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Windows Vista to Windows 7 Upgrade

By Dave Redfern (Writer)

Published: 05 Nov 02:01 in Software

Tags: 0.4, 0.5.0, featured, opera mail

I recently "took one for the team" and bought Windows 7 and upgraded Vista to Windows 7. This is my experience.

I tried the Windows 7 Beta in a VM when it was available as a public beta. It seemed alright, not great, but a slight improvement over Vista. As the release drew nearer I decided that as I was mostly unhappy with Vista and was starting to have issues with it slowing down and generally doing some slightly weird things that I would upgrade. So I picked up a Family Pack from Staples after Win7 was released and headed home to try it out.

Before trying to upgrade there are a few things I strongly recommend to do. These steps should be viewed as a checklist, don't upgrade until you have them all crossed off.

  1. Backup all your data,
  2. Download all the Windows 7 drivers you can for your hardware and back those up,
  3. Download the latest versions of software you may use,
  4. Download the Upgrade Advisor,
  5. Run the Easy Transfer wizard (or whatever it is called) just in case,
  6. De-authorise any SecuRom or "Activated" software (e.g. Crysis: Warhead, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Red Alert 3, Adobe CS3/4 products),
  7. Be prepared to waste a weekend.

Now the first thing that anyone should do who is considering upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, is to run the Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft. I can't stress this enough! Follow the advice and do this before attempting any upgrades.

Of course it goes without saying that you should backup all your data. I have a ReadyNas just for this purpose.

After backing up, the first step is to install and run the Upgrade Advisor. This free download will run compatibility checks and give suggestions on what you can do to improve or aid the upgrade process.

In my case I had several items that needed attention, namely removing the following software:

  • VMWare Workstation
  • ATI Catalyst Installer
  • MS IntelliType / IntelliPoint drivers
  • iTunes
  • Cisco LEAP module
  • Assorted network adaptor config tools

After several restarts and running the upgrade advisor again, it reported everything as OK and ready to go. So I rebooted again and tried to run the upgrade from the DVD boot options. Nope; you can only run the upgrade from an already installed and running Vista.


It was at this point that I noticed I had "lost" the DVD drive. Vista was refusing to load the driver. Back to Google and low and behold a known issue complete with an MS Knowledge Base article. A quick regedit on several keys and (yet another) reboot and back in action.

Now as I had backed up my system I did not use the Easy Transfer wizard - I have since read that this does a pretty good job of transferring your settings, so it might be an idea to try this out as well as having a backup.

I then ran the upgrade process. It asked if I really wanted to do it, and then set off doing what it needed to do. I left it to it.

-- 4 hours later --

Windows 7 was ready.

I logged in, which worked. I checked out the icons and programs, all seemed to be there. Wireless was still working and my ethernet connection to the ReadyNas likewise had been kept. Looking good so far.

I then tried to change the wallpaper ... "Explorer.exe failed to connect to server".

I opened Control Panel and started trying out various bits. Many of the applets would not load giving the same error. Often the CP window would just freeze and then the whole desktop would freeze for about a minute or so only to come back eventually. The various alerts I was getting from the Action Center could not be dealt with.

I tried several of my apps - Opera worked, but others didn't (Winamp) or they worked but not quite right (no GUI just a task).

More exploring should something seriously amiss with the upgrade. It had gone wrong. I think because some software was still installed that should have been removed before the upgrade but was not identified.

In the end I had no choice - clean install. I read the articles that it had to be done on a pre-existing version, but instead I booted from the DVD, opted for a Custom installation, formatted the existing partition and installed into that. When it asked for a key I skipped it (just in case this wouldn't work).

It installed and a short while later I had a basic Windows 7 desktop and it was asking for my account and wireless details.

After all that it took another few hours to get drivers installed and settings updated as well as downloading the assorted patches that were already available. It took several more days to get my applications loaded back in and configured. The most awkward was Diskeeper which involved a round-the-houses installation as my 2009 copy would not install without a previous copy being installed. 2007 wouldn't install and failed, but then 2009 did install.

In summary my upgrade was a mess. It did not work correctly and I had no choice but to clean install. For those who are thinking about upgrading I would still recommend a clean install, either a new hard disk or a format of your existing Vista. Many people have reported successful upgrades, but from previous experience I knew it was going to hard work and so I was prepared. Your mileage may vary, but always, ALWAYS have a backup!

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