How to Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7

How to Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade from Vista

My mission on this page is to share my experience of upgrading from Vista to Windows 7.  Furthermore, I would encourage people to make this change not just for the new features, but because Windows 7 fixes so many of the niggles experienced in Vista.

This review describes an in-place upgrade where you start with Vista (not XP) and end up with Windows 7.  My theme is ‘Like for Like’; the same Windows folder and the same user settings.  Our plan is to move nothing to another partition, let alone transfer files to another machine.

Topics for How to Upgrade Windows 7


Installing Windows 7 as an Upgrade from Vista

It is true that the Vista design team made crucial mistakes, and as a result people are now wary of Microsoft’s operating systems.  I just want to say that Windows 7 should restore Microsoft’s reputation for producing a state-of-the-art desktop.  From the time that I double-clicked setup.exe this was simply the smoothest install that I have ever done.

Compatibility Check – Call for the Upgrade Advisor

Begin your upgrade plan with a compatibility check.  This means answering the question, ‘Is your Vista version what you thought it was?  Did you really buy 32-Bit Home Premium, or did you splash out on 64-bit Ultimate Vista?’  Beware of the ‘Edition Trap’; if you have Vista Home Basic, then you cannot upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium.  Moreover, you cannot downgrade from Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Professional, the upgrade edition really must be like-for-like.  However, if you have a legitimate copy of the new operating system then you could do a migration, but that would mean installing a new operating system at a new location and then migrating all the user settings.

If you have any doubts about compatibility seek out this tool from Microsoft: Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (beware the link may change, you know what Microsoft are like for changing urls).  As a bonus the Upgrade Adviser will check not only the operating system, but also if your devices and programs are compatible with Window 7.  My latest information is that you CANNOT upgrade from a pre-release version of Windows 7 to the final RTM build 7600.  Thus even if you have Windows 7 RC (release candidate) you cannot upgrade that version to the RTM build.

Procedure – How to Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7

  • As we are undertaking an an upgrade, logic dictates that you launch the DVD, or ISO image while the Vista operating system is running, there is no need to boot from the Windows 7 DVD.
  • If you have disabled autorun, then seek out setup.exe on the DVD, then double-click to launch the Windows 7 installer
  • One of the first menus asks: ‘Go online to get the latest updates (recommended)’.  I suggest that you click OK, people have been having problems with the installer halting at 62%, and when Microsoft find a solution no doubt there will be an update delivered if you click ‘Go online to get the latest updates’.
  • As usual, you need to accept the licence agreement, then choose ‘Upgrade (recommended)’.
  • It makes sense to run a compatibility check, if you get bad news about old drivers, then you will probably try to continue and get new drivers later.  Any show stoppers and the upgrade will realize there is no chance of success and it will abort the Windows 7 upgrade.
  • Hopefully there will be no significant incompatibilities and the Windows 7 Setup will continue for about 90 minutes without any user interaction until you get to the product key menu.
  • Installations really should be that easy.  And it is this simplicity that makes an upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 more attractive than a migration.

Case Study:  Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7

A battle-hardened desktop Vista SP2 was the vehicle for my review of an upgrade to Windows 7.  In its 2 years of heavy use this Vista machine had built up an impressive collection of programs, the usual MS Office programs including a huge Outlook .pst file, plus 2 years worth of detritus in the form of sundry programs.  On the hardware front was scanner, a HP printer and cordless mouse, all correctly identified by setup.

Following my usual gung-ho approach, I attempted to upgrade from XP Ultimate to Windows 7 Professional, but Windows 7 would not let me proceed until I got the Window 7 Ultimate ISO file; this proved that the editions have to be like-for-like.  Next I encountered the Compatibility Wizard, which warned me that a HP printer might not work.  The compatibility report also recommended that I should uninstall and then reinstall a raft of programs.  Being in a bullish mood I ignored the recommendation and carried on with the upgrade.  However, I absorbed the message that if an old program gives any problems an uninstall / reinstall should get it working again in Windows 7.

Experienced users may be lured into clicking on the Custom (advanced) button, only do this if want a fresh copy of Windows 7, and are happy to lose all your old Vista settings.

One thing about the upgrade that puzzled me was why it waited until the end of the 90 minute procedure to ask for the product key; no problem for me, as I had a legitimate sticker with 25 numbers and letters.  However, I reflected that it would have been annoying to have wasted nearly 2 hours if I could not lay my hands on that product key.  Perhaps this is Microsoft’s way of having a laugh at software pirates?  On a practical note this means that the Vista model of one DVD with distinct product keys to differentiate the editions does not hold for Windows 7.

Post Upgrade

The last item in the Windows 7 upgrade check-list mentioned transferring settings.  The end result for remembering the old desktop personalization, while not perfect, was much better than my experience of in-place upgrades from XP to Vista.  One minor irritation arose because the new Windows 7 taskbar did not import all the shortcuts that I had added to the ‘Quick launch’ bar on the old Vista taskbar, but this was no big deal, in 2 minutes I had pinned the shortcuts and dragged them into their former positions.  After a few day’s use it became apparent that the whole taskbar area is a bit smarter then Vista’s and the old icons were in fact in the Quick Launch toolbar, but that toolbar is no longer displayed by default.

Horror of horrors – show stopper – when the new Window 7 operating emerged from sleep the network connection froze.  I could not believe it, no internet, and I could not ping the default gateway.  Just as I started troubleshooting I noticed that the new Action Center flag was trying to gain my attention.  When I looked there were already 3 updates waiting to be installed, including one for the network card driver.  Eureka, I co-operated with the suggestions and installed the updates, now despite the Windows 7 machine having numerous sleeps, the network connection has not frozen since that first aberration.

