Lessons learned from installing Windows 7, over 16 times

When the first Windows 7 beta (build 6801) was announced at PDC in late 2008, everyone was excited, myself included. Within a few days after release I was happily running my very first version of Windows 7. Right around new years day, Microsoft released the first public beta (build 7000) of the next gen OS. Since Microsoft was kind enough to share it with me, I decided to share it with everyone I know. Starting with my immediate family computers and expanding to my network of friends and coworkers. I went on a upgrading frenzy, installing Windows 7 on just about any PC I could get my hands on. Everything from an overclocked 3 Ghz quad-core PC to a 1.3 Ghz laptop.

What have I learned from these installation adventures? I've learned that Microsoft has produced their most stable, reliable & speedy codebase to date. PC's that struggled just to run Vista's basic functions, now can run Windows 7 with all of its features (including Aero). By creating an OS that scales remarkably well, Microsoft has not left the owners of older PC's out in the cold. Allowing them to upgrade their OS without buying a new PC, or even adding additional hardware to their existing PC's. Windows 7 also has one of the easiest install\upgrade processes I've ever seen. With some machines fresh installing Windows 7 in less than 15 minutes.

To further cement my uber-nerd status , I created a spreadsheet to catalog all of my Windows 7 installs. Using a unscientific scale, I graded the PC's on everyday usability and performance. Out of all the PC's on the list, only two lacked the GPU power to run 7's Aero features & none of them had any major driver issues.

As you can see from the test results above, Windows 7 runs on very wide variety of form-factors and styles of PC's. If you have not already, download and install the RC of Windows 7. Which you can find here

How does Windows 7 run on your computer? Let us know in the comments.

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I had a spare afternoon so I installed the W7Rc on a few old bits:-

Celeron 400
4200TI
512Mb Ram
46Gb IDE HDD.

Well it installed and although a little sluggish (not overly so) seems to work fine. There are no built in drivers for the 4200TI or any from Nvidia so I stripped the drivers from a Vista CD (was stuck at 1024x768 with out them).
http://forums.aria.co.uk/showpost.php?p=89305&postcount=41


Obviously no Aero with that GPU and it would not complete WEI as it fails with an unknown error.

Feels like XP on a 256MB machine

volvoshine said,
It was about a week before they closed up for good, I just wandered over to the Touchsmart... put the DVD in and did a clean install. No one even asked me what I was doing... (ninja)

Hmm,

Not to be a detractor but what's this all about? The better CPU, RAM and GPU you have the better Windows 7 will run? Who'd have thunk it.

I found it useful. I have an aging computer (Pentium 4 3gHz). Seeing a real-world field test of a similarly spec'd computer and a subjective assessment of whether it could handle Windows 7 has contributed to my decision to hold off a bit longer on a full system upgrade.

One other thing I'd point out:

If a current user is on Vista, I'd advise against "Upgrade" installs, and no, this is not the usual blah-blah. We all know that upgrades aren't the best idea anyway, but Windows Easy Transfer is so good, it really makes the upgrade install obsolete.

To me, Easy Transfer is the best of both worlds. It transfers essentially all files and settings from all users and it does it smoothly and painlessly AND you still get all the benefit of a clean install. So, here's the procedure:

    1. Run Easy Transfer on the source machine, and have a nice, big USB drive handy. If it's a machine you're upgrading, and you've got a partition with lots of space (aside from the one you're installing Windows on), so much the better; you can use that instead. Capturing all the files, settings, etc. is time consuming; it took me overnight to run this when I upgraded my laptop.
    2. Complete your new Windows install. And do it as a clean install, in a freshly-formatted partition. If you have a domain-based network, enroll the system on your domain.
    3. Run Easy Transfer from your newly installed Windows. There's a quick wizard to ask you which accounts you want, and then it goes on its merry way. Putting everything back takes much less time than it took to gather it all up


There are two drawbacks to Easy Transfer. One, it can take a very long time to gather all the settings and files for transfer. Since an upgrade install itself takes considerably longer than a clean one, this wasn't a huge issue for me.

