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What happened as you upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7?

Last updated: Dec 31, 2013 (first version)

The story behind the upgrade to Windows 7 is a long one with all kinds of surprises, disasters, and oddities along the way. The story behind Windows 7 goes back a few years. The full story behind everything goes back much further, way back to July of 2001, and that's where I'll begin. Throughout this, I've posted a few screenshots showing the oddities along the way. Except for the first one, click on the screenshot to see the full 1920x1440 image.

1 Learning about computers

1.1 The Windows 98 days - the deep back story

July 2001 is when I first began to actively use computers outside of video game systems. I was using Windows 98 SE. Over time, I learned how things worked and really got the hang of stuff. As time went on, I eventually learned how to build my own computers from parts bought from places like Newegg. I learned how to check for compatibility and the like before ordering. While using Windows 98, I learned how to back up my data and Winamp play counts and reinstall the OS, drivers, programs, etc. as needed. I also first got into game design during this era.

1.2 The Windows XP days - the recent back story

Eventually, Windows 98 fell out of favor because it was getting difficult to find stuff that was compatible with it. With the Windows 98 days at an end, I got XP just before Vista came out as I didn't want to get something so radically different (and later learned that Vista was pretty bad) and I wanted something I was at least familiar with as I saw and even used XP plenty of times beforehand. My parents funded this in full as I had no income back then (well, a penny or two a month anyway, from finding them on the ground).

Once I got XP, on February 6, 2006, I installed it like I did Windows 98 and the drivers, programs, etc. and didn't have any problems. The only problem I saw was that programs that used to work didn't because everything for documents was not in the "C:\My Documents\%s" folder but "C:\Documents and settings\%s\%s" where the first %s here is the user name*. Winamp was one such program affected by this change as it wouldn't play any of the songs as the paths were all for how Windows 98 had documents set up. I solved that by simply creating a new folder on the C drive called "My Documents" and everything worked. As I continued using XP, putting all of my main data files in the Windows 98 original path, recreating it as I needed to reinstall XP from hardware upgrades (usually the processor and motherboard), I was beginning to run into the same issues I had with Windows 98 - having a hard time finding stuff that worked with XP.

1.3 The long delay in upgrading to Windows 7 - the main story start

Due to severe funding issues, there was a much longer delay than usual in getting Windows 7. Although Windows 8 was out, I've heard mostly bad reviews about it so I wanted to avoid it. With Microsoft to stop update service for XP during April of 2014, I knew I had to upgrade before then. I put it on my Christmas list so I could get a funding boost from my parents and at least have some clearance. Then, I got even more bad news. With Windows 8 having been out for over a year, the previous version, Windows 7 was no longer being produced for sale so I had to get it immediately or I'd be forced into having to get the much-unwanted Windows 8 and having to put up with even less compatibility and trash.

1.4 Backing up my data

With the funding finally secured just in time as Newegg had it in stock, I got it but had to wait over an evil weekend then the holidays for it to get shipped. Then came December 26, 2013. Just 8 minutes after waking up that day, I got Windows 7 in the mail. Had I been sleeping at the time, just a day later, I would have missed it, resulting in more delays. Once I confirmed I had it, posting a photo of it on Facebook, the usual process of backing up my main data followed. Unlike before where I've been accumulating a lot of large videos, I needed to back those up. I burned 15 BD-R disks using up as much of each disk's capacity as I could (minimizing waste) to get the data backed up. Once done, carrying into a second day, I finalized my backup by copying my main data back up to my E drive that's mainly intended to store videos then backing up my Winamp play count backups as I've always done before. I made a final farewell to XP as I put in the Windows 7 64-bit disk into the optical disk drive (not closing it) then executing a restart. Little did I know I was in for a lot of trouble and difficulties.