Because the old Vista operating system already had IE 8, I was surprised that when I tried to launch the browser a wizard appeared asking me to install IE8.  I did not investigate the reason, but merely clicked ‘Next’ twice and IE was working just as it was on the old operating system – home page and Favorites all there as before.  Sometimes simple things impress me, and each time I launch one of my applications in Windows 7 and all the settings are just as I left them in Vista, I say, ‘Thank you upgrade wizard, you have not failed me yet’.

Whenever Gung-ho Guy installs a Microsoft operating system he finds a whole raft of questions marks in the device manager.  When I checked this time there was just one, it was next to the printer.  Impressively, once the update manager found, and installed, the HP driver it disappeared, consequently I achieved a first, thanks to Windows 7 Guy now has a device manager with no question marks.

Windows 7 Upgrade 62% Completion Problem

At least 20 people have reported that their Vista to Windows 7 upgrade stalling at 62%.  The installer just hangs for 8 hrs and counting, the only way out is to reboot; fortunately setup does rollback to Vista successfully.  To date there seems no common factor explaining why these upgrades all fail at precisely 62%.  Suspicious causes include: Nvidia driver, ATI Radeon cards and Anti-virus software.  Some people report that 62% completion corresponds to file 854142 of 1130077, while others report a different file number, while yet other report failure at 63% completion.  A few technically minded installers have even tried to identify faulty processes in the setup logs, but as of August 14th 2009 there is no convincing explanation in setupact.log of what goes wrong.

An example of a log entry:

C:\$UPGRADE.~OS\OnlineUpgradeApplyWork\srcworking\agentmgr\CCSIAgent\005ACDA2 2009-14-09 21:44:51, Warning [0x080b50]
MIG AsyncCallback_ApplyStatus: Progress appears to be stuck. Current progress: 62

One thought that won’t go away is why don’t Microsoft program the compatibility wizard to recognise that this particular install won’t proceed beyond 62%?

Update 1:  ATI Driver:
I have heard of one chap who cured the 62% completion problem by rolling back, installing a Window 7 version of the ATI card driver, and then his upgrade worked.

Update 1a: Windows Update
Make sure that Windows Update is current missing an update really can cause an upgrade to fail.  Check thus:  Start Orb, Control Panel, Windows Update.

Update 2:  63% Completion Error
An application called TV Tonic can cause the Windows 7 upgrade to pause at 63%.  Amazingly, after about 90 minutes setup does then proceed if you have the patience to wait.

Update 3:  Remove Network Cable
Another person said than as soon as he removed the network cable the install suddenly started progressing onward from 62%.  While at first sight this solution seems implausible give it a try particularly if you have Broadcom NIC.  Another installer said that disconnecting from the network meant a machine that had failed 3 times, then upgraded as planned.  This techie also disconnected file shares on the Vista machine prior to upgrading. 

An even more determined tester believed that his upgrade failed because the diagnostics could not contact it’s mother ship at Microsoft.  He too disconnected the network cable and the upgrade proceeded.

How Big is this 62% Completion Problem?

Because it’s only human nature that more people complain than report success, it’s difficult to judge the scale of the Windows 7 upgrade 62% completion problem, nevertheless, if I had my time over again I would use Windows Easy Transfer (WET) in combination with a clean install.  The WET software is very good at collecting all the user settings and transferring them to the virgin install.

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First Impressions of Windows 7

A simplistic way of looking at the Vista / Windows 7 lineage is to regard the original Vista as version one of a separate evolutionary line from the Windows 3 / 98 / XP line of operating systems.  According to this logic Vista SP1 could be regarded as version two, and now Window 7 is version three.

Now old-timers say never trust software until it reaches version 3 = Windows 7.  Well the new Windows 7 truly is a the state-of-the art operating system.  The wizards and menus are more intelligent, The UAC is less annoying, and the hardware manager is forgiving of devices having a sleep.  In contrast, the old Vista was flashy, but condescending, and sometimes literally left you hanging on to a lifeless mouse.

Your Journey to Window 7 – The Big Picture

When ever you are considering replacing a computer, and especially if you are going to install a new operating system version, stand back, take the opportunity to look at the big picture.  Grapple with the hard question, do we need to upgrade to Windows 7 – at all?  Instead, should we go thin client and deploy Terminal Services or Citrix, or could we go totally browser based?  My brain is at stage one of assimilating that one day I may run my email, Word Processor and Spreadsheet from the internet.  In which case, I may not need a powerful operating system.

Do You Believe in TCO? (Total Cost of Ownership)

At first I believed that Total Cost of Ownership was all hype.  My initial problem was that I did not trust the man who first introduced me to the TCO concept.  Suffice to say that I am now convinced of the cash benefits of reduced down time due to operating system errors.  Another benefit which is harder to cost is greater user productivity and less frustration due to programs hanging. 

Test Network and Pilot Group

Nothing polarises techies more than test networks and pilot groups.  Half say, ‘Guy you are preaching to the converted, surely everyone has a test network?’  The other half whinge, ‘Guy you are in cuckoo land, we have no money for a test network’.

To those who think I am in cuckoo land I wish to say that I hate spending money.  Thus investigate using VMware or Microsoft’s Virtual PC.  As for the pilot group, if all else fails, you can double up as the pilot group or install Windows 7 on a few trusted user’s machines.

Summary of How to Upgrade to Windows 7 from Vista

I have a wide experience of installing utilities, I see from checking my notebook that this year I have reviewed 11 programs.  I setup 5 with no difficulty, but 6 gave trouble.  Of those obstinate setups, eventually 4 installed after I read the instructions or contacted customer support, but I had to give up on 2 because they would not install on my 64-bit machine.  I mention this only be cause upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 was such a smooth and worthwhile experience.

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