From Here To Windows 7
My experience upgrading to Windows 7 was mostly a pleasant success. This article is not how to do the upgrade, there are lots of articles on the net showing how to do that. Just use your favourite search engine. And there is lots of information about various options you can take advantage of while doing the process.
Our purpose is to point out some of the little things that you may not be aware of, such as super long wait times and hours of updates to be endured.
I did two versions of the Windows 7 upgrade process – a notebook, installing Windows 7 over Vista, and a desktop with XP to Vista.
Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor – I ran this on both machines. It produces a file listing all hardware and most software as to its compatibility with Windows 7. It gives a good outline of what to expect and if drivers or program updates are going to be needed later. It will also let you know if your computer is suitable for the 64 bit version or just the 32 bit.
Notebook Vista to Windows 7
After running the above advisor, I double checked that I had backed up all data and pictures that I couldn’t afford to lose. In fact I backed up the important things twice. I also used Acronis to make an image of the drive, and also my Toshiba notebook had the Vista operating system restore on a separate partition.
Be Prepared To Wait
Inserting the upgrade disc and starting the upgrade, it points out that you should be prepared to wait up to several hours, and that your machine may reboot several times. That’s an understatement.
The actual operating system took 5.5 hours to upgrade. Finally you get to see the Windows 7 screen which gives you a sigh of relief feeling. But wait! We’re not done yet. The computer began to go through a series of updates, to the Windows 7 operating system, and to some of the computer’s components. By the time everything was done, I estimate it took another five hours. It rebooted seven times, (Windows 7 hmmm…) what’s in a name.
For the most part, the upgrade process went by itself. Although some of the updates you were required to agree to the licensing, or click to continue, so if you leave the room your computer will patiently await your return to continue the process.
Sometimes The Computer Waits
One thing to be aware of is that in some instances the screen stays black, and it appears as if the computer is not doing anything. This can seem like a very long time, several minutes or more, giving the illusion the process has failed. I watched for the drive light to flicker occasionally, which comforted me the process was still alive, although at times the blinks were few and far between.
Upgrade vs Clean Install
With Vista you have the option of doing an upgrade or a clean install. Many recommend the clean install as there is nothing like a new operating system on a clean machine. I elected to do the upgrade just because I didn’t want to do have to reinstall all my working programs. I figured if something goes wrong, I will go back and to the clean version. So far all is well, with all previous programs working as fast or faster than before.
Windows 7 Drivers
Even though it was advised to download and prepare some of the drivers for my Toshiba model, I found the system went out on the net and found and installed the drivers by itself anyway. On a few occasions the computer didn’t ask to get the drivers until they were actually needed by a particular program.
Desktop XP to Windows 7
The move from XP to Windows 7 is a little more involved, for the simple reason there is not option, you must do a clean install. That means all your data, programs – everything will be gone. But it is not as bad as it sounds. The entire process is explained very well here.
External Drive Needed
Run the upgrade advisor as mentioned above.
Then install and run Windows Easy Transfer. This program will move all your data, pictures, music and program information to a file on the external hard drive. This file can be later exported back to your computer by the same Easy Transfer program which is built in to Windows 7.
Again be prepared for a long wait. If you have a lot of programs and data like I did, it will take four or five hours.
It Saves The Folders Location of Your Programs Only
Note that the Windows Easy Transfer program backs up / saves your data precisely as it was. It only saves the location of the various program folders you had so you will know where they were. It does not save the actual program. You will have to reinstall all your programs using their original program discs and licence keys.
I am not sure I see the value of this. It’s just as easy to reinstall the program and select the file location which normally is the “Program files” anyway.
cCleaner To The Rescue
I have often mentioned the many virtues of cCleaner. It has one unlisted use. If you have dozens of programs on your computer, some that you may use infrequently, how are you going to remember the names of them when it comes time to reinstall them?
Easy – no hand written note pad required. Start up cCleaner, click Tools>Uninstall. There’s the list of all the programs on your computer. You are not going to uninstall them, you are going to click on the “Save to text file…” in the lower right corner. Then print that text file and you have a check list of all the programs you had on your computer. You can refer to the list and reinstall as needed.
Time to run the Install Disc
If you are installing the 64 bit version you have to boot with the 64 bit version of the upgrade disc. Otherwise, just begin installing the 32 bit version by clicking the install file or if your auto run works, it will begin by itself.
