Sunday, May 10, 2009

Upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Release Candidate

I am an early adopter by nature. I love new tech! Sometimes it bites me in the ass (Windows Me, Windows Vista), but other times it is a wonderful thing!

I have been beta testing Windows 7 off and on over the past several months. I started testing it on my Mac Pro using VMware Fusion (virtual machine) early on in the beta program. I was impressed with the stability and speed so early in the beta.

As the beta matured, I started re-thinking whether I wanted to stick with my Mac, or switch back to PC. I had originally switched to Mac after experiencing the abomination of Vista during it's early days. Vista was unstable and XP was having stability issues of its own, so I switched to the greener pastures that Mac OS X.

Between the news of Diablo III began circulating (which I knew I was going to want to play), first-hand knowledge of the stability of Windows 7, and my thirst for new technology, I decided to build a new PC and install Windows Vista Ultimate x64. Vista has come a long way! Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised with Vista's stability and driver support. However, it still feels like a sluggish memory hog compared to Windows 7.

About a week ago, Microsoft released the Release Candidate for Windows 7. I had thought about installing it in a dual boot configuration and keeping Vista as my primary OS until the final release, but after reading the forums and finding no show-stopping issues, I decided to dive in head first and install it as my primary OS.

Upgrade: I performed an upgrade from Vista x64 to Windows 7 Ultimate x64. The upgrade process took about an hour, but once you start the upgrade you can walk away from it and it will do the upgrade with minimal user input at the end of the upgrade. This is the most smooth upgrade in the history of Windows!

Driver Support: All of my devices that were working under Windows Vista were still working under Windows 7! On May 6, nVidia released a WHQL-certified driver (version 185.85) for Windows 7. Creative Labs also has a Windows 7 beta driver available for their sound cards, but I did not install that yet. My audio is working fine with the existing driver.

Problems Found: The only problems that I have experienced so far are:
  • My iPhone (1st gen, 8 GB) is having conflicts with the CD/DVD drive. Whenever I plug the iPhone in, I get the regular sounds associated with Windows detecting new hardware. But then I get a series of sounds of hardware being added and removed. This happens several times and usually results with the CD/DVD drive being disabled. One time, this even crashed Windows Explorer. After I undock the iPhone and scan for hardware changes (or reboot the computer), the CD/DVD drive returns.
  • I received the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death) when I left my computer on overnight. When I woke up the next morning, I found a message that my computer had recovered from an a bluescreen error. I have since updated to the WHQL-certified nVidia video driver and have not been able to reproduce the BSOD. I suspect this fixed the issue, but I sent Microsoft a bug report with all of the pertinant information so hopefully they will blast that bug before final release.
Final thoughts: Windows 7 is a vast improvement over Vista. It is faster, feels snappier, and stable. This will be a must-have upgrade for all Vista users, and Windows XP users finally have an OS worthy of upgrading to. I don't recommend everyone installing the Release Candidate as their primary OS (wait for it to hit retail), but if you do decide to do so then you won't be disappointed.

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