Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

Delivering a quality upgrade experience

Delivering a quality upgrade experience

This is a little bit of a tricky post to write because we’re going to be asking everyone using our Windows 7 Beta to help us out, but doing so is going to take a little time and require a bit of a commitment to helping test the next milestone. This has been a remarkably valuable and beneficial testing cycle for Windows as we have had a tremendous amount of very rigorous testing and usage. We’ve had millions of people install and use the Beta since January and as we’ve talked about, the feedback and telemetry have been of tremendous value as we finalize the product. The effort of Beta testers has contributed immensely to our ability to deliver a high-quality product to hundreds of millions of customers. We continue to follow the plan we have previously outlined and this post is no announcement of any news or change in plans. Since we know many people are running the Beta we want to provide a heads up regarding the behavior of the Release Candidate (RC) as it pertains to upgrades. Of course we are working hard on the RC and following the schedule we have set out for ourselves.

A big part of the beta process is making sure we get as much “real world” coverage of scenarios and experiences as possible and monitor the telemetry of those experience overall. One of the most challenging areas to engineer is the process of upgrading one release of Windows to another. When you think about it, it is the one place where at one time we need to run a ton of code to basically “know” everything about a system before performing the upgrade. During the development of Windows 7 we routinely test hundreds of original OEM images from Windows Vista and upgrade them and then run automated tests validating the upgrade’s success. We also test thousands of applications and many thousands of devices as they too move through the upgrade process.

Many of you installed the Windows 7 beta on a PC running Vista. We received that telemetry and acted on it accordingly. We believe we’ve continued to improve the upgrade experience throughout the release. Similarly, based on our telemetry most of you did clean installations onto new drive partitions. Through this telemetry we learned about the device ecosystem and what drivers were available or missing. We also learned about PC-specific functions that required installing a driver / application (from XP or Vista) to enable support for buttons, connectors, or other hardware components. Together we get great coverage of the setup experience.

We’ve also learned that many of you (millions) are running Windows 7 Beta full time. You’re anxious for a refresh. You’ve installed all your applications. You’ve configured and customized the system. You would love to get the RC and quickly upgrade to it from Beta. The RC, however, is about getting breadth coverage to validate the product in real-world scenarios. As a result, we want to encourage you to revert to a Vista image and upgrade or to do a clean install, rather than upgrade the existing Beta.  We know that means reinstalling, recustomizing, reconfiguring, and so on.  That is a real pain.  The reality is that upgrading from one pre-release build to another is not a scenario we want to focus on because it is not something real-world customers will experience. During development we introduce changes in the product (under the hood) that aren’t always compatible with what we call “build-to-build” upgrade.  The supported upgrade scenario is from Windows Vista to Windows 7. Before you go jump to the comment section, we want to say we are going to provide a mechanism for you to use if you absolutely require this upgrade.  As an extended member of the development team and a participant in the Beta program that has helped us so much, we want to ask that you experience real-world setup and provide us real-world telemetry.

If you do follow the steps below, you might run across some oddities after upgrade. We experience these internally at Microsoft occasionally but we don’t always track them down and fix them because they take time away from bugs that would not only manifest themselves during this one-time pre-release operation. From time to time we’ve noticed on a few blogs that people are using builds that we have not officially released and complained of “instabilities” after upgrade. Nearly all of these have been these build-to-build issues. We’ve seen people talk about how a messenger client stopped working, a printer or device “disappears”, or start menu shortcuts are duplicated. These are often harmless and worst case often involves reinstalling the software or device.

We’re just trying to be deterministic and engineer the product for the real world. Speaking of the real world, many have asked about upgrading from Windows XP. There's no change here to the plan as has been discussed on many forums.  We realized at the start of this project that the “upgrade” from XP would not be an experience we think would yield the best results. There are simply too many changes in how PCs have been configured (applets, hardware support, driver model, etc.) that having all of that support carry forth to Windows 7 would not be nearly as high quality as a clean install. This is something many of you know and already practice. We do provide support for moving files and settings and will prompt at setup time, but applications will need to be reinstalled. We know that for a set of customers this tradeoff seems less than perfect, but we think the upfront time is well worth it.