2 The 2 big problems

2.1 The initial installation

Once my computer rebooted, my optical drive closed and, since I already had the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) set up to boot from the CD first (if I had one in the drive) followed by the hard drive then something random that I don't have for third, the CD would load. I get a prompt asking whether or not to boot from CD and pressing a key to do so. I did and, after loading the core files needed for the installer, I followed through the prompts as I've done many times before. I was expecting a DOS-like format for the installation, not an actual Windows environment with full mouse input and standard Windows mechanics (like drop down menus, buttons, etc.) too. The EULA (end user license agreement) and the like were all the same as any other typical Windows program installation.

I soon came to a screen involving the selecting of the hard drive to install to. My C drive had Windows XP on it and my E drive has no operating system on it as it's intended solely for storing big videos. I selected my C drive (D is the optical drive), went to the advanced options for the drive, then clicked on "format". The formatting took not the roughly 100 minutes that I was expecting but only about 5 seconds. I almost didn't think it even formatted at all! I thought it just prepared for a format. So, when I continued on, I saw that it was working on installing the files and it stayed at 0% complete for almost a whole minute. I thought it was formatting at the time so I went off and did my job-related stuff, cleaning the walls (for which I had to stop only about halfway in because the magic eraser I used pretty much disintegrated). When I returned, I found that my computer was waiting for user input for an unknown amount of time (which, later on, I came to realize it was close to an hour). I filled out the details as usual, put in the product key as usual (double checking it to make sure I typed the random code in correctly), then the installation continued. I saw the desktop background, which seemed to have a lot of detail to it, I knew that Windows was installed in full.

2.2 The problems begin

So far, everything seemed fine. Then, as I've done numerous times before with Windows 98 and Windows XP, I put in my motherboard drivers CD to attempt to install the most essential drivers. To my unexpected surprise, the ODD (optical disk drive) was unable to read the disk. Try as I might, I couldn't get it to read the disk. It was supposedly attempting for a good 40+ seconds and nothing worked. While the drive was attempting, the read head was moving with a rhythmic timing and almost sounded like crickets chirping (only with a lower pitch). I take good care of my disks, always keeping them in cases when not in use and out of the Sun, stashed away very near my computer desk away from heat, if not on top of it. The disk had no scratches or the like on it.

Thinking Windows wasn't really finished installing for whatever reason, I attempted a restart to see if that would refresh things. I took the disk out before restarting. When the POST (power on self test) finished, I saw that it was loading the operating system. It attempted to boot from the CD, for which nothing was in the drive, then I get an error shortly after stating "BOOTMGR is missing" followed by "press control+alt+delete to reboot" (not the exact words for the second case but the best I recall them). I was confused as to why the boot manager was missing as XP didn't have that problem. I rebooted doing that thinking that a misread happened or it was just an unlucky random fluke but the same error came up again.

2.3 The second installation

I thought Windows didn't install properly for some unknown reason, possibly from leaving it unattended for a long while, so I do another reinstall of Windows from the beginning, again using the 64-bit disk. Why the 64-bit disk instead of the 32-bit disk? I've been told that it's the most advantageous of all, even though I had little need for memory beyond 2 GB. It was the fact that "more registers" were present that could result in more processing speed that led to the choice. So, again, I follow the same procedure as before. Instead of going off to doing work-related stuff, I waited throughout the entire process, watching TV while doing so, and found that the installing of files really was installing and not formatting. From that, I knew it was doing the quick format method instead of the full format that I was expecting and used to.

Once Windows installed again, I tried getting the motherboard drivers disk to install again. Again, the disk could not be read. To rule out my ODD as the culprit, I put in 3 other random disks I had to see if the disks could even be read. They all and just fine. This only pointed to one thing: my motherboard drivers disk was no good. Without that disk, I had no network driver and without that, I couldn't get online to search Google or ask on Facebook. So, skipping the motherboard drivers, since I couldn't do anything with it, I went at installing my video card drivers so I could use my 1920x1440 resolution. They installed just fine and a restart was requested.

