Criticism Mounts Over Windows 7 Upgrades7:25 PM EST Thu. Aug. 06, 2009
Now that Windows 7 is in the hands of Microsoft's hardware and software partners, the software giant deserves to take a victory lap.
But two prominent Microsoft watchers -- both of whom have written glowingly of Windows 7 in the past -- are warning that upgrading Windows XP and Vista PCs to Windows 7 could be a difficult, time-consuming process.
Microsoft said early on that it wouldn't offer an "in-place" upgrade from XP to Windows 7 and would instead require users to perform a more time-consuming clean install. Microsoft has also insisted that Vista-to-Windows 7 upgrades will be simple and straightforward because the two share much of the same underlying code.
However, in a post earlier this week to the D: All Things Digital blog, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg published a Microsoft chart that shows 66 possible Windows 7 upgrade scenarios, of which only 14 qualify as in-place upgrades. Clean installs also will be required when moving from 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and vice versa.
For the technologically uninitiated, Mossberg said clean installs could amount to a "tedious, painful process" because it requires users to back up their personal files to external storage, erase all data from the hard drive, install Windows 7, and then transfer their personal files back and re-install their applications, including all updates.
Joe Wilcox, a San Diego-based independent analyst and longtime Microsoft pundit, had an even stronger reaction to Microsoft's Windows 7 upgrade chart.
"After commandingly executing Windows 7 development, Microsoft had run off the track right before the finish line. Suddenly, Windows 7 is a disaster potentially like its predecessor. Could anything be worse than Vista?" Wilcox wrote in a Wednesday blog post.
The uncertain economic situation will only serve to further magnify the time and expense involved with Windows 7 upgrades, and that could overshadow the benefits that Windows 7 offers, according to solution providers.
"Everyone is excited about Windows 7, but businesses in this recession want to keep what they have," said Mark Crall, president of Charlotte Tech Care Team, a Charlotte, N.C.-based solution provider. "No one wants to go through a clean install process right now and have to deal with the disruption associated with an upgrade."
Other solution providers see this as an example of Microsoft being criticized unfairly. Bob Nitrio, CEO of Ranvest Associates, an Orangevale, Calif.-based technology consultant, says with Windows upgrades it's best to do a clean install whenever possible because it resets the PC to a known state and eliminates remnants of the previous OS that could lead to problems down the road.
"I really don't think it's productive for people to criticize Microsoft for requiring clean installs, because they do it to ensure the best possible experience on the new OS," said Nitrio. "There are people who expect OS upgrades to be plug-and-play, but that's just an unrealistic expectation."