Can I Go Solo With Windows 7?

Written by Antony Leather

May 27, 2009 // 12:25 p.m.

Tags: #64-bit #bugs #raid #vista #windows #windows-7

Have you tried Windows 7 yet? One of my plans for the bank holiday was to do one of my bi-yearly reinstalls of Windows to clear out the crap and maybe try a different RAID setup. I'd been running XP for a while after I gave up on dual booting it and Vista, dumping the latter because I didn't really play any DX10 enabled games, got thoroughly peeved with its clunky interface and interfering antics compared to XP, even after SP1, and, well XP was all I needed really. I guess I'm just set in my ways when it comes to operating systems.

However, given that the recently announced Windows 7 RC1 will stay operational till next year, I thought I'd give it a stab hearing glowing reports and also the fact I could get a 64bit version to make use of my new 4GB of RAM to help with the pretty demanding photo editing I've been doing recently which saw my 2GB RAM all used up. The question is, could I get away with using it alone or would I need to dual boot with XP again? Maybe I'd even be sick of it within 30 minutes like I was with Vista. This is a bit of a risk too as it's a release candidate but I was inclined to believe the glowing reports it had received and went for it.
[break]
Downloading was a breeze and after saving all my files to an external backup I wiped everything, got rid of my RAID 0 and RAID 1 arrays and set my three hard disks up to have the OS on one, programs on another and data and the pagefile on a third (the latter a bit of fore-thought as I'm itching to get an SSD to replace my C drive).

Having burned the ISO, I rebooted and began the installation only to find it took 15 minutes to get anywhere. Then, out of no where it said a CD/DVD drive driver was missing and needed to be installed. Excuuuuuuse me? For a second I thought it might be referring to a RAID driver, but I wasn't running RAID this time round purposely to avoid any issues. I tried the chipset driver from my motherboard CD, and the driver that came with my LG Blu-ray drive but it threw both back at me being not what it was looking for.

After an hour or two's fiddling I Googled from my laptop and found quite a few people with the same issue, but unfortunately there were about seven very different and very complicated solutions. After about three hours of trying various things, I came across another thread with a much more logical solution - download the file again and burn at the slowest speed possible. Nah, that can't be it, it's too simple! With nothing else left to try I gave it a whirl, and blow me it worked. For some reason the RC1 ISO seems to be very picky.

With this little hiccup out of the way, the rest of the installation was breeze. After installing various drivers and playing with Windows 7's new taskbar and toolbars, I started to copy my files from my FireWire backup drive to my storage drive. This seemed to go fine, except it was going to take 15 hours to copy 200GB. Hmmm, I knew Vista was slower than XP at file transfers but that's ridiculous! I did another Google search and sure enough, FireWire had been playing up on more than a few systems. Luckily the solution was simple and involved switching to a legacy FireWire driver as Windows 7 appears to default to one that results in a tardy transfer speed of 5MB/s.

With this sorted and my transfer speed up to a much healthier 40MB/s , I continued setting up a few more programs. Unfortunately the first one I tried - Folding@home - refused to work and was either unable to connect to the servers to download work or flaked out entirely saying my machine was unstable. I'm still not sure why it's having issues - there have been quite a few people reporting issues with the Stanford servers and work units in the last few days which could be something to do with it but after disabling Windows Firewall, UAC and tweaking other settings, I'm still no further forward getting my machine folding.

Can I Go Solo With Windows 7? Can I go solo with Windows 7?
The new taskbar takes a bit of getting used to but it adds a great deal of functionality

Apart from Folding, the FireWire issue and the trouble with the installation, I've also had issues with Photoshop locking the entire system but everything else has been fine. Clearly with these issues bugging quite a few people, and lots more issues out there besides, I wouldn't give it an A+ yet and I've only used it for a few hours and don't have all my programs installed. However the good news is that so far, I haven't felt the need to go back to Windows XP, or even dual boot, although if I can't get Folding to work and if Photoshop or any other programs continue to give me grief the latter may change! I love its rapid startup and shutdown, I like the little tweaks to the taskbar and how snappy it feels. In fact, for someone who thought he'd always have Windows XP on his system, I'm actually impressed.
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