Chronicles of Windows 7 Part 3: From Release Candidate to Final Version

I was running the Windows 7 Release Candidate for many months prior to the October 22 public release.  I had pre-ordered the new version, and it conveniently arrived on the release day.  Anxious to see what was changed, I promptly set about upgrading.

Unfortunately, there is no easy upgrade path from the RC.  The process forces a complete re-install (although there are some work-arounds).  I’m okay with that, though, since I had beat my RC install to a pulp experimenting with different drivers and hacks to get my Qualcomm Gobi 3G card working.  (I never really did.)

My Upgrade Process

The upgrade process I took was simple: Plug in my external hard drive, back up my machine using Windows Backup – including a system image – and then wipe the drive and start from scratch.  I had used similar processes in the past, although usually using a Linux Live CD and dd.  However, the Windows 7 Backup creates system images in a VHD format, and Windows 7 can also mount VHD images natively, making this a much simpler solution.  Also, it neatly sidestepped any issues I might have had with my encrypted Bit Locker hard drive.

I’m pleased to report that the re-install process was a cakewalk, and the recovery of my data was virtually flawless.  The only hiccups were caused by my own stupidly.  I limited the files I had backed up in order to speed up the process, and found out later I wanted them.  Fortunately, they were still on the system image, and the VHD mount worked as-expected.

Though my technique may not be for everyone, it works for the tech-savvy control-freak like me.

Stuff That’s Fixed

The good news is that HP’s new drivers for the Qualcomm Gobi 3G modem work flawlessly in the final version of Windows 7.  Hopefully they’ll eventually switch to use the new broadband driver stack built in to the new OS, but I’m not holding my breath.  They do work, though, and that’s enough.

The VMWare NAT issue was actually cleared up by an update to VMWare while I was still running the RC.  I am mentioning it here to close the loop on the earlier post.

And that’s it, really.  It’s not that there aren’t any more fixes, but that the RC was so solid for me that I had no gripes worth mentioning.  For those who suffered through Vista’s growing pains, this is a huge step up for Microsoft.  I suspect the large beta program and massive release candidate program helped immensely in this area.

Wish List

Here is my one gripe: Windows sizes the desktop background based on which monitor is designated as your “Primary”.  I dual monitor using my wide screen laptop display and a 4:3 stand-alone monitor, and I prefer the stand-alone screen as my primary.  Thus, I often get stupid black bars surrounding the background on my laptop display, because the image has been sized for the non-wide screen.

I am hard-pressed to think of a situation where this makes sense.  Hopefully Microsoft will make the “Fill” desktop background option actually fill on differently sized screens.  But in the meantime, this is a minor, minor thing.

And it should tell you something that such a ridiculously minor thing is all that I can find to complain about.