If you’ve ever wondered why it is that IT pros familiar with Microsoft Windows have always warned users to always do a clean installation of Windows, and eschew the upgrade scenario, all you need do is read the article in Ars Technica detailing the problems thus far with Windows 7. A full 31% of problems reported with the new operating system are involving the installation process.
Thirty-one percent of users that have been experiencing trouble with Windows 7 have reported problems with upgrading to the operating system. The data comes from consumer helpdesk firm iYogi, which recently conducted a survey of more than 100,000 of its customers. The number means that the majority of problems iYogi’s customers are experiencing have to do with Windows 7 installation, or the related application and data migration. These are fixable issues, but they don’t paint a good first impression of the operating system. While Microsoft clearly still has work to do in the upgrade process department (though as noted in September 2009, it is faster than Vista’s), this number is not as bad as it may first appear.
Most users who move to the next version of Windows do so by buying a new PC (about 95 percent). This means that the larger majority of users are already not affected by the biggest issue that is plaguing Windows 7; that’s quite good news for Microsoft. Of course, the company needs to make sure these users don’t get discouraged, and the company has help resources for that: via phone, e-mail, and as of October 2009, even on Twitter. Those who do have issues installing Microsoft’s latest and greatest, however, are reporting that they prefer Windows 7 to Windows Vista, once they get past the upgrade kinks.
So not only does this point to the fact that Microsoft spends too much time on new paint and other fru-fru, it does not get the fact that many customers are not getting the experience they are when doing upgrades. This should lead those “Microsoft engineers” to question why that is. It certainly must be more than the experience level of the customer, because many experienced, and knowledgeable customers still have problems. It is not a simple matter of intelligence.
Someone in the halls of Microsoft surely must understand that upgrading Windows, if ever gotten right, might make for many customers never needing to use the support that Microsoft offers, which means large savings for the company. You might think that that thought alone would drive the process like no other.
Twenty-six percent of users that have been experiencing trouble with Windows 7, the second biggest group, said that after the upgrade process was complete, they were confused about what had happened to programs like Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Photo Gallery. Redmond announced in September 2008 that it had stripped these programs out of Windows 7 and further confirmed in October 2008 that users would have to download Windows Live Essentials (Windows Live versions of Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Writer, Toolbar, and Family Safety) if they wanted to use the successors to these applications on Windows 7. The successors are Windows Live versions that are more feature-rich and are updated separately from the operating system.
Anyone who thinks that Microsoft has not been removing features from Windows since Windows XP is kidding himself, as there are numerous pages documenting all the controls, files, and programs that have been removed from Windows XP to Vista, and from Vista to Windows 7. It’s no wonder Windows 7 sometimes feels snappier than those operating systems, it is doing much less. There are huge numbers of things no longer able to be done, or changed to offer less useful behavior in Windows 7. Microsoft speak for this behavior is that the feature has been deprecated, which is programmer code for “dropped like a hot potato”. It is therefore no wonder that many people are frustrated with things that don’t work as they did before an upgrade.
Not only do they not work the same way; Microsoft planned it to be that way, yet does not make any up front admission of the changes. It is up to the customer to realize and ask – can you imagine how frustrating this might be?
In November 2008, Microsoft told us that it would offer a download link to Windows Live Essentials within Windows 7 to encourage users to download the suite of applications. The link isn’t particularly prominent, but it does come up (“Go online to get Windows Live Essentials”) if you search on Windows 7 for any of the missing applications. Still, the extra step of having to download and install the applications was too much for some consumers.
Fourteen percent of users that have been having trouble with Windows 7 said that their issue was the Aero theme not running. From our own experiences, this is most often because the video driver is not up-to-date, or because the PC in question doesn’t have a good enough video card. Most were in the latter’s boat, according to iYogi. The result is that Windows 7 defaults to the Basic theme, which may not look as spiffy, but it works just as well as the Aero theme. Those were the top three issues reported (if you did the math, you should be at 71 percent of users); the remaining issues were in single digits:
On these last things, Microsoft gets a pass, as they have made a good effort to explain these issues to customers. anyone who has problems here should at least know why they are experiencing them.
So, since you are probably waiting for the tie-in to the title – the winners are those who have upgraded by not upgrading. That is, they installed the operating system cleanly, and then migrated their programs and data that will work to the new installation.
Some bad news – until the time that Microsoft changes its own behavior, and either eliminates the registry, or makes programs remove all that they change in the registry when uninstalled, these problems will persist. In the early days of Windows, Microsoft stated that the registry sped things up tremendously. anyone fooled by this then should no longer be fooled, as it is simple enough to look at OS X , which has no registry, and see that speed parity has been achieved without the unwieldy construct of some Microsoft madman’s nightmares.
Oh, and the rundown on the problems -
Problems with installation: 31 percent
- Missing applets or components: 26 percent
- Aero theme is not running: 14 percent
- DVD drive not found (this happens despite the drive being visible in the BIOS and the standard driver is working): 8 percent
- Hidden extensions (Windows Explorer’s default setting in all the versions of Windows is to hide file extensions, as well as system files and folders): 6 percent
- Too many minidumps (By default Windows 7 keeps the last 50; minidumps are the memory images saved on the system when your PC crashes): 6 percent
- Aero snap problems (Windows 7 has a handy new ability to move and resize windows, all in one movement, but sometimes it does not work as expected and can become annoying): 3 percent
- iPhone won’t sync with Windows 7 (usually with the 64-bit edition, the iPhone sometimes get recognized but then iTunes returns with the error 0xE8000065): 2 percent
- Custom icons get changed with new theme (When a new Windows 7 theme is applied, custom icons can be lost): 2 percent
- Taskbar problems (In Windows 7, it’s difficult to tell at a glance whether an icon is a running application or a pinned shortcut): 1 percent
Again, it should be emphasized that this top 10 list is based only on users who were having issues with Windows 7 and sought help with iYogi; the percentages are only relevant to the group of users having difficulties in the first place. In short, Windows 7 is just like any other operating system (or any piece of software for that matter): it isn’t perfect. The good news is that it doesn’t appear to have any major show-stopping bugs (most are easy fixes, and others simply take time adjusting to). The general consensus seems to be that, although there are issues, getting past them is not as bad with previous Windows releases, and it’s definitely worth the effort.
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