2.4 Installation, round 3

I restarted as usual... to find the same "BOOTMGR is missing" error upon trying to start up Windows again. I do the 3-button salute like before and got nowhere. Suspecting that the 64-bit version was no good as my system was incompatible or I got a bad disk, I attempted to install the 32-bit version since, beforehand, I was using nothing but 32-bit programs. I thought that going 32-bit over 64-bit would at least have the advantage of improved compatibility. I go through the same installation procedure as before, noticing a 30% faster installation speed, and get to the desktop.

I retry the motherboard drivers disk and this time it was getting read... kind of. It was agonizingly slow and it sounded like the read head was moving around inside the drive a lot as it was constantly rattling. Remember the days of the 3600 bps dial-up modems? Those modems were even faster than the disk was being read, literally. I attempted to install the software but it took almost 4 minutes for the installation window to even come up and load enough to the point where I could see things and for the buttons to function. The list didn't load though. I clicked on "express install" to install all of the drivers at once. It looked like progress was being made but it seemed suspiciously short. A restart was requested so I restart.

After doing the POST, it was attempting to boot from the CD but it seemed to hang at that moment for a long time. That motherboard drivers disk went from being at least somewhat readable to being completely unreadable. The only way I could break the hang was to eject the disk. Upon doing that, I get the familiar error message: "BOOTMGR is missing".

2.5 Reverting back to XP

Thinking Windows 7 was incompatible with my motherboard or BIOS, I decided to revert to something I knew worked: Windows XP. To rule out my E drive being the possible culprit, I decided to disconnect the SATA cable from the drive itself (since it was the easiest to access). I did a full format to further ensure I rule out any troubles, taking 100 minutes to do so. From there, I go through that installation process in my usual way, only intending on installing the bare minimum requirements: the OS being the obvious first one (ignoring the activation - it was only intended for a day), then comes the network driver, my antivirus for security reasons, then Firefox as I don't trust IE. I didn't encounter any problems... until I attempt to install the network driver again so I can get online to download any necessary drivers or BIOS updates as needed and research what's going on. With the disk still unreadable, I ruled out Windows 7 compatibility problems - the disk itself was bad.

2.6 A losing battle with an unreadable disk

I knew I had to get my sister to burn a CD containing the necessary network driver in order for me to do anything but she was taking suspiciously long to return home. With nothing else left to do, I had no choice but to wait for my sister to come home and I ended up having to wait several hours. For that. While waiting, knowing that that disk was read once, I tried a total of about 45 times to get that badly-needed disk to be read. Thinking something was on the disk that was blocking the reading, I tried cleaning it. That had no effect so I tried cleaning it more and longer. That didn't have any effect. I tried running water over it then drying it with the softest cloth I knew of - toilet paper. That didn't work. I repeatedly eject and close the drive once every minute to see if I can get another one of those cases where the disk gets read. This is where the bulk of the tries came from. I tried cleaning it once more during this and after a few more attempts, the drive finally read the disk again, albeit at a painfully slow 200 to 400 bytes per second. By today's standards that's insanely slow, so slow that it would take about 10 minutes to load a single typical engine screenshot from Platform Masters (which hover around 120 to 250 KB). Realizing the disk was finally being read, I attempt to copy it but the copy, despite 3 attempts, failed to complete, stating of disk read errors about 40, 15, then 20% of the way in. I first attempted a direct disk copy then, after the first failure, I attempted to have it write an ISO to the hard drive so I can burn the ISO later. That failed too and I tried twice.

Copying motherboard driver disk failed due to unreadable disk
Attempts to copy an unreadable disk failed many times

During the first attempt at copying the disk, my sister finally came home after an unusually long day (I was starting to get worried as it was so long). When my sister was settled down some, she posted on my timeline on Facebook regarding the issues I encountered but forgot about the downloading of the network driver so I can get online to do stuff.

