Lubos Programming Blog

Lubos Blog about Programming (mainly Java) and Computers

Upgrading to Windows 7

Posted by lubosp on November 15, 2009

I am part time system administrator for small health-care provider, so I know that Windows 7 are in my future with purchases of the new computers (it is harder and harder to get new computer with Windows XP).

I already tried to install Windows 7 on my 6 year old HP laptop, and the experience wasn’t quite positive, see my blog here. But most of the technical publications rates Windows 7 quite well, so I decided to upgrade my main work/development laptop, Thinkpad R61 to Windows 7 Pro. At the same time I purchased Asus Eee PC netbook with Windows 7 Starter Edition.

Installation

My Thinkpad R61 had Windows Vista Home edition (32 bit), so the OS did not use all of the 4Gb memory in the laptop. Because I couldn’t do Windows 7 update (update doesn’t work going from Vista Home to Windows 7 Pro), I decided to bite the bullet and do the clean install of Windows 7 Pro 64bit to make use of full 4Gb of memory. I performed full backup and ran Easy Transfer Wizard (to Windows 7). Then ran Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and uninstalled and/or upgraded a few applications advisor recommended to uninstall or upgrade (mainly ThinkVantage, Thinkpad applications, see here).

Installation went smoothly and it took about an hour. I then ran Windows update a few times to get the latest and greatest. Everything was running well NVidia drivers and other drivers (camera, audio) loaded well, networking was working, I could easily connect to my MyWorldBook NAS, and to my HP network printer (this might be the first Windows OS where the networking is working without glitches ;-). I then run Windows Easy Transfer to restore my settings.

As always, while some applications are running out of the box like Firefox, Eclipse, Notepad++ and others, some Windows applications have nasty habit to depend on registry entries, .dll libraries in Windows\system32 etc, and they had to be reinstalled. This is one of the major pains of upgrading or re-installing Windows OS. IMHO Microsoft should offer better application model to application developers so they can build applications that are easy to migrate between Windows OS installation, and application developers should do better job writing applications that do not depend on resources that disappear during Windows OS install/re-install.
BTW, I am using 2 disk partitions, C: and D: drive, and I do install most of the applications on D: drive, which makes it easier to install/re-install Windows OS. Even with that, it took me about a day to get my laptop in shape.

Windows 7 install creates Windows.old folder with core of the old (in my case Windows Vista) OS, so you can use it to recover applications and data missed by transfer wizard. Biggest installation disappointment was that Start Menu\Programs disappeared and they were also missing in Windows.old folders, so I had to rebuild them from scratch. That in itself is not trivial because I couldn’t find a way to access Start Menu folder (Permission Denied) with Windows Explorer even with administrator privileges. Fortunately I found this article, and downloaded and used SurF Explorer.

I do not use Programs menu that much, I instead maintain and share between my computers custom toolbars (folders in C:\&D (for development), C:\&U for utilities etc) which show up as D >> toolbar and that popup applications (folder content) when clicked on >>  in the toolbar. I use these toolbars for easy access to applications. These custom toolbars saved me from some more work chasing down all the applications and creating their links.

Windows XP mode is not installed with Windows 7 by default, here is the Microsoft documentation how to install Windows XP mode.

Few Problems

  • Desktop icons suddenly disappeared after reboot, it took me few minutes to find Desktop popup menu View/Show desktop icons that got unchecked for some reason
  • Power management is biggest problem ad disappointment so far. At night I just close the lid of my laptop and then come in the morning and open it. In two of the three days using Windows 7 after opening the lid in the morning the display was dark, there was no laptop activity (even if OS was not shut down), and I couldn’t wake up the laptop no matter what I did. I have to do hard shutdown holding I/O button and restart Windows 7. This worked seamlessly in Windows Vista. I am trying to set all Power options to Never, but so far laptop wake up function is failing!
  • Creating file associations is worse than it was in Vista or XP, the UI doesn’t allow you to specify details of the command, and executing java .jar files requires -jar option to execute a .jar file (double-click). I had to search and edit registry to set .jar file association with -jar option. This was actually problem with me installing JDK 32bit instead of JDK 64bit. After I uninstalled 32bit and installed 64bit, everything was working well, and .jar associations were set properly.

Applications I had to re-install

  • VMWare player
  • Snagit
  • PDANet – used http://junefabrics.com/pdanet/x64.php to install 64b driver, and used old PDANet 1.2 for Blackberry
  • HAVA
  • FileZilla site manager, here is how to find and restore site manager items
  • Set environment variables, I forgot to save env. variables (why there is no Import/Export for env. variables on Windows?), so I had to recreate quite a few of them (JAVA_HOME, GROOVY_HOME etc.)
  • Cygwin
  • VNC
  • Blackberry Desktop
  • Logmein
  • Lastpass
  • VLC Player
  • Java

Conclusion

So far I do agree with experts, that Windows 7 is the best Windows OS so far, yes even better than Windows XP. After disabling UAC (which was much easier than in Vista), I am happy Windows 7 user (with exception of power management mentioned above). Also Windows 7 Starter on our Asus Eee PC is running well with no glitches (on that laptop power management works as it should, have it set to sleep on close lid, wake up on open).

 

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