The second drawback is that Easy Transfer doesn't move applications, which is a minor inconvenience. The advantage here, though, is that the apps will probably run better if they're installed fresh anyway. Easy Transfer [i]does[i/] move app user settings, though, so those custom palettes you did for Photoshop will still be there after you reinstall it.

C'mon! Stop with the ads already. Ubuntu/Kubuntu can run on 486 but you are not praising the lord about it.

Once it was ok, but I don't want to listen 10 times about the 1.3 GHz Celeron that can run Windows 7 (wow you can even play spidercell)

neoraptor said,
C'mon! Stop with the ads already. Ubuntu/Kubuntu can run on 486 but you are not praising the lord about it.

Once it was ok, but I don't want to listen 10 times about the 1.3 GHz Celeron that can run Windows 7 (wow you can even play spidercell)

Umm. Technically you can run a very stripped down command-line-only version of Ubuntu on a 486, but a fully functional install with visual effects (like Windows 7) still requires:

1.2 GHz x86 processor
384 MB of system memory (RAM)
Supported graphics card

(According to the official website)

AMD 4600+ X2, 4gb RAM, 9600GSO, A+ Aero
Intel 1.6ghz Core Duo, 2gb RAM, Intel GM945, A+ Aero
Via 1.2ghz, 1gb RAM, Via Chrome9, B+/A Aero

All fresh, all with Beta(7000) to RC(7100)

All of those people do know that their OS will expire right? Or they have to wipe clean and put Vista/XP back on, or buy the RTM copy...

I hope you told them..

xendrome said,
All of those people do know that their OS will expire right? Or they have to wipe clean and put Vista/XP back on, or buy the RTM copy...

I hope you told them..

Exactly. Well I would hope he just imaged all 16 computers so he can just blast the old image back on it once it expires. If not he will have fun reinstalling 16 computers for his friends and family.

Which I doubt he did, also do you think he even told those people... had they know what he was doing, they probably would have refused. It's sad to see such bad computing going on, basically they are all his ginny pig at their own expense.

I am running w7 since the first public beta on a p4 3GHz (HT) 2 GB RAM and ATI x800 GTO (AGP) which is 6 years old as far as I remember. The only thing that I am having problem is playing .mkv files. I have already tried ffdshow, core avc or VLC. But the dams mkv videos keep lagging after a while, which I don't have with XP. Sure it is a pretty damn old one, and I am not sure but there is a problem with my GPU. Nevermind, gonna try it with my new laptop in a couple of weeks, when it is arrived, I'll let you know then.

Atlonite said,
you should try the mediaplayer classic home cinema player that works fine for me and everyone else i've given it too
http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=170561

choose the version you want to match the version of windows you have ie: 32/64bit


oh thank you, but I guess my GPU has a over heating problem. it started to give me blue screen when I tried to play heavy 3D games. so I don't expect it to play mkvs since they are compression monsters (: by the way I love the homecinema version, will use it with my new computer, cheers.

Windows 7 does look great, though I don't think i'd go around installing it on all my family and friends computers including my own main production machine. But that's just me. I do have it running on my spare test machine upstairs in that desk. Only because that machine is just used for web surfing nothing important is done on it.

Atlonite said,
so what was the point of installing it then how's that going to help MS with bug reports and such if it hardly gets used

If someone else wants to inconvenience themselves by reinstalling the OS a year from now then they can have all the fun in the world doing that. Personally i'm not the kind of person that re installs windows every for months for the fun of it. My last install lasted 4 years.

jme621 said,
Neowin, the new home of the front page editorial news. where is the real news?

Either you're new here, or have been blind to the many many original new stories that Neowin has run in the past. And which readers have appreciated.

I had a Gateway 838GM (P4 3.0GHz) with some memory upgrades (2.5GB) and a video upgrade (8800GT) and Win7 7100 ran perfectly fine on it. Had to sell it recently though, I couldn't justify to my wife having her old PC lay around the loft anymore.

