I finally got around to upgrading my partner's Windows Vista laptop at the weekend, and it turned out to be quite a drawn-out process and much more involved than I had anticipated. If Vista throws up this many problems with an in-place upgrade, it's no wonder that Microsoft decided that an upgrade path from XP wasn't worth contemplating.
The upgrade accounted for pretty much all of Sunday afternoon and evening, taking in the region of eight hours from start to finish. With hindsight, a clean install would have been a better option, but the laptop had a number of applications such as Microsoft Office that have been personalised with various settings and options, and it seemed that an in-place upgrade was the way to proceed.
The first thing I did was to backup all documents and files to a network share, as The Boss would not have been impressed if anything had gone wrong and resulted in the loss of any of her work.
Secondly, I downloaded and ran the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft's website to get some idea of any problems that might be lurking.
This turned out to be a useful tool, so I fully recommend it to anyone planning a similar upgrade. As well as confirming that the laptop (a HP Compaq Presario F500 series) met the minimum requirements for Windows 7, it identified one or two drivers that were not compatible with Windows 7 (see screenshot).
It also recommended removing several applications before the upgrade, including an old version of iTunes, Windows Live Messenger and the Windows Mobile Device Center.
Unfortunately, uninstalling one of the applications caused the laptop's DVD drive to stop working, which put a brake on the upgrade until I could fix it.
The problem was that the application had hooked into the DVD driver, and its uninstall routine had not removed the link. A quick web search provided me with a fix, which involved editing the Registry to remove any reference to the application from the DVD's entry.
With the DVD drive re-instated, I popped in the Windows 7 install disk and kicked off the setup. However, this performed its own compatibility check, which after an extended scan of the computer, threw up a new list of applications and drivers to remove.
One of the applications it identified was Skype, which wasn't actually installed on the laptop, and so caused some head scratching. It turned out the compatibility check had found a bundled Skype installer that HP must have pre-loaded onto the hard drive when the laptop was built.
After removing the new problems and a quick reboot, I re-started the install and waited...and waited...and waited. After copying and expanding the files needed for Windows 7, the installer than scanned for existing applications and files, and this is what really took up a lot of the time, as it eventually reached a grand total of 342,814 items!
Of course, the upgrade was only half complete, as after rebooting into Windows 7, the installer then had to import all the applications and files it had previously identified.
Just as I was about to retire to bed and leave the upgrade running overnight, the installation finished and Windows Vista was finally replaced with shiny new Windows 7, with no loss of data and all vital applications intact.
So far, The Boss is pleased with the upgrade, although she complains that it is still a little slow for her liking, but an improvement on Vista's interminable startup and shutdown times.
The upgrade was thus a success, but not without its share of hitches, and it makes me wonder how less tech-savvy users would cope with a similar scenario. And this was with a Vista laptop bought as new just a couple of years ago, not an ancient XP machine.
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