Thursday, August 13, 2009

Microsoft discourages Windows 7 upgrade

According to Walter Mossberg, computer columnist for the Wall St Journal, Microsoft is making an upgrade to Windows 7 from XP totally unattractive. Microsoft demands that XP hard drives be totally erased and reformatted, destroying all your email, photos, letters, spreadsheets, applications, and drivers before installing Windows 7. Nobody in their right mind wants to risk the losses that reformatting can produce, so figure the army of XP computers will stay with XP and not risk the upgrade to Windows 7.
You have to wonder why Microsoft is willing to take this revenue hit. Used to be people would line up out side computer stores for the opportunity to buy the latest Windows over the counter. Microsoft used to schedule a new Windows release whenever they needed some money. Windows 95, 98, 2000, and XP all sold mucho copies to upgrade existing computers.
The reformatting step is totally unnecessary. A new Windows install will work just fine leaving the data on the disk intact. It worked that way for all previous versions of Windows. The reformat the hard disk requirement will be enforced by the Windows 7 install routine, something which a super hacker might be able to defeat, but is beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.
So why is Microsoft discouraging upgrades? It might be that they don't have Windows 7 drivers for the humungous numbers of older machines out there. Each computer is somewhat different, and little bits of hard to write and hard to debug software (drivers) take commands from Windows and make the computer's screen, network port, sound chip and other peripherals do the right thing. Microsoft changed the way drivers work between XP and Vista. XP drivers don't work in Vista. It was a terrible hassle for Microsoft to get the new Vista drivers written for the Vista release.
It may be that this level of hassle was just too much to bear and Microsoft decided to make things easier for themselves. Upgrading from a Vista machine means the machine already has Vista drivers which will work in Windows 7. Upgrading from XP means that Windows 7 must provide Windows 7 drivers for every computer manufactured over the last 12 years. That's a lot of drivers. And a lot of help calls when the machine fails to work after upgrading to Windows 7.
Me, I'm gonna take the hint from Microsoft, and not upgrade from XP. Especially as nobody has given any good reasons for running Windows 7. By all accounts it's fatter and slower and buggier than XP and doesn't work any better. Why bother?
Especially, if the upgrade to Windows 7 fails, you may not be able to get the computer to run XP again. If you can no longer find ALL the CD ROMS that came with the machine you may no longer have the needed drivers to make XP work again. In which case you are up the creek without a paddle.

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