Friday 6 February 2009

Windows 7 diary: the install

Inspired partly by this post and partly by the news that I had until 10th February to get my backside in gear, last night I took the plunge and installed Windows 7 on my laptop.

Yes, you read that right, my laptop. As in my only laptop. I have a desktop PC I use most of the time, so it's not my most critical machine, but still, it's a leap. So while I was waiting for the DVD image to download I took a manual backup (I just love my WHS so much for this kind of thing).

I also decided to take an unprecedented step and run it as an upgrade from Vista instead of a fresh install. I don't think I've tried a version upgrade to Windows like this since a very bad experience going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 all those years ago.  Even though the underlying architecture is supposed to be near as dammit the same as Vista, I know my reaction would be “you did what?!"” if one of my techie friends did the same and it all went horribly wrong.  But the convenience of not having to reinstall all my apps to make the machine usable enough for a real-life test was just too much of an incentive to resist.

So... download completed, DVD burned, I put it in the drive and kicked off the setup. After a few clicks and quite a bit of waiting around - this laptop is an ultra-portable so not exactly built for speed - the setup program told me I needed to reboot to update some system files before it would allow me to continue. It was a bit frustrating that after the reboot the setup had to go through the same routine again (same set of clicks, 'checking compatibility' for quite a few minutes) before eventually allowing me to continue. It would be nice if it could store what it learnt the first time round and not have to go through all that again - but maybe the reboot scenario is a glitch they're hoping to be rid of before Windows 7 goes RTM.

By this time it was getting pretty late so I left the install running and went to bed, so I can't tell you how long the whole process took.

This morning I was greeted by a prompt to select my time zone, a couple more clicks and next thing I knew I was ready to log in! The biggest surprise of all was that the login screen had the option for me to use my fingerprint reader to authenticate - as it uses a utility that hooks into the Windows Login screen it seemed like a long shot that it might work straight away, but there it was, working just like it did in Vista!

My desktop took a few moments to build, but it's only thinking back I realise what an incredible thing happened next. Windows just loaded. And sat there, waiting for me to do something. No error messages! No unknown device driver install prompts!  No hung (or processor-greedy) processes for me to kill!

I did have one slightly worrying moment when the notification about syncing my offline files came up. I have my Documents folder located in a share on my server, so both my desktop and laptop can use the same files. Windows 7 picked up the setting (in theory a good thing) and started syncing files. You can call me a scaredy-cat, but I'm not sure I like the idea of a beta OS syncing with my server copy of my important files. The server does have an off-site (i.e. online) backup but the pain of getting all my data back from there isn't something I want to go through for anything less than a real unavoidable data-recovery emergency. So I stopped the sync and took away the *Always available offline* setting from my synced shares just to be on the safe side. As time goes on I may relent on that one, but this was my first minute in a new beta OS so I hadn't had time to get any kind of comfort that it works well enough to be allowed near my files.

So, sync stopped and panic over, I only had a couple of minutes to spare before my early morning conference call. I launched Firefox 3 just to see how it would behave, and it seems to play nicely. After my call I had to head straight into the office so I closed the lid on my laptop and it began to Hibernate, so it seems to have remembered that setting. The hibernation process seemed pretty quick, but I've never sat with a stopwatch and timed it under Vista so I can't say whether it's better or not.

So that was my first day with Vista and I leave you with a cliff-hanger ending...

Will the laptop wake up from hibernation?

Will I be able to create my next post in Windows Live Writer from my upgraded machine?

What will I think when I've had a chance to get to know Windows 7 a little better?

We'll find out soon.

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