I installed Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on my machine the other day.  Here's where the road was smooth and where I hit some bumps.  For reference, this is a Dell Latitude D630 on a docking station.  It's maybe 2 years old or so?

Smooth

  • Before I started, I added more RAM to go up to 4GB.  I had 2GB already, so it wasn't like I was low on RAM, but more RAM = better experience.  The laptop has two slots, so it was already full with two, 1GB sticks.  Buying the two, 2GB sticks from Dell cost about $100.  Installing it wasn't bad as long as you don't mind getting out the screwdriver and taking off the keyboard.  It's simple, but if that freaks you out, get someone to help you.
  • I backed up my local docs (not too many since most are on the network), favorites, iTunes music, Visual Studio settings, etc. to a USB drive.  I have an Iomega Prestige 1TB drive with USB 2.0.  It's fast, portable, holds a ton of stuff, and costs about $100.
  • I did the OS reformat install instead of the upgrade install.  I don't mind spending a couple hours swapping CDs and mounting ISOs to get that fresh registry feeling.  It seems like the install was faster than ones I've done before, but I didn't run a stopwatch.
  • Wired and wireless network connections were simple.  For wireless, I've got a Linksys WRT54G router.  For wired, I've got D-Link gigabit switches throughout.  All networking worked like a champ.
  • Once the OS was installed and the machine could access the internet, it was Windows Update time with a couple reboots.
  • Next, I added the machine to my domain.  Again, this was simple and straightforward.  Rebooted again to log in as the domain user instead of the local/machine account user.
  • Finally, I'm logged into my real user profile, so I can start installing software, customizing the OS, and putting my old files back.  The USB drive was a big help here.

Bumps

Audio

I could hear sound coming from the laptop, but it wasn't coming through the speakers attached to the docking station.  I didn't really care since I usually have my speakers off to get rid of the iPhone rat-a-tat-tat synch sound. 

So I let this sit for a few days and finally dug around on http://support.dell.com last night to see what was going on.  But they don't have a Windows 7 64-bit driver for the onboard audio (Sigmatel).  Installing the Vista 64-bit driver works fine and fixed the docking station sound output.

OS Edition

I got the ISO from MSDN subscriber downloads and wasn't paying that much attention I guess.  I installed "Windows 7 Ultimate x64 N" edition.  See that "N" at the end?  I didn't know what that meant.  Now I do.  :>  It means "N"ot the version you should get.  It also means "N"ot going for that bike ride today after all. 

Officially, the "N" version means no Internet Explorer 8 and no Windows Media Player 12.  I guess this is the European lawsuit avoidance edition.  I am a mostly Firefox and iTunes guy, so I wasn't too bunched up about it.  I also figured I could Windows Update my way out if it eventually, and that worked with IE8, which installed fine.

But that didn't work with Windows Media Player 12.  I assumed I would be able to find it on the Microsoft site and download it.  Nope, just old versions there.  If you search for it, you'll find lots of pages that talk about how awesome Media Player 12 is and how it comes with Windows 7, but the only download sites are warez sites.  Yuck.

The only reason I care is our awesome Douglas County Library has eMedia2Go, which is free audio books you can put on your iPhone.  But the player for these audio books is OverDrive Media Console, which requires Windows Media Player to work.  I think it hooks into the digital rights management from some of the DLLs or something.

One forum post said to install Windows Media Player 11 64 bit edition.  Tried that.  It wouldn't install and said my OS was not activated (Liar!  It was activated!).  After about 30 minutes of searching, running different setups as admin, trying to install old versions, trying Windows Update, and rebooting, I gave up.  I guess Windows Media Player 12 is ONLY available with the Windows 7, and if your OS is the "N" version, you're hosed.

The only way to get unhosed is install the correct edition that doesn't have that pesky little "N" at the end of the name.  So I downloaded that edition and tried to do an in-place upgrade from "Windows 7 Ultimate x64 N" to "Windows 7 Ultimate x64".  No dice.  I also looked around on the ISO thinking the setup files for Windows Media Player must be on there somewhere, but I couldn't find them. 

The only workaround I found was starting over with a reformat to the correct OS.  Ugh!  So painful!

Lessons Learned for Me

  • Being 95% complete installing a new OS doesn't mean you're almost done.
  • Having an MSDN subscription is fun.  It's like being a kid in a candy store.  But pay attention to what you download and install.  It really sucks to pick the wrong version.

Suggestions for Microsoft

  • Allow people to download Windows Media Player 12.  Seems like this would be out there, but I couldn't find it.  Maybe they are hoping people upgrade their OS just for Windows Media Player 12?  Beats me.  They could even set it up to install only on Windows 7 if that's what they're going for.  Just make it available.
  • Allow installing old Windows Media Player editions on Windows 7.  I think this might have worked if I could have gotten past the activation/genuine Windows copy snags.  And why didn't WMP 11 recognize a genuine, activated OS?
  • Why do the details in MSDN subscriber downloads just list the MSDN SKUs the software comes with?  That's not helpful to me.  Maybe it's helpful to Microsoft employees.  But how about a human-readable description of what it is or a link to an edition comparison chart?  I know getting the wrong version was my mistake.  But how about some help avoiding that mistake?  I counted 30 downloads just under Windows 7.  Why not group them by retail, volume license, checked/debug, 32-bit and 64-bit, etc.

 

Overall, I have no gripes about Windows 7.  It runs great and has given my aging machine a second wind.