Also have Win7 7100 running on an IBM Thinkpad T23 (PIII 1.13GHz w/ 512MB). It's set to best performance so it's more usable and it does take a while to give me a usable desktop after booting... but it works fine after that.

the current version you can get are release candidate. Basically for testing purposes and they expire eventually (i believe in june 2010, not sure)

I'm tired of the buzz around this OS, like if it was the holy grail of computing and it is not even launched yet. :s

This is too much for an OS. This is not a hydrogen car. Far from this...

Luis Mazza said,
I'm tired of the buzz around this OS, like if it was the holy grail of computing and it is not even launched yet. :s

This is too much for an OS. This is not a hydrogen car. Far from this...


Honda already has a hydrogen car.

Luis Mazza said,
I'm tired of the buzz around this OS, like if it was the holy grail of computing and it is not even launched yet. :s

This is too much for an OS. This is not a hydrogen car. Far from this...

And yet you clicked on the article with Windows 7 in the title and even bothered to comment.

k7of9 said,

And yet you clicked on the article with Windows 7 in the title and even bothered to comment.

I also click for soap-opera synopsis and I like to see what others think or if they agree with me. For instance... I just found out that Honda has a hydrogen car. But actually I not even read the article.

All these posts get me excited to install 64 bit Windows 7 in a few weeks time (currently on 32bit vista), at the moment I have tooo much stuff to do but all this hype better not let me down (though personally I dont have any issues with my Windows Vista). Will wait and see.

Between going to 64 bit and switching to Win7, you'll enjoy considerable improvement.

Windows Easy Transfer will make your move much easier; you won't be able to do an "upgrade" install when moving from 32 to 64 bit.

I was going to install it as a second OS before completely switching.

Im then going to give CS4 64bit a spin to see if that has any improvements as it should on large files in Photoshop. Handling up to 100 sq foot posters at 188-300 dpi will be easier

I don't understand the "Performance Grade" column vs the notes... Hmm, a "Windows 7 perfect" has a "C+ Aero" grade, while that comment is also used for other grades.

Jugalator said,
I don't understand the "Performance Grade" column vs the notes... Hmm, a "Windows 7 perfect" has a "C+ Aero" grade, while that comment is also used for other grades.

Well I guess, it's runs Win7 without issue, but that doesn't mean it's fast for all applications.

<fpd>

try burning to other brand of dvdr, some drives dont work with certain dvdr's thus giving impression as OS install error. also use 8x or 4x to be sure

I am running Vista SP1 64 bit and Windows 7 64 bit (fresh install), 2 different hard drivers same computer.
The Windows 7 runs way more smoother than the Vista. I can't wait for the full blown version without all the debugging code in it. I had to go to Vista 64bit to get it to see all of my RAM/Video memory and I it bogged my computer down so much.

I mainly just play EQ2, watch movies and video's.

(spec of comptuer, EVGA 680i MB, 4gig DDR2, 2x 8800gt, Q6600 CPU, all sata drives,)

The public releases don't have debugging code in them. The "checked" builds do and they're generally only made available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers.

Atlonite said,
thats a tad overkill system for what you do isn't it talk about Epenis

LoL I run mutiple clients and I guess unlike other people I actually like seeing all the pretty graphics that a game has to offer.

For some reason windows 7 rc fails to install properly on my brand new dell inspiron 1545 laptop with intel gma 4500mhd and core2 duo processor. For some reason I get an error that the installer process is not set up correctly. However it is working fine on my 3 ghz pentium 4 with radeon x600 graphics - even with aero enabled - how very strange.

fpd said,
For some reason windows 7 rc fails to install properly on my brand new dell inspiron 1545 laptop with intel gma 4500mhd and core2 duo processor. For some reason I get an error that the installer process is not set up correctly. However it is working fine on my 3 ghz pentium 4 with radeon x600 graphics - even with aero enabled - how very strange.

it does work, you have to change the bios setting from AHCI or ACHI or IDE or something. I can't remeber off the top of my head but I did it for my mom! or it may need to be changed to that!

brink668 said,
it does work, you have to change the bios setting from AHCI or ACHI or IDE or something. I can't remeber off the top of my head but I did it for my mom! or it may need to be changed to that!


