Sunday, December 20, 2009

Windows 7 64 Bit Upgrade Complete

I've debated on whether or not anyone would find this remotely interesting, but in the interests of saving other professional photogs a few days of their life, I thought I'd update on the peaks and pits of my upgrade experience. I was running Vista Home Premium 32 bit on a Dell Inspiron 530 w/ a 1TB internal drive and 4 gigs RAM. I opted to go with the 64 bit operating system to get access to my full RAM (4 Gig expandable to 12). For those of you on a 32 bit operating system, no matter how many gigs of RAM you cram in under the hood, your computer is only going to see/use around 3 or so. You can say what you want about why, but that's the way it is with 32bit systems.

In order to upgrade to Win 7 64 bit, you have to do a clean install. I used Windows backup in Vista to completely backup everything. Don't worry, Win7 will read your earlier backup if you choose "restore from different version." Some posters said you couldn't. You can. So as to not blow away Vista, I attached an eSATA 500 gig external drive and using Computer:manage, got it up and running. Then, you put in the Win7 disk and tell it to install to your new eSATA drive which becomes your new boot volume. When you boot up, boot manager will give you the option to boot Win7 or Vista. Because not all the programs run well on Win7 (e.g. Roxio 2009, Quickbooks 2009, etc.), you can go back and forth as needed with security.

I didn't have all the driver problems that everyone talks about with the exception of my 10 year old Visioneer scanner I bought for $25. Good excuse to upgrade! The install was quick and painless. Then the fun begins. You've got to do clean installs of all your earlier programs. If you were running upgrade copies, you get to enjoy the fun of going back and installing the earlier qualifying versions and then the upgrades. When I got to Outlook, I simply imported my mailbox and contacts which I saved as an export before starting the process. All my emails and contacts were alive and well on the new drive.

I'm running a Buffalo LinkStation Quad 8 TB NAS server, and I sent most of my wasted hours jacking around with it, network settings, static IP addresses and various backup programs. I was looking forward to Windows 7 because it has a moderately acceptable backup program which will facilitate a bare metal restore. But, it wasn't seeing any of my three WD MyBook 1 TB USB 2.0 drives. As a result, I went hunting for a decent Win7 backup program.

I tried GFI backup, Cobian and Comodo. GFI was the only one of the three I cared for. It is a little buggy but works. However, with the volume of data I'm moving across my Gigabit network, it was just plain slow. I mean after 3 days, I'd only completed 40% of my backup. I got tired and quit. I later discovered (after much searching), that Windows 7 backup will only let you backup NTFS formatted external drives. The WD drives were FAT 32. So then I had the fun of migrating all my data off them and reformatting them as NTFS. After that, Win7 backup saw them all and let me run the backup program to include them in the backup. Win7 is chugging along backing up now and is going much faster than GFI. What I liked about GFI is the email notifications for successful backup and backup failure. Backing up daily is critical for me in the photography business.

I love Win7. It boots up FAST, seems robust, and all the little bells and whistles like "troubleshooter" programs, which on Vista meant "click here to waste your time and get no results", actually work. The searching features are rocket fast and the ability to reframe windows splitting the screen is very useful. I think MSFT got it right with this program. While I've probably spent days longer than I should have getting this set up just right, it's going to pay dividends in increased productivity, data security and ease of access. I'll keep you posted. Let me know if any of you have had similar experiences (good or bad) with your Win7 installs.