Windows 7 Beta Upgrade Experience

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”   - Jack London

After doing quite a bit of reading to check up on various potential issues regarding the installation of the Windows 7 public Beta (build 7000),  and after having run it for a bit inside a VM,I decided it would be OK to do an upgrade over my notebook’s Windows Vista Ultimate installation.

I use this machine often, but it is not my primary development box, so if things went south, it wouldn’t hurt me too much.

The upgrade process was interrupted the first and second times by “incompatible software”. The first was Windows Powershell – which is installed by SQL Server 2008.

There is no obvious way to uninstall this, so what I did was to rename the powershell folder under the Windows\System32 folder, and then search for the registry entries and set the installed key from “1” to “0”. That took care of the first offender.

The next interruption came when Windows 7 told me Raxco PerfectDisk was incompatible. Well, I haven’t used PerfectDisk for quite a while, and it wasn’t actually installed. However, there remained installation files and more Registry entries that had to be removed.  Finally, Windows 7 was happy and it continued.

The upgrade process from that point on was uneventful – it just took a very long time (over 3 hours as I recall). Of course my Twitter brethren advised me to “pave” – but I know from experience that waiting 3+ hours for an upgrade vs. reinstalling all my “Stuff” was not feasible – it would have taken me 3 days.

Once Windows 7 was up and running, I had to disable UAC because it was preventing some “stuff” from loading or working (Russinovich’s Process Explorer for one, and ERUNT for another). But once I got that taken care of everything was great. Then I downloaded and installed Kaspersky Antivirus 8 beta, which is promoted as being Windows 7 compatible. Incidentally, if you use this or similar antivirus programs that have anti-spyware built in, you want to disable the Windows Defender service as you don’t need “double protection”.

There were a couple of other minor glitches with various proggies but some sensible tinkering fixed them. For example, it reported that the Synaptics touchpad driver was incompatible, but I chose “run anyway” and it works fine.

Otherwise, I’m happy to report that all of my “Stuff” – Visual Studio, SQL Server 2008, Expression Blend 2 and a host of other programs all work great. The best thing about WIndows 7 on a notebook is the low memory footprint. With Vista, I was looking at anywhere from 1.2 GB up – Looking at the “Memory” graph in Windows 7, it’s only using 763 MB.  Battery life should also improve, according to what I’ve read.  (Actually, I just looked at the Memory graph again and it’s only 695MB – truly amazing).

There are some interesting improvements in Windows 7 some of which, like Media Foundation, that were only partly supported in Windows Vista. Additionally, IE 8.0 seems to render web sites in a more forgiving manner than previous Internet Explorer betas- a good thing.

So, should you install Windows 7 on a non-critical machine? Based on my experience, I’d say yes – as long as you’re prepared to fix some annoying glitches and know what to do. While this *Is* a BETA, I can state from long experience with Microsoft offerings that it is a lot farther advanced down the road than the typical BETA 1 offering. I predict that Windows 7 will be a real success – either as an upgrade to Windows XP (which is not allowed in this Beta) , or to Windows Vista (which is allowed).