After the third failed attempt at trying to copy the whole disk, I attempted to copy it through the copy and paste method, using Windows explorer to copy all the files over. I was frequently getting disk read errors. Instead of copying the whole disk, I attempted to at least copy the network driver so I could at least get online to download the other drivers. Nope, disk read errors despite many attempts. I attempted to see if the driver updating through the device manager would at least get it to install. I waited almost 40 minutes and the magnifying glass over the computer monitor icon in XP would just keep repeating the same 6-frame animation all the while my CD drive is making a lot of noise from both spinning the disk and also the read head moving around. I was getting very tired so I decided to open the case and I was back to it being unable to read the disk at all. I gave up for the day and went to bed.

3 Making progress

3.1 Getting online

When I woke up, eating first thing as I usually do, I got my sister to download the drivers for my motherboard, downloading the XP driver, and the 32- and 64-bit drivers for Windows 7 (both just in case 64-bit wouldn't work on my system) and burning them to a disk. With that, I was finally able to get online and from there, I checked out Facebook and investigated many of the problems I ran into in more detail. I had absolutely no idea that the boot order could be the cause to the "BOOTMGR is missing" error coming up as I've never had problems with it before in the roughly 11 years of knowing how to use the BIOS (and the motherboard's manual doesn't hint at it having any effect either regarding that dreaded error).

3.2 Installation, round 4

With that cleared... and my motherboard drivers disk still unreadable, I reinstalled Windows 7, this time using the 64-bit version. Once installed, I installed my antivirus software so I had the security I needed, then installed the network driver. I was finally online for the first time on Windows 7 and posted on Facebook letting everyone know. I next installed my video card drivers, doing the restart as it requests, and this time, I didn't get any error messages, including that dreaded "BOOTMGR is missing". With that a success, I confirmed that it was indeed the boot order that that caused that error. Even now, I don't understand why. If there's no CD in the drive, it skips the first boost item and goes to the second, the hard disk. Even the instruction manual for how to install Windows 7 never mentioned of having to change the boot order. I have a feeling Windows 7 is drastically different from XP and Windows 98 for how it handles booting up.

3.3 Installing drivers: hit and miss

Next, I install my sound card's drivers from the CD. The disk was read but the installation software on it is incompatible with my version of Windows, according to the error message that came up. I knew I had no choice but to download the driver for it and since I had Internet access, I downloaded it from my computer just fine. Having chosen the 64-bit version of Windows 7, I knew I had to choose the 64-bit versions of the drivers so that they would work properly. I noticed that the driver being installed, despite having selected X-Fi Platinum, was for Extreme Music instead which is not the same sound card. I uninstalled the driver and attempted to redownload the driver being careful to choose the right one and I try again. I had a different file size, 8 MB bigger, and it still showed up as "Extreme Music" I let it carry though anyway thinking the software was buggy. I checked and it actually was for the X-Fi Platinum. In a way, I was expecting issues with the CD as that sound card is about 6 years old - 64-bit OSs practically didn't exist then so it only had a 32-bit driver.

As I went about installing other drivers, downloading them if they could not be run from the disk, using the disk otherwise if it had 64-bit drivers on it from being recent enough to where 64-bit OSs existed, I didn't encounter any further problems... except for 2 things that I didn't address until much later.

3.4 Installing software: 1 loss and 2 surprises

After the drivers, installing the software programs was next. This mostly went well. I couldn't install Arcsoft Photostudio 2.0 SE (A Windows 98 program), but thankfully, I very, very rarely use it so it's hardly a loss. Because the installer for my sound card doesn't support my version of Windows, I can't install the equalizer that it has, from the control panel that allows you to switch between entertainment, audio creation, and gaming modes (and the 24-bit crystalizer). My speakers have such a ridiculously strong bass that I literally need 2 equalizers to balance the sound out. I minimize the first equalizer's bass at -12 dB then the second equalizer, from another program (Winamp in my case), still needs another 4 dB reduction for the deepest of the bass, the 60 Hz. It's only from there that the sound is well-balanced and I can fully appreciate it. I will need to find an equalizer that runs in the background with at least a 12 dB range and 10 evenly spaced bands (Winamp is not evenly spaced (by evenly spaced, I mean following the logarithmic scale)) that adjusts the feed sent to the sound card and not modifying the waveform before being sent to the sound card. Winamp's equalizer has the amplification done through the sound card itself.