So when you try to upgrade a pre-RC build you will find that you’re not able to and setup will tell you and you can then exit gracefully. You can install as a clean installation and use the Windows Easy Transfer feature as well (run this from your current installation of course) if you wish to move your accounts, settings, files, and more. To bypass the version check, the instructions below will use a mechanism that is available for enterprise customers (so we are also testing this as well). It is not a simple command line switch. We didn’t make it multi-step on purpose but wanted to stick to using proven, documented and tested mechanisms.

These instructions will be brief. Since everyone reading is a well-versed and experienced beta tester you know ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR MACHINE before running any OS installation and NEVER TEST AN OS ON YOUR ONLY COPY OF ANY DATA. Testing a pre-release product means just that—it is testing and it is pre-release. Even though this is a Release Candidate, we are still testing the product. We have very high confidence but even if an error happens once in 1,000,000 we want to make sure everyone is taking the precautions normal for a pre-release product.

One other related caution is INSTALL ONLY OFFICIALLY RELEASED BUILDS FROM MICROSOFT. It will always be tempting to get the build with the “mod” already done but you really never know what else has been done to the build. There’s a thrill in getting the latest, we know, but that also comes with risks that can’t even be quantified. For the RC we will work to release a hash or some other way to validate the build, but the best way is to always download directly from Microsoft.

Here’s what you can do to bypass the check for pre-release upgrade IF YOU REALLY REALLY NEED TO:

  1. Download the ISO as you did previously and burn the ISO to a DVD.
  2. Copy the whole image to a storage location you wish to run the upgrade from (a bootable flash drive or a directory on any partition on the machine running the pre-release build).
  3. Browse to the sources directory.
  4. Open the file cversion.ini in a text editor like Notepad.
  5. Modify the MinClient build number to a value lower than the down-level build. For example, change 7100 to 7000 (pictured below).
  6. Save the file in place with the same name.
  7. Run setup like you would normally from this modified copy of the image and the version check will be bypassed.


These same steps will be required as we transition from the RC milestone to the RTM milestone.

Again, we know many people (including tens of thousands at Microsoft) are relying on the pre-release builds of Windows 7 for mission critical and daily work, making this step less than convenient. We’re working hard to provide the highest quality release we can and so we’d like to make sure for this final phase of testing we’re supporting the most real world scenarios possible, which incremental build to build upgrades are not. At the same time everyone on the beta has been so great we wanted to make sure we at least offered an opportunity to make your own expert and informed choice about how to handle the upgrade.

We’re always humbled by the excitement around the releases and by the support and enthusiasm from those that choose to run our pre-releases. We’re incredibly appreciative of the time and effort you put into doing so. In return we hope we are providing you with a great release to work with at each stage of the evolution of the product. Our next stop is the RC…see you there!


--Windows 7 Team

PS: At Step 1 above many of you are probably thinking, “hey why don’t you just let me mount the ISO and skip the plastic disc”. We’ve heard this feedback and we deserve the feedback. We don’t have this feature in Windows 7 and we should have. So please don’t fill the comments with this request. There are several third party tools for mounting and if you’ve got a Vista image there’s a good chance your PC came with those tools on it.

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 8 and 6 and type the answer here:
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  • Well, one thing I can promise - I'll test RC as clean install :)

    Since all my home computers, as well as those at work are XP (32bit), and in particular because I'm planning to move them all to Win7 64bit - there won't be any other way.

    Oh, ofcourse, I won't move all of them to RC, I'm talking about future move to final copies of Win 7 (probably Enterprise at work since we have access to them; Premium for home computers).

    But one feature I will be trying, if I only get time, is that User State Migration Tool 4.0 with those hard-linked files and all that (remember? ). This is something that I will almost certainly use to move all company users from XP to Win7 when the time arrives, so this is what I will be testing.

    Real world you want, real world you get :) Testing exact things that I'm going to use once Win7 is available for sale ;)

    Cheers! And keep up with the good work :)

  • I don't have my activation code for Windows 7. How I go about reactivating it if I do a clean install of Windows 7 with RC1?

  • I can accept resetting back to vista for the RC for real world testing, but are we going to have to reset again when the actual product is released?  