Since the desktop was a faster processor and had a faster drive, the install this time only took slightly over an hour. There were several reboots and then the fancy blue Windows 7 start screen.
Here’s Windows 7
The installation seemed to be successful and it said it was done. I even installed a few of my old programs, and used the built in Easy Transfer to import the previous saved file from the external hard drive.
All the data files, were there and access to them was same as before. Importing the file also took an extended period of time, meaning hours.
Checking through the files I found the folders to previously installed programs to be in place, only they were mostly empty. Some contained previous setting or configuration files that would be used when the program was reinstalled again.
I found these program files to be only of limited use. When you reinstall a program you usually end up doing the configuration for it anyway.
Most programs run the same or better than they did with XP. Some programs are modified for Windows 7 and not only run better, but have a newer fancy interface.
Most hardware devices were picked up and run the same as before. For several that had the above mentioned new driver/program, they run better. I have only had one device so far that flat out refused to work, and caused Windows 7 to be unresponsive.
Even if you back up all your data to the external hard drive, Easy Transfer also backs it up to a file called Windows.old. Once Windows 7 was up and running I began reinstalling my most important programs. It wasn’t long before I found only 5 gb remained on the C drive. The Windows.old file is hundreds of gigabytes in size and was using up all the free space. I had to delete the file in order to continue, which left lots of space to be used. No big deal since everything was duplicated in the backup on the external drive anyway. i do think more mention should be made of this.
No Remote Control
You know what it’s like when you lose the remote for the TV. I use Remote Desktop a lot to connect from my notebook to desktop and server computers, every day. In Windows 7 it’s not there. Well it is sort of, its still on the menu, but it only allows other computers to connect to that computer. It does not allow the Windows Home Premium computer to initiate the connection. Both XP and Vista allowed this to work perfectly. You have to move to a much more expensive version to have this capability in Windows 7.
So far this is the only thing missing from Windows 7 that I use a lot.
As a long time Teamviewer fan, I now use that to connect remotely to my in house computers as well as connecting to them via the internet while traveling. Teamviewer handles this task perfectly. Remember it is free for personal use only.
Updates Updates Updates
I mentioned above what seemed like endless updates while installing Windows 7. After several weeks of use, it appears that this is an ongoing activity. Every time I turn on Windows 7 on any computer there are always a list of updates waiting to be downloaded and installed. Perhaps those with the updates set to “automatic” would never notice it. However due to the numerous reboots required I prefer to have Windows only notify me so that I can download and install as I see fit.
Windows 7 Extras (That I Like)
There are a few things Windows 7 has that are handy for me. Like the remote issue above, if you don’t use or need it, you don’t even know its there, and probably don’t care. These are some things I found that Windows 7 has that previous versions didn’t, and I find myself using each of these a lot.
Much has been said about Windows 7 active taskbar. You hover the mouse over the icon on the taskbar and it pops up a small preview of that program. It gets better.
Move your mouse up to the preview and a full screen preview of the program comes up. Move the mouse away and everything returns to the way it was. This is great if you have your email program running and you want to quickly check to see if you should read it now or wait until later.
Previously with XP I used a program called Ultramon to provide a taskbar on each monitor and a quick way to send programs to the monitor of my choice. With Windows 7 you just press Win Key + Shift + Left (or Right) arrow key to move the program to the second monitor. Doing the combination again with the opposite arrow key brings the program back to the monitor it was originally on. Much quicker and more efficient than using the mouse, since I am a keyboard person anyway.
It doesn’t give a taskbar on each monitor, only the primary one. However I find little use for the second taskbar now. This method is faster with less input for me.
Win Key + Arrow Maximize Minimize
For us keyboard users, another bonus I like is Win Key + Up Arrow maximizes the current active window.
Win Key + Down Arrow minimizes the window again.
Update: After 1 Year
After more than a year using Windows 7 on three upgraded computers, plus a new one that came with 7, I can say I am 100% happy with it. There are a lot of things that make it the operating system to have in the Windows world. These things are explained and listed in many Windows sites easily found by using Google. I won't re-list them all here.
Is It Worth The Upgrade from Vista
This can be debated, depending on how much the upgrade will cost you. For me the answer was yes. because I was able to purchase a Family Pack. If I had to purchase each copy separately at full price, the decision may have been different.
What's Not To Like
I havent found anything I don't like about Windows 7. It does everything I need to do the best yet.