Windows 7's installer should automatically detect AHCI and install the appropriate driver for it. (not true for XP, you had to get a driver disk ready)

what made you choose between doing an upgrade and a fresh install?? It makes me wonder if there is much of a difference doing either one

Victor V. said,
Upgrading from beta to beta usually makes things buggy.

No, it doesn't. It RARELY can cause a device driver mismatch if something was updated in one beta and not in another and the installer routine doesn't pick that up through the registry.

excalpius said,
No, it doesn't. It RARELY can cause a device driver mismatch if something was updated in one beta and not in another and the installer routine doesn't pick that up through the registry.

All kinds of non-visible things can change between test releases like registry class IDs and executable filenames. Having two process class entries in the registry for any critical components is going to blow up. They do not support, or even attempt to support, 'upgrading' from beta to beta because nobody upgrades from the same version of Windows to the same version.

Many users have reported success in upgrading from the beta to the RTM. I can't echo that myself, because it wouldn't work on the one machine where I attempted it myself, but it's apparently possible.

For some reason, I had to install Windows 7 twice on each computer to remove the "Previous Windows Installation" on boot Window.

StevenNT said,
I'd like to know as well. How did he get away with it if he didn't work there? :P


It was about a week before they closed up for good, I just wandered over to the Touchsmart... put the DVD in and did a clean install. No one even asked me what I was doing... (ninja)

Good results, although not scientific, but I'm more worried about your install frenzy. I'm not sure you should be installing pre-release software on non-techy people's machines, but I don't have to deal with the firestorm :P

That's true, I have learned the hard way you are stuck with support if you install an OS on someone's computer. It is nice for the first week, but when they need answers to random things... arg.

ccoltmanm said,
That's true, I have learned the hard way you are stuck with support if you install an OS on someone's computer. It is nice for the first week, but when they need answers to random things... arg.


All except for the covert Circuit City install, although you probably caused a few of their brain-dead employees a bit of stress when asked to explain why that version of Windows was so much better than the others...

I would normally agree, but I have to say that Win7 -- even as an RC! -- is a very stable version of Windows. Remote Assistance also works better with it.

Yeah, and in a year, you'll be going back to every single one of those machines installing the RTM.

I sure hope you've got time (reads : money) to burn doing that.

But still, thanks for the results, that's great to know!

This is a nice list and is a good overview of 7's performance. It would be improved if the hard drives were documented. The size, spindle speed, and data density of the hard drives in each computer will have a significant impact on each computer's load times and responsiveness, especially if Windows has to frequently read and write to swap. In addition, I wonder if the two non Aero C-rated computers would score higher if they had more memory. I personally do not install Windows XP on a computer with less than a gig of RAM, let alone Vista or even 7, it's performance enhancements aside.

I just put win7 RC on my friends IBM T42 (pentium M w/ 512mb RAM) and it's pretty smooth. I've got her on "best appearance" because 1) she would react better to a flashier OS and 2) she's not doing a whole lot so best performance isn't really a necessity. From what I've seen from it so far, it's totally usable for your under-average user.

I have an original Inspiron XPS built in 2002 with a 3.4GHz P4 and Radeon 9800Pro. I'm not sure whether that configuration would have been available in 2001, but certainly before 2004.

That laptop runs 7 with absolutely no issues as well.

hardgiant said,
Those machines above better run Windows 7 well except maybe the celeron.

I never had a problem with Vista. It was never slow and it crashed far less than XP. And was and is awesome when I needed a repair.

PatrynXX said,
I never had a problem with Vista. It was never slow and it crashed far less than XP. And was and is awesome when I needed a repair.

Lucky for you. Unfortunately I know of a great number of people who had the opposite to you.

Fortunately, not the case so far with Windows 7!

i got it installed on 1x athlon 2800+ (sktA) 1.5GB ram radeon 9600pro and a athlon 3200+(sktA) 2GB ram and radeon x1650pro and both machines run aero and everything else win7 much better than they did while strugling with anything Vista

PatrynXX said,
I never had a problem with Vista. It was never slow and it crashed far less than XP. And was and is awesome when I needed a repair.


Yeah, it is only in the day-to-day work where Vista sucks.... lol