will be as happy to make the switch. If I’d charged myself my hourly rate for the time I spent upgrading, I could have bought a couple of high-end laptops with the check. An alternative to a clean install *might* be to buy a new machine with 7 already installed.

    Of course, that’s crazy for most users.

  28. I have an Asus G50 Laptop that came with 64 bit Vista Pro. I added dual boot to XP Pro. USing the PcPitstop tests, the best XP could do was top 12% of similar laptops. Booting to Vista, the best I could do was top 8% of similar laptops. Installing, Windows 7, and PcPitstop now rates my machine in the top 4% of similar laptops. I removed XP and Vista and will never leave Windows 7.

  29. Dude…you tried upgrading a system without backing up your data? That’s like hanging a sign in your front window that says “hose my computer.”

    You might like your install better if you back up your data, then format the drive and do a clean install. Gets rid of all of those Vista cooties. Then take your Ultimate installation and use the backup feature to create a system image of your minty fresh computer.

  30. I had xp and vista both for a very long time. My only complaint was they would lock up often…I upgraded Vista to Windows 7 (64 Bit) and it is great. Had it for many 2 months now. Upgrade was easy. Love it, very fast & stable.

  31. i have windows7 ultimate 64bit and i will never go back to vista or xp. better security and diagnostic tools. faster. directX 11 for more dynamic sound and video. media player 12. vista ultimate 64bit was preinstalled on this new computer with a free upgrade to windows7 ultimate 64bit. i had vista for 2 weeks and i hated it. my old computer had xp professional 32bit and i swore by xp for years. i dont remember if i had the internet connected during the window7 upgrade process or not. only problem i had after upgrading was the sound was like static so i uninstalled and reinstalled the sound drivers and the sound was fixed and even better than on vista. i updated all my drivers including the sound drivers on vista before the upgrade and still had that temporary sound problem until i reinstalled the sound drivers. i like dragging the internet explorer window to the top of the screen to maximize the window to full screen. i used to double click the top header bar of the window to maximize which you still can do but i prefer the drag to top maximize feature better. drag it away from the top and in goes back to previous size. i recommend the switch. but do what you like. 😀

  32. Well, I don’t think I’ll be jumping to W7 too soon. What’s there for me to excuse such expenditure? Vista … well, it works for me. Have double boot (XP) and I’m not about to self torture in figuring out how to make it work in W7. Some of the big corp still use XP, for a reason -if it ain’t broke …
    I’m sure W7 is going to have a few more talk points for those in the bitten off fruit camp, but that’s alright, it’s the nature of the pc. I bank on the advantages. well, enough said.
    Lastly, you made me feel smarter when you couldn’t figure out the un-hiding task bar. Thanks for playing with mud before we get stuck in it.

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