  • Just a quick comment and a request. I love Win7. This will be a redefining product for Microsoft. I have used every version of Windows and many of Nix. This is the best. Now a request - PLEASE provide a mechanism for disabling the Libraries feature. I have seen this request on numerous Win7-related forums and the most common response is, "just do x,y, and, and live with it". It is not a matter of failing to understand the concept or to appreciate Microsoft's innovativeness. However, not everyone uses an OS in exactly the same way, and I truly have no use for this feature. I merely want the choice to "opt out". I could go on...but this is a simple request. And please, no Billy Sunday conversion speeches from Library fanboys :). I may have given away my age with that reference. Thank you Microsoft (not sure I would have envisioned that remark in years past). It is well desreved now, however.

  • I love the Windows 7 beta, I have all the builds that have been "unreleased" but have ended up on my site's FTP annomyously!

    I haven't upgraded from 7000 yet, seeing as every time I plan to, I find a new file starting to be uploaded to my server, and each and every time, I don't feel like risking the install through an ISO file (even though I did that to upgrade it from Vista)

    One problem I have found is that running this OS on older hardware means that hardware that used to be able to play even the most basic of games won't play much anymore. In my case, this is a Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop that happens to have a GeForce 4 Go 440 (32Mb) card in it, and on my Nlited XP installation, it runs Halo and a few other D3D games fine, but on 7, I get problems playing any game, and it complains about not finding D3d, but DxDiag says it is running fine... any reason for that?

  • Right team, I am now back with Vista Home Premium ready for the RC1 so that I can do the upgrade to Windows 7. Back in Vista its amazing the features that you miss about Windows 7. The jump lists, the icons on the taskbar, the Action Centre and the fantastic themes. It's nice to be back with Windows Live One Care though! (and a none crashing IE8!)

  • I thought the reelase was coming in May not April. This post seems a bit early, no?

  • I thought the release was coming in May not April. This post seems a bit early, no?

  • I think the GUI improvement of Win7 is significant. However, I'd like to share with your team a suggestion that I have heard a lot: you should really consider slenderizing the window frame (when it is not maximized). It just occupies a lot of desktop space and does not make much sense (making win7 look fat).

    I hope that RC release would be smooth!

  • As so many others have pointed out:

    Come on team, there are still crucial problems that need to be addressed. You have done great, and we have a lot to be happy about, but this product is still far from perfect, and most of the issues are so simply solved with simple changes. Many of my / others' previous posts are LOADED with great ideas that would make this the best OS ever from MS.

    I honestly do hope you will take at least some of the major, thousand times requested features and put them in. (Come on PAUSING a file transfer without a third party program...)

    I've always ended my posts with "great job guys" or similar, but not today.

    - AeonSlayer / Simon

  • If you don't want to waste a disk to burn the ISO file, and have a little free space, another very simple way to do this is to use one of the many freely downloadable *zip type programs to extract the contents of the ISO onto a folder on your hard drive or thumbdrive and use that as your installation media. I personally do all my installs from thumbdrives and love it.

  • It is time for MS to make it easy for the end user's and those that support them to upgrade from previous versions, or buy a new computer for the new OS and move EVERYTHING from the old computer easily. No having to buy PC Mover from Laplink, or having to re-install all of their software.

    Your customer focus is long gone, and needs to return. Most of us skipped the fiasco that was VISTA.

    If this next one is as painful as your recent attempts, I will be moving freinds and family to either Apple, or LINUX. I have not more patience for the crapware and horrible customer service coming from Redmond.

  • I have used several Windows 7 post-7000 builds and have had a consistantly pleasing upgrade experience with out any data loss or problem afterwards.

    Also out of a practical need to fully test the differences I have done a Clean install on a seperate disk, the clean install is always better with the use of The File and Settings Transfer Wizard.

    I now await the Offical RC Build and have a complete file backup of my sytem to do the clean install, can't wait untill the R.T.M.!

    Great Work from the Windows 7 Team...

  • "Don't cancel an entire "Move" or "Copy" action because of a single error."

    That is so needed - for anyone honestly.

    Please to god look at that feature and implement it.

  • What's MS's standpoint on installing the "leaks" from the torrent sites? I know they wouldn't support those versions officially, but is it considered "illegal" or are they kinda ho-hum on the whole matter? Seems that these torrents are all over the place and with new ones practically every day, it would seem that it would be a good way for MS to get real world feedback on the newest builds. Could someone from the Win7 team comment?

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