Adventures in Upgrading my MacBook’s Windows7 Beta to RTM Version, Part 1

I love my MacBook Pro, and I love OSX, but Windows development is what pays my bills right now. For the last couple of years I’ve been running Windows Vista on my Macbook. I had high hopes that I could stay in OSX and use VMWare or Parallels to run Windows, but those experiences have been underwhelming. [Curiously, Vista on VMWare 1.x worked very well, but when I upgraded to VMWare 2, things went kaplooey and upgrading to VMWare 3 didn’t help. But that’s another topic altogether.] So I use Boot Camp to run Windows, and it turns out I spend 90% of my time in Windows, only going to OSX to do graphics manipulation or video editing.

Now I didn’t hate Vista as much as some. Sure it had it’s quirks; The User Account Control security settings were, shall we say, unrefined? But it had some really nice features too and was pretty quick. But when Microsoft made the Windows7 Release Candidate available last summer, I jumped on it. Throwing caution to the wind, I “upgraded” my Vista partition to the newest offering. And it was great! As you by now have read, Windows7 “fixes” all the problems that haunted Vista, giving us a solid, quick, feature-filled operating system.

I was aware that the release candidate, and later the beta, had time limits, and when that time came I’d have to revert to Vista or upgrade to Windows7. Well that time is here. So I decided I wanted to start the new year, heck the new DECADE, with a fresh new copy of Window7. And so my tribulations began:

Upgrade or Install from Scratch?
The first choice to make was whether I wanted to install a fresh copy or reinstall Windows from scratch. This was actually a no-brainer since legally you’re not allowed to “upgrade” the beta or release candidate to the full version. Now I’ve seen tutorials on how to make this work, but there’s actually a really good reason I wanted to install from scratch: I wanted to move from 32-bit windows to 64-bit windows. My machine has 4GB of memory, but 32-bit windows only has the ability to use about 3GB of that RAM so I was essentially crippling my own performance by running 32-bit.

Take Inventory
Since this has been my main machine for 2 years, I’ve got a ton of stuff on here. In fact, I’ve got programs installed that I’ve completely forgotten about, but may well use again someday. If I’m going to install from scratch, I’m going to have to reinstall those programs. How can I possibly know what all’s installed?
I downloaded a utility called Belarc Advisor. This gives a comprehensive audit of your PC’s profile, including what hardware’s installed, what drivers (including print drivers), what user accounts, and most importantly, what applications along with their serial numbers.
I felt a lot better knowing I had this information on hand.

Backup, Backup, Backup
The next step was to back up. I actually did it 4 different ways (plus one bonus way):
1. Windows image. A windows “image” essentially takes a snapshot of all the bits on your hard drives and puts them into one file, giving you a complete snapshot of your disk. In a worst-case scenario, you can restore this image and be back to square one. I thought this would be a fine place to start. Unfortunately my image spanned multiple DVDs, and each time it got to the 3rd DVD I’d get an error saying it could not complete. Frustrating, and a waste of a lot of my time.
2. Jungle Disk. I use a utility called Jungle Disk to make an incremental online backup of my development directory once every 1/2 hr. This mitigates my risk of losing more than 1/2 hrs of work, and has saved my butt on a couple of occasions. I decided to do a full upload of my important stuff off-site using JungleDisk, but ended up having to abort it as it was estimated to take about 2 days to upload it all. You may use DropBox or something similar to do the same thing, but I like JungleDisk because it’s cheap and unobtrusive.
3. Windows backup. The built-in “Windows Backup” utility is a rudimentary but perfectly capable app that simply copies what you select to another device, in my case an external hard drive. Using this I was able to copy what I consider my most important folders (which I try to keep under My Documents exclusively), as well as my registry.
4. Easy Transfer Wizard. The last step was to run the built-in Easy Transfer Wizard, which again backs up my documents as well as settings such as my Windows theme preference (I like “China”).
Bonus way: xMarks. This cleverly renamed (used to be FoxMarks) utility backs up all of my browsers bookmarks and passwords, allowing me to go to any computer and have all of that available to me. I’m amazed that Firefox can recall passwords to sites I haven’t visited for a year, all thanks to xMarks.

After all those precautions, I was finally ready to wipe fresh and start anew…. (Part 2, coming soon)






3 responses to “Adventures in Upgrading my MacBook’s Windows7 Beta to RTM Version, Part 1”

  1. […] you haven’t yet, read Part 1 to get up to speed)  (Sorry this is so brief…I just got a call and I need to run to visit a […]

  2. Launa Topliss Avatar

    This is a excellent entry, quite simple to learn from. Many thanks for taking time to reveal all of your opinions.

  3. […] about last week’s adventure with my laptop, a MacBook Pro running Boot Camp. I’ve spent a lot of time recently getting the Windows partition updated to Windows 7, and was finally starting to get my […]

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