You probably all know by now that Microsoft finally released Windows 7 yesterday. You probably already know that it fixes and refines many of the issues that people had with Windows Vista. But you probably also know that 65% of Microsoft's development team consists of flying devil-monkeys. So continuing my tradition of pointing out some of the lesser known features of a new operating system that haven't been publicized much but are still cool, I would like to share some info about my experience with installing Windows 7 yesterday:
Lesser-Known Annoying Stuff About Windows 7
Now, don't get me wrong. I must admit that my impression of using Windows 7 is quite positive overall - but unfortunately, getting it running in the first place was not so easy.
First off, if you have Windows XP or any pre-release version of Windows 7, then you must do a clean install of Windows 7 rather than an upgrade. This basically wipes out all your data and applications, and Windows doesn't offer any assistance with migrating your old data to the new installation (Mac OS X, after a clean install, can do the entire migration automatically). So the only people who can do an upgrade installation, and avoid essentially having to start over from scratch, are people who are currently running a copy of Vista that is operational and stable - i.e., nobody.
But to be fair, Microsoft has actually been honest about the need for clean installs all throughout the "preview" period of Windows 7, and their web site informed us all along that these inconveniences would be necessary, so it's not like it happened without warning or without giving us a chance to prepare. So I guess this annoyance isn't all that bad after all... or at least, not as bad as the annoyances I was about to encounter.
The Windows 7 upgrade package includes two DVDs, one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit. It doesn't provide any info about how to determine which one you should use, so I took a guess and thought that maybe my netbook would need 32-bit, while my MacBook (using Boot Camp) would need 64-bit.
I started installing on both machines accordingly (and yes, I really purchased two licenses for the two machines). On both notebooks, the installation passed through several phases of copying files, expanding them, installing, and so forth, and both of them appeared to complete without any issues. "Great!" I foolishly exclaimed. "I must've guessed right about 32-bit vs 64-bit."
That's when I got to the screen at the end of the installation process, where you enter your serial number. I tried both of the serial numbers I purchased on my MacBook, and they both popped up a message of "activation key is not valid." Proofread, panic, repeat.
I took one of the keys and entered it on my netbook, and it accepted the key on the first try and got Windows 7 up and running. That's when it dawned on me. I don't know if this only happens under Boot Camp, but apparently 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista require different types of serial numbers. WHAT?
I started the MacBook installation over from the beginning, this time using the 32-bit disc, and it accepted the remaining code and got Windows 7 working properly under Boot Camp. But I was beginning to feel overwhelmed with questions, like...
Why do 32-bit and 64-bit versions even require different serial numbers in the first place?
Why do the upgrade packages include both a 32-bit disc and a 64-bit disc if they only include a 32-bit serial number?
Why did I get a useless "invalid" message instead of one that said, "That's a 32-bit serial number... please install the correct version."?
Since having a valid serial number is obviously very important and has the potential to derail the entire installation process, WHY do you enter your serial number at the very end of the process?
I could've saved a lot of hassle if the installer validated the serial number as the FIRST step rather than the last.
I hope for Microsoft's sake that this is a Boot Camp issue. If 64-bit mode is really this confusing for everybody, then the installation process for Windows 7 is simply flawed. It's annoying enough that you have to reboot many times during the process and choose the right option for which OS you want to boot from for that particular phase (usually it just picks the right one by default - but not always). Installing Mac OS X is pretty much a "click, click, finished" affair - is this really the best Windows can do?
Still, like I said, I do have both copies of Windows 7 working now, and it is much faster than 7RC or Vista; in fact, it may even be faster than XP. It has all the polish and bug fixes that were lacking in the pre-release versions (although that's to be expected from a pre-release product), and I must admit that, at a minimum, Windows 7 is definitely not the worst version of Windows.
-------------------- Chief iPod Correspondent
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