08 July 2012

Windows 7 upgrade - the good, the ugly, and the really ugly

5 years ago, I bought an HP Pavilion dv9000 laptop with an AMD 64-bit processor. Now, yes, I made a few mistakes, such as not springing the extra $100 for a slightly faster processor. But I was not prepared for the fantastic lemon this laptop was.

First off, I found out why the machine came with 2 x 120GB HDDs...because the 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate used over half of one of the drives, between the WoW and the SxS. Then, within a month, I bought 2GB more to get to the maximum of 4GB. Even with that, disabling Aero, splitting the paging across 2 hard disks, and adding a then-high-capacity 4GB SD card for Ready"Boost", it still spent over half its resources paging. BSODs were a regular occurrence. I was so happy when SP1 came out...and then I discovered that it wasn't released for my laptop, because of driver issues with the NVidia does-everything-poorly-including-the-kitchen-sink chip. It took a year before I could install SP1. The same thing happened with SP2; I had to wait a year for the same reasons. And the same for Windows 7.

I drive my computer hard - not for entertainment, but for development. And this machine was not up to the task. Eventually, as all computers do, it started slowing down, BSODs became more frequent (the always-inexplicable "DRIVER_IRQ_LESS_THAN_OR_EQ" was a personal favorite), took forever to boot (I would turn it on or restart and then wait 30 minutes until the HDD activity indicator was no longer solid), and frankly was just piss-poor. (Even most Linux-based HDD recovery programs won't work on this crappy graphics card.)

(I will say this; the two times I had to return it for warranty work, HP was fantastic, probably because the line was a pile of crap. They even replaced the keyboard and the DVD-RW drive when the C drive crapped out. It isn't enough, though, for me to take HP computers off of my no-buy.)

I realized I had two choices -- either get a new computer, or install Windows 7 (which finally became "supported" last year...how long had Win 7 been available?). I have used Win 7 on my work laptop, and Cheri has had it over a year. Many others recommended upgrading. Upgrading is definitely the cheaper option, and could extend the life of it for a year or more. Also, because of extensive customizations, wiping and installing fresh was not a desirable option. So I bit the bullet, buying the upgrade DVDs from Discount Mountain Software in Denver, CO for $160 or thereabouts (definitely the cheapest out there for credible vendors).

I knew I was going to have a rocky battle...and I was not disappointed. The biggest roadblocks were:

  • Issues with registry keys and userids and other random crap that all were tied to IIS 6. I only used IIS as an FTP server, so I uninstalled it.
  • Registry error with msacm.l3codecp: At some point (I've seen either base Vista -> SP1 or SP1 -> SP2) the data for HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Drivers32\msacml3codecp is set to an empty string. It needs to point to the file of that name in the same directory as the immediately preceding entry.
  • "Process exit error 11 (0x0000000b)" or response code 0x8009000b. This is because the Microsoft\Crypto\RSA\MachineKeys files entries are screwed up due to, again, a problem with one of the aforementioned SPs. One recommendation is to change the sharing of three of the files; unfortunately, that did not work. Another is to delete three files; that also did not work. The eventual solution was to delete every file in the directory (the location can be different for various reasons). They're not necessary because the keys are different in Win 7, and you don't want the Vista versions anyway.
EDIT: Of all the logs written during the upgrade, the most important log file is  (install_drive):\$WINDOWS.~BT\Sources\Panther\setuperr.log. It has just the error messages. Many can be ignored; the ones that are getting you are the ones that trigger a rollback. Note that you should look at this immediately after the error message and subsequent restart, because sometimes this directory disappears.

I now have Windows 7 Ultimate x64 running, and 134 required updates later (including SP1), I am now up to speed. I'm now re-downloading the language packs and a couple of optional updates, and things should be fine.

Am I surprised at how much fun (FSVO "fun") this was? No. Windows is a complex beast, and unfortunately has to cover so many situations. Combined with the crappy design of this HP craptop (as I call it) I didn't expect less.

I'm not going to Win 8. It's in the Win95/WinME/WinVista cycle, and the loss of desktop functionality and a more tablet-like experience on said desktop will cause great gnashing of teeth and much whining - so much, so, that not only do I predict rollback licensing (like XP for Vista), the desktop interface, which was removed at some point during the Consumer Preview, will return. 


  1. I wish you could have done what I did: wipe vista completely and install 7. My install went almost perfectly because I did a fresh install. I understand that wasn't an option for you :(

    1. Imagine if every time IBM released a version of z/OS you had to wipe out all of your drives and catalogs and reinstall everything, and go through every operating system and software setting again. IBM wouldn't have survived the 1960s.

  2. I purchased an HP DC7600 desktop in 2006. After a while it's XP Pro began to crawl so I did a clean install of Windows 7. That really perked it up. I would buy another HP.

    I have Windows 8 installed in VMware Player on the same PC. It runs OK but it is not friendly for desktop use.

    /Fran Hensler, Administrator Emeritus at Slippery Rock University


Feel free to leave a comment or ask questions.