Upgrading To Windows 7: No Slam Dunk

The task at hand was simple enough: We wanted to create a master image of a PC that was upgraded from XP to Vista SP1 to Windows 7 beta. We would then attempt to "push" out that image to other XP clients on our test network, overwriting their hard drives, and hopefully giving us a quick way to get Windows 7 deployed. We recruited 10 ThinkPad T43 Laptops for the simulation.

Microsoft has blocked one-step upgrades from Windows XP to Windows 7. The alternatives are to either upgrade from XP to Windows Vista to Windows 7, or simply install Windows 7 over the hard drive -- and wipe out all existing data in the process. To overcome part of this problem at the enterprise level, we opted to do a two-step upgrade and then create a system image to push out to PCs across a network.

The initial upgrade from XP SP3 to Vista SP1 went without hiccups on the ThinkPad T43. This model of laptop, although about 3-and-a-half years old, was able to run Vista SP1 with few issues. This was an optimistic beginning to what turned into a dismal failure.

One noticeable problem occurring right after the upgrade to Vista SP1 was a problem with AVG's antimalware client. A complete reinstall fixed the issue.

A second problem after the upgrade to Vista SP1, this one a bit more troubling than the AVG issue: Windows Update was completely inoperable. The error message "Code 8024402C" kept appearing whenever a Windows Update was initiated. Suggested fixes from Microsoft's TechNet Web site did not resolve the issue.

Upgrading the T43 from Vista SP1 to Windows 7 beta started smoothly enough

The upgrade progress chugged along, without incident, albeit the process was a long one; taking about 3.5 hours to upgrade from Vista SP1 to Windows 7 beta.

After a 3.5-hour effort, Windows 7 beta was installed. After a system restart, the laptop would only boot into Safe Mode. Whenever a normal startup was attempted, the display would go black and then hard drive activity ceased. An attempt to resolve the problem in Safe Mode was futile, and wasted about two hours of troubleshooting time.

A second try, on yet another IBM ThinkPad T43, at upgrading from XP SP3 to Vista to Windows 7. This time, Vista was upgraded to SP2 beta and all drivers were upgraded before attempting the Windows 7 beta upgrade process. Here ATI drivers are upgraded.

A major fail; this time, the upgrade to Windows 7 took 4 hours. After the required system reboot, Windows forced the laptop back to Vista, citing, "This version of Windows could not be installed." This was a frustrating exercise, particularly since the laptop had no problems upgrading to Vista, and particularly since the result is at odds with Microsoft's assurance that if "it works in Vista, it will work in Windows 7."

A final try. This time, we ran the compatibility report, with these results.

Windows cautioned about possible issues with VPN clients software, Infrared drivers and a Synpatic Pointing device.

The failure of the two previous attempts evoked extreme caution in this final attempt. Before upgrading to Vista on yet another laptop, the Vista Upgrade Advisor was run. Perhaps this would give better insight about why the Windows 7 upgrade was failing.

The Vista Upgrade Advisor crashed mid-scan.