Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

More Windows 7: I’ve Upgraded

by Eric Stewart on Oct.25, 2009, under Computers, Technology

For a couple of weeks now I’ve had Windows 7 (Enterprise – I get it through work) installed via VMWare Fusion on my work Mac Pro (Win 7 64 bit) and on my work Mac Book Pro via BootCamp/VMWare Fusion (Win 7 32 bit). Not much has changed since I wrote up my initial impressions; I’ve been running the Mac Book Pro in BootCamp so as to fully utilize Aero.

Last week I went through the process of installing Windows 7 64 bit on my home machine (after prepping it so as to make the system dual bootable, making Win 7 the primary OS but giving me access to my old Windows XP install), where I fully expected at least some issues with hardware.

Hardware turned out to be the least of my problems.  Software, on the other hand, required either giving up or switching to a less than ideal alternative.

Oh, and let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: You can’t do a straight upgrade of Windows XP to Windows 7.  I would suggest though that this is actually a good thing; if you’re careful enough to back up important documents and data, you’ll be better off starting from a clean slate anyway.  Over time, computers get a lot of stuff onto them (software you no longer use, or leftover files from programs you’ve uninstalled) that you might actually be better off without.

First, a basic run-through of my hardware:

  • Motherboard and Processor: Somewhat dated, I’m using an AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4200+ on an ABIT AN8 Ultra motherboard.  This motherboard, if I recall correctly, went out of production shortly after I bought it and I don’t recall there being much in the way of Vista drivers for it on Abit’s site (and no Win 7 drivers, but I didn’t really need them).  They did have XP 64 bit drivers but I never bothered to switch fully to XP-64 when I tried it out.
  • External Hard Drive: I’ve got a 500GB Seagate FreeAgent drive (with Firewire 400, eSATA, and USB connectivity – currently Firewire – though now that I think about it, this may be changing shortly … we may be doing some live while blogging testing).  I haven’t been 100% happy with this beasty as it didn’t work for what I originally purchased it for, and as I will relate here, had issues under XP.
  • USB to Serial cable: I have SCUBA diving computer I download dive data from through a serial cable, and I fully expected that the Dynex DX-UBDB9 was going to have issues.  It did.
  • Other Stuff: Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard (older style), G7 wireless mouse, Saitek X45 flight control system.

Now, software I was most concerned about:

  • Microsoft Money: Yeah, say what you will, I got it for mostly free and have been using it for three years now to track my finances.
  • Garmin MapSource and other Garmin GPS management software: It’s interesting how similar the situation between MS Money and Garmin MapSource turned out to be.  MapSource I had used for years to manage GPS points on multiple Garmin GPS units.
  • VPN Software from work: They are/were using and older Cisco system.

Where I’m coming from …

As much as I’d like to say my Windows XP experience at home was fully stable even under heavy duress, that’s just not the case.

  1. First, it really didn’t like to continue to run well when various external storage devices were plugged into it.  That FreeAgent drive was never on the system unless I was looking to store a copy of something on it.  USB devices (iPods, flash drives) were removed as soon as they weren’t needed.  Otherwise, I’d have the system just eventually freeze.
  2. It seems like games would have the same problem, and not always the same type of game.  They’d usually run for a decently long period of time, but sometimes they’d just freeze or puke with a blue screen.  I’ll admit that I might have some suspect hardware somewhere, but I suspect it was more of a driver issue.
  3. Telling the system to power down was easy enough, but the fans and lights would continue to run for a while even though the OS was apparently completely shut down.  Eventually the system would power off, but it would occasionally power right back on again.  Reboots were often reset button assisted.

So obviously I grew to tolerate some of the issues that would pop up under XP.  I will admit at this point that I’m fairly certain I haven’t used Windows 7 long enough to say that these issues won’t reoccur, but as they haven’t happened at all yet, they obviously aren’t occurring as much as they did under XP.

My experiences with Vista were less than stellar.  If memory serves, there were driver issues, and the UAC was turned off shortly after the 10th time it asked me for a password.  Looking at Windows 7, I’m thinking I hated some of the changes to the UI, and while Windows 7 has some of the same UI changes as Vista, I’ll say at this point that I’m ready to just deal with those changes now that there’s a somewhat worthy successor to XP.

So – Where Are We Now?


