Saturday, 13 November 2010

My rant about upgrading to Windows 7

It's been a while since I've blogged but there is no better time to blog than when you have something to moan about. Today, it's Microsoft turn to be covered tar and feathers.

Just before leaving on a multi-month trip to South-East-Asia, I'm spending some time at home with my parents and friends - an excellent time for them to extract techie knowledge from me or to have their computers serviced. My dad asks me to upgrade his computer, built in 2000, and still running Windows XP. Piece of cake, I say, as I mock his feeble computer-building skills. I'd also install Windows 7, since he received a free (yet legal) copy from his employer.

After visiting the shop, and putting some new hardware (Dualcore processor, new motherboard, ram, harddisk etc), I jam the Windows 7 CD into the drive and boot up. I run the entire installation and just before finishing, it's asking me for my key. No problem, this is a legal installation and the key is just in front of me. I enter the key and wait for magic to happen. Instead, Windows vomits on my shoes and tells me the key is invalid. I key it in again, this time verifying every character. Again, wrong. It dawns on me that this is an upgrade version and that this key is not going to work if I perform a clean install. But why doesn't it verify upgradableness by asking me for a previous Windows key or installation, and why doesn't it tell me that the reason my key does not work is because I didn't do an upgrade? AND WHY OH WHY DO I HAVE TO SIT THROUGH THE WHOLE INSTALLATION TO BE TOLD SO?

Anyway, no biggie. I'll continue installing the original XP CD (again, legal). I insert the Windows 7 CD and run the setup. No! I need at least Service Pack 2 to continue. Fine, but I need to install my network drivers first. After installing them, Windows won't boot up, not even as far as the boot menu. Okay, so maybe the hardware is too new. I get an illegal XP CD with integrated Service Pack 2 off the internet (good thing that there is more than one computer in this house) and I install it. Done. I insert the Windows 7 CD and wait for the installation to start. Nosiree! XP was in English, Windows 7 was in Dutch, so there's no upgrading. This does not make sense: it's not like the 7 CD does not contain the necessary language files to make an English XP into a Dutch one. Also, Dutch Windows versions do not have customised folder names (i.e. Program Files is still Program Files, unlike German versions, that rename it to "Programme").

I'm starting to become a little annoyed now. But my father, a secondary school teacher, gets regular OS updates from his school's student licence, so there's also a Vista CD in the house. I reformat the drive and start the Vista installation. After another 45 minutes waiting, Vista is finally set up and I want to start the Windows 7 setup again.

It seems to work! I get as far as the licence screen! I click upgrade and... pow! Different Vista version. Indeed, I've installed Vista Enterprise and am now trying to upgrade to 7 Ultimate. Through Microsoft's glasses, this seems not to be an upgrade. Luckily, some site on the internet tells me that I can forge the Edition by changing a key in the registry to Ultimate.

I restart the 7 installation. Oh snap, this time I apparently need Vista's Service Pack 1. I'm getting used to the bullying and visit Windows Update. Of course, I need to update Windows Update first. And I need to reboot. And I need to re check and prevent Vista from already starting new downloads after I log in again. And I need to find out that the Service Pack 1 (or 2 for that matter) are not among the available 50-odd updates.

So I head over to Microsoft's site and find, after changing the URL, a Dutch language version of Service Pack 1. I download it - thank god for 30 Mbps pipes and increased data traffic allowances - and start installing it. I'm informed that it may take an hour or more. I sigh and sit it out with a book and start blogging all this. If, after installing SP1 and another reboot, I still cannot install Windows 7, I'm downloading an illegal copy.

There we go. After being stuck for at least 5 minutes on 100%, the SP1 installation finally finishes (seemingly successfully) and reboots the computer. Suspense. Phase 3 of 3 starts and stays stuck on 0% for a few minutes. I get some time to wonder why on earth I need a Service Pack update if I'm upgrading to another OS anyway. After completing phase 3 of 3, phase 1 of 3 starts and stays stuck on 0% for a bit. Then, logically, phase 2 of 3 starts and my computer is ... rebooting again! If I have to see that Asus screen one more time, I'm going to kill someone. Again, phase 3 of 3 commences and I'm advised not to switch off the computer. Like what, am I crazy? Aha, phase 1 of 3 is there again. It's good that users do not get a general idea of how long they're going to have to wait. They might sneak down to get some coffee which they might then spill over their computer, blaming Microsoft for it.

Another 15 minutes later, my computer reboots hopefully for the last time (before my 7 installation). Phase 3 of 3 again takes place. How difficult can it be to make all the changes at once and restart afterwards? Finally, I re-gain control over my computer. I fire up the Windows 7 installation and get past the upgrade screen. I suppress some loud cheering (people are already sleeping). Finally, done! I want my afternoon and evening back!

One of the questions I ask myself is: why do I have to wait so long to learn that something couldn't work anyway? Why does Microsoft not verify compatibility (language, version, system) ask for all the details (settings, language, product key) next and start installing after everything's clear? I could leave the computer unattended and come back and start using my computer. But no. Admittedly, it's a lot better since the Windows XP setup, but I still have to run up the stairs every now and then to push a button or two.

Another question is how much easier it would have been to simply download an illegal copy of Windows 7 Ultimate in the language I'd like? It would've taken, say, an hour, including downloading and burning. Now I've been sitting here for over 7 hours and I'm wondering how a layman like my father would've done this. So much for trying to use legal software.

My advice to Microsoft: want to keep your users? Make upgrades easy: ask for a valid Windows XP key or installation and allow upgrades to cross language and version boundaries.

1 comment:

Zeca said...

Now imagine all that ... but with a 2Mbps connection :]