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"Roll Back To Vista for Next Win7 RC" sez MS

An interesting report from ComputerWorld surfaced this morning — namely, a request from Microsoft for Windows 7 beta testers to restore Vista on their test machines before upgrading to the upcoming release candidate (RC) version of that software. This is a reworked version of a story that originally appeared in the print edition of the magazine on April 7, but I can only link to the Web version here. The original material comes from the Engineering Windows 7 blog, in a posting entitled “Delivering a quality upgrade experience” (I had real trouble getting this post to open, and was only able to access it via IE after numerous tries, never on Firefox).

Basically, the post asks beta users to roll their machines back to Vista before installing the next RC so that MS can benefit from a larger user base in evaluating the upgrade install from Vista to Win7, believing that this will represent the bulk of the user base’s own experience when the time comes for all of us to work with the final, commercial release of Windows 7. MS cites “telemetry” that they received during the install process to back up this claim, noting also that “most of you did clean installations onto new partitions” (that’s exactly what I did on every single one of my test machines, in fact).

Here’s what they say about the next release, quoted in full:

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.

In other words, they want even those users who’ve set up and tweaked their machines to full production status to start over again with the next release. Then, as a sop to those people who simply don’t want to wipe their Win7 partitions clean and start over, they provide a step-by step method to bypass the pre-RC build check that disables an upgrade install on such machines. Here’s a summary of the steps involved (consult the original blog for more details).

  1. Download the ISO and burn it to a DVD
  2. Copy the entire image to some storage location from which you’ll run the upgrade install (such as a UFD)
  3. Browse to source directory
  4. Open the file named cversion.ini in a text editor (such as Notepad)
  5. Modify the Minclient build number to a value less than the down-level (current) build
  6. Save tfe file with its changes
  7. Run setup from this modified copy and version check is bypassed

Of course, MS wants the data on the “default scenario” (clean partition, or an upgrade to Vista) so that’s why they put hurdles in the way. Kudos to them for providing a workaround, and knocks for making it necessary. Interestingly, with nearly 60% of the Windows installed base running XP anyway, I find it fascinating that the focus here is on Vista. I’ll be very interested to see what kinds of tools emerge to address the real default scenario when that time comes!

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