Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Windows 7 Upgrade Story

It was a tough mission - Upgrade our XP Media Centre PC to Windows 7 - Whether Bejewelled Blitz would play was a major test of success or failure…

The scenario:

An existing PC Running XP Media Centre, AMD Sempron 1.8GHz 3400+ processor, 160Gb Disk, 4Gb RAM – 5 Demanding users, aged from 5 to 44. We want to move from XP to Windows 7, and just to complicate matters, we’re going 64bit.

Well, I’m posting this from the upgraded machine, so here’s what we learned…

Research

Before you do anything else, research your existing setup. Use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to identify hardware driver and software issues. Go to the manufacturer web site of your ADSL modem/network card and get the latest drivers. Save them onto a removable drive, just in case Win7 doesn’t detect/install them. Without internet access you’re probably not going to succeed.

Transferring Data/Settings

Use Windows Easy Transfer. It allowed us to move settings and data easily from XP to Win7 including multiple user accounts and Live Mail data. Get a decent sized external hard drive to hold the data during the change of OS.

Allow Time

In our configuration we had a working PC with internet access in about 4 hours. This included Easy Transfer of 10Gb of data/settings and me taking a VHD backup of the existing XP setup (more on that later). The time to reinstall your applications has to be added to that. It’s not something you’re going to do during a couple of spare hours on a wet afternoon.

64 bit Works

Most standard 32 bit software will run under 64 bit Win7. It’s worth having 64 bit if you can get it. A surprising number of free and non-free applications boast 64 bit versions. Our machine is using more of the 4Gb we had installed than it did under 32 bit XP.

Performance

Our 2006-era PC with a memory boost to 4GB RAM gives a Windows Experience Index of 3.0. We get full AERO using the onboard NVIDIA GeForce 6150 and 128Mb dedicated RAM for graphics. The machine feels as responsive as it did under XP. In fact one of our older games (C&C Tiberian Sun) actually has cut scene video playback, which never worked under XP.

Virtualization

Our PC doesn’t have Hardware-Assisted Virtualization support, but I was able to cobble together a poor man’s XP Mode using Virtual PC 2007. Given that we hadn’t bought an upgrade version of Win7 (not available at the time in the UK) I felt it was OK to revive our old XP environment as a virtual machine using the VHD backup I’d taken earlier.  For the gory details see another post - “Poor man’s XP Mode”.

Overall our experience has been good so far, and yes, Bejewelled Blitz plays. So at least one user is happy :)

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