  • I have had no crashes – even after I just switched that Seagate FreeAgent drive from Firewire to eSATA using a back panel slot that plugged into one of the on-board SATA ports.  There was a long hang while the system and the motherboard debated about accepting this new SATA drive on the fly, but eventually it started responding again and I can access the drive.  The Seagate Manager no longer thinks the drive is a Seagate drive, but that may resolve itself after a reboot but that might just be an issue with the software version, or that the SATA ports on my system are run by a RAID controller (some of the disk information may not be being passed on to the OS by the on-board RAID).  On the whole it’s not an issue because I can still access the drive and I’ve played with Windows 7’s backup software in order to back up the system rather than use Seagate’s software.
  • Basic hardware drivers (IE, motherboard’s on-board sound, chipset, etc.) were apparently on the Windows 7 install disc and are working perfectly fine.  For my video card (an eVGA GeForce 7800 GT), I downloaded the drivers and software from eVGA in an attempt to get nVIDIA’s handy controls (which I would use the dual monitor stuff quite a bit when I had it), but alas, it’s not included in their Windows 7 drivers yet.
  • The Dynex cable did indeed need to be replaced didn’t need to be replaced but I didn’t find out until Jeff posted his comment below, so I grabbed an IOGear USB to Serial Adapter via NewEgg, checking the comments to see that, while there were Vista 64bit drivers available, they were download only.  Downloaded those, and Windows 7 accepted them.  I haven’t downloaded any dive data (as I haven’t done any dives yet), but Windows 7 and the updated Suunto dive manager software saw the computer.
  • Logitech‘s site had the drivers and software for the mouse and keyboard, including the LCD manager.
  • Saitek‘s site had drivers for the X45 as well as Windows 7 compatible (possibly actually for Vista) software for managing gaming profiles.
  • My processor is old enough not to have the required virtualization capabilities required for using XP Mode.  That was a bit of a bummer when I figured it out.


  • Microsoft Money 2006 installs, but complains that updates are needed and that you have to run it as an administrator.  Do so, and then it claims that your trial period is up and suggests you buy Microsoft Money 2005 Deluxe (that 5 is not a typo).  As much as the UI looks messy and the categories tracking is actually additional accounts, I switched to gnucash.  Microsoft is no longer making versions of Money, apparently.
  • Instead of installing Nero 7 (which Nero’s website suggest you’d be better off upgrading to Nero 9 for $50), I just used the Windows software to make a test archive of my photography to a data DVD.  Good enough.
  • MapSource: The install wouldn’t run, but that’s okay too, since I wasn’t using it much, if at all, for my current Garmin device (the nuvi 500).  The WebUpdater still runs, and the device itself can handle pretty much anything else I’d need to do.
  • VPN software: The Data Network Management guys are on the ball and are testing new products that will support Windows 7.  One of the products did not impress me on either Windows 7 or Snow Leopard, but the Juniper product did a good enough job for my purposes.

I haven’t ditched Windows XP yet – it’s still there, sitting on an otherwise unused 500GB drive (that I’d eventually like to use for storage).  I haven’t found reason to boot into it for more than testing the the dual-booting.  Eventually it will be taken out of the boot menu and the drive reformatted.  But I’m not quite there yet.

Is Windows 7 worth it?  Well, if you can avoid paying for it, or if you get it as part of a new install, sure.  It’s going to hurt quite a bit though, paying the $120 or so if you need to buy your own license to run it on older hardware.  Being the OS Agnostic individual that I am, find it quite easy to forgive an operating system for it’s faults, since I can easily find fault in pretty much any operating system I come across.  But so far, Windows 7 has been very stable for me, and I’ve been able to work through any issues I might have with software incompatibilities (note: the only game – not counting SecondLife via the Emerald Viewer a game – I’ve bothered to install on Windows 7 is Civilization III – if I get around to installing UT 2004 or Battlefield 2 and they don’t work, you’ll hear about it).

If you’re looking for a new computer and still haven’t decided between something with Windows 7 and quite possibly paying a bit more for a Mac running Snow Leopard, I still stand by this tweet I sent out:

Will Windows 7 lure users away from Mac? Very doubtful. What I think it will do is stop/prevent any hemorrhaging of users from Win to Mac.

I guess that concludes my thoughts and experiences so far with Windows 7.  If you’d like to do further reading, my twitter buddy Lance Ulanoff is Editor-in-Chief of PC Magazine and has had a couple of things to say about Windows 7.

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4 Comments for this entry

  • Eric

    RE: Battlefield 2 …

    I can’t find the manual with the CD Keys on it. I have seen some posts around the net (do a Google for “windows 7” “64 bit” “battlefield 2”) that indicate the most recent patch is not at all stable, so I’m waiting until I have $30 to download the “newest version” of BF2 from Steam. It’s going to be a while; I just picked up “Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack In Time” for the PS3.

  • Jeff

    Re: Dynex DX-UBDB9 USB to Serial Adapter

    Just a quick note. I got my DX-UBDB9 cable working in Windows 7 64 with the posted driver here.

    Link to the actual file.

    I found this link reading this post.

    As a side note, I did not need to disable driver signing as suggested above. I just ran the extracted file Vista_Installer.exe and it installed. I then scanned for hardware changes and my US Robotics USR5686E modem installed and ran fine. I hope you did not throw away your old cable when you bough the new one. Maybe you can still return it 🙂

  • Eric

    Wow! Thanks for the link. I’ll probably keep my IOGear one since it’s installed and it wasn’t that expensive. I’m going to edit the post though to point to your comment.

    Thanks again!

  • Eric

    Hey – I found my BF2 manual and got it installed. Looks like it’s running fine, even with the 1.5 patch. The recommendations I would make:

    – I’ve seen suggestions to turn off UAC while installing.
    – I’ve seen suggestions to use “Right Click and ‘Run as Admin'”.

    I did both of these the second time through (as it looked like the patch wasn’t going in … thing is, I think it was, as I was attempting to connect to a 1.5 server using the 1.41 client).

    So, YMMV.

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