Arcsoft Photostudio incompatible
Programs incompatible with Windows 7 - I saw plenty of these errors

The surprises came from some programs I wasn't expecting to work on Windows 7. The upgrade advisor I ran before finalizing my backup told that Office XP and a few others wouldn't run in Windows 7 or were unknown. To my surprise, Office XP installed and runs just fine. An even bigger surprise came with Microsoft Works 4.5a (a Windows 95 (!) program). I was surprised that that program not only installs correctly, but also runs just fine. This program was around before 1 GB hard drives were even around, let alone the 4 TB that I'm considering getting in the near future. Why do I still have it? Easy: version 2 of my book, "The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters" is saved using that program and, due to images being present, uses up a lot of memory. The program won't let me convert to Word format because it errors, stating "out of memory" even though I still have 2+ GB to spare. I was surprised that a Windows 95 program installed just fine but a Windows 98 and Windows XP program (my sound card's stuff is the XP one) didn't. All the other programs installed just fine.

Microsoft Works 4.5a installation - 999999K disk space
Microsoft Works 4.5a never heard of the existence of a 1 GB hard drive.

Following the installation of the programs, getting Windows updated was next, fully updating everything. The first use had 135 updates selected (why some were left out, that I don't know). I let them run, taking about 80 minutes to download and install. While waiting, I went around the control panel configuring things like shortening the repeat delay for the keyboard and maxing the speed and also adjusting the speed that the mouse cursor moves. I did a few others but the option to disable the detection of the scroll wheel is absent and the scroll wheel is my biggest enemy on the mouse - it causes only harm and no good as I never use it and yet I get random screen jumps out of nowhere.
Tons of updates for Windows
A fresh install of Windows 7 yields a ton of updates.

3.5 Finalizing and configuring

The finalizing of setting up followed. The first was getting my main data backup processed and decompressed as usual. With that unzipped, I installed all other programs that remained and every one of them installed without a problem.
Decompressing the main data backup in Winzip
Now, isn't that a familiar-looking file being extracted?

While waiting, I went around the control panel configuring things like shortening the repeat delay for the keyboard and maxing the speed and also adjusting the speed that the mouse cursor moves. I did a few others but the option to disable the detection of the scroll wheel is absent and the scroll wheel is my biggest enemy on the mouse - it causes only harm and no good as I never use it and yet I get random screen jumps out of nowhere. Some of the designs and behaviors I experienced were quite annoying. The grouping of Windows on the task bar was one of them, and it cannot be stopped without a plug-in of sorts, rather dumb. I've hated that feature in XP but at least I could disable it in XP. By grouping I mean, well, start Firefox, open Windows Explorer, then have Firefox open a new window. Instead of the new window being after Windows Task Manager, like I had it in XP, it was placed with the other Firefox window and I couldn't separate them. As usual, I've switched to classic style and changed things to a very familiar-looking design. Roughly the same color scheme has been in use since I was using Windows 98!

