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Windows 7 Upgrade: Isolated Problems, Not Disaster

From some of the histrionics on the blogosphere, one would almost surmise that an upgrade to Windows 7 was nothing short of a painful, abysmal failure.

However, some of the outrages over Windows 7 upgrades are dubious, at best. As Channelweb.com's Kevin McLaughlin reported, many users are complaining that that they cannot do clean installs with Windows 7 upgrade media.

Say what? When has Microsoft ever made it an option for a user to do a from-scratch install with an upgrade CD? Legitimately, that is, without any workarounds?

It became a bit hard, during the course of last week, to separate justifiable gripes about the Windows 7 upgrade process from the lone freak incidents and overall general biases against Microsoft. However, upon a deeper dig into a disparate sampling of users all over the Internet recording their Windows 7 upgrade experiences, our verdict is that most problems were more incidental with third-party hardware drivers, line-of-business applications, and just random quirkiness.

We conducted our own independent tests on the upgrade process. What we found were very specific, yet irritating incidents that don't significantly undermine Microsoft's promise that "if it works in Vista, it will work in Windows 7." Furthermore, we did not find any issues in our testing that should render a business system inoperable. Note, all upgrades were done using 32-bit software.

In our initial test, we upgraded a Toshiba Portege 500 laptop from Vista SP2 to Windows 7 Ultimate. The full-blown version of Ultimate, and not an upgrade version, was used for the test. We first attempted to do a clean install over an upgrade, but Toshiba's native hard disk drive software prevented a complete wipe-out of the system. So, we moved on, doing just a plain old upgrade. The upgrade process was successful. There were no issues with drivers or any other preinstalled software.

One nuisance we noticed after upgrading to Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8 was a persistence of IE8 to open new IE sessions and tabs at 150 percent zoom. Somewhere during the upgrade process, the previous settings for IE were adjusted, but that is probably more of an issue with the upgrade from IE7 to version 8.

Next, we upgraded a year-old Dell XPS laptop, again, with Vista SP2 to Windows 7. There also were no issues with the upgrade process, save for a broken link to a shortcut we had on the Vista OS desktop to wireless networking.

An upgrade of a Dell Vostro 220 mini-tower also gave no problems. All shortcuts and drivers transitioned over to Windows 7 without incident.

This should be of some comfort to home users. From our testing, all of the major OEMs seem to really have prepared for the final release of Windows 7. For business users and those in the channel, it appears that the biggest headaches will be caused by incompatibility issues with LOB software and any other proprietary software or unique hardware. Of course, a solid testing plan along with backing up of mission-critical data and system registries should alleviate any major issues with a Windows 7 upgrade.

Our expectation is that most businesses will opt for clean installs anyway, or replace dated machines with preinstalled Windows 7 ones. It would seem that so far, the Windows 7 upgrade process is a relatively painless one and does not merit the drama it has seemed to attract.

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