Winamp was one of the bigger trouble spots I had. I've been backing up the play counts data since October of 2005 at the earliest known, probably even into 2004 at the earliest though I can't confirm that. Throughout the rest of my Windows 98 days and all of my Windows XP days, all I needed to do to back up the media library data that I had was back up the gen_ml.ini, gen_mud.ini, and the entire "ml" directory in the plugins folder of Winamp (from the Program Files directory). I was told this from the Winamp community. I back it up through Winzip to compress it. When I began using Windows 7, this long-standing method no longer worked any more. I tried reinstalling Winamp several times. Again, Windows 7 was the culprit - it's changed so much that, instead of being in the familiar location, in Program Files (now called "Program Files (x86)" to distinguish 32-bit programs from 64-bit programs). I first thought it was because the change in the path was resulting in null file handle pointers** (as "C:\Programs\MyProgram.exe" is not the same as "C:\Programs (x86)\MyProgram.exe"). It was quite silent and stale without my music playing. This is why you don't see Winamp in any of the previous screenshots. It wasn't until I learned that Windows 7 has all of its user data stored in the "C:\Users\%s\AppData\Roaming\%s" directory where the first %s is the user name and the second is the rest of the path which includes "Winamp\Plugins\%s" for where I need to paste my backup into. Once that was done, I finally got not only my music but also the play counts too.

3.6 The random hard freezes

Mixed in with all this were random hard freezes. Out of nowhere, my computer would stop responding. The sound would stop playing for a while and the mouse movement doesn't respond. At first, the hard freezing was really bad, so bad that the only fix was the reset button on my case. However, my first experience with this was much earlier, during a long process where I leave my computer unattended for a while. When I came back to check up on it, I turned my monitor back on but the power light was blinking. Thinking the power saving modes kicked in, I moved the mouse but nothing happened after a bit. I then tried the 3-button salute, control+alt+delete, to reboot or restart but even that didn't work. I tried it multiple times but got nowhere. The only fix, after realizing this for about a whole minute, was to press the reset button and repeat what I was doing before. As this random hard freeze would happen more, I was beginning to suspect that the 2 unknown drivers in the device manager had something to do with it. SM Bus was one of them. The other is a plain "unknown device" that I don't have any idea what it is. From that motherboard drivers disk not working, I had to go by and download the drivers for it, realizing I forgot to do that. Although the SM Bus case was solved, I continued getting the random hard freezes. On one of them, which was surprisingly brief (only about 5 to 7 seconds), I got a notice in the bottom right corner stating that the graphics driver was not responding. From there, I knew it had to be one thing: my video card. The GeForce 460, however, is meant for Windows 7 so I didn't know what exactly was going on. I attempted to download older drivers as I had the newest known. With those drives I noticed that the mouse cursor was misbehaving badly and I got to the point I found out how to reproduce the 6-second hard freeze at will - moving the mouse cursor over something that would have caused it to change about 20 to 40 times and I got it to happen. Over time, I learned that this was a known issue with the GeForce 460 on Windows 7 and a beta driver (331.93) supposedly had the fix. To optimize the success, I did a clean install and installed it in safe mode to eliminate any possible conflicts.

3.7 What remains

There are still a few things I have yet to figure out. For some odd reason, the temps from Core Temp (a program that monitors and keeps track of your CPU temperatures in real time) aren't showing up or working properly (disappearing after time). Another thing I need to figure out is getting an equalizer. I can't use Winamp's equalizer for everything. When I return to streaming again, the bass will be so strong that I'd have to turn the speakers down so much that I can't really hear what's going on that well otherwise. Lastly, locations of pinned items on the task bar don't stay put, especially the icons near the clock (Core Temp has the 6 pieces of info in a random order upon starting up and moving them doesn't get anywhere as I only get 2 values to switch places instead of remembering the order they're supposed to be in.

Also, with the same word wrap saving bug present in Notepad like before, and Wordpad not allowing me to set a custom size or just use plain text, I was forced to have to get another text editor. I used to use Wordpad for all of the plain text editing I do (which also includes HTML files).

* The %s is C programming syntax to represent a placeholder for a string (text) at that exact spot, as is used with printf and sprintf.
** "Null file handle pointers" is programming speak for a file that cannot be found. The handle (pointer) is 0, pointing to nothing. You can't grab a piece of cake if there's no cake to grab a piece from, right? In a sense, the pointer to the cake would be null, 0.