Windows 7 Beta – First Impressions, Problems, Bugs, Likes and Dislikes

Windows 7 Beta - Start screenOn Sunday January 11, 2009, I upgraded my 64 bit Windows Vista  production PC to the 64 bit Windows 7 Beta (‘’W7B’) (available here until Jan 24 February 10, 2009).

The installation was straight forward. It took about two hours to complete on my system (I understand clean installs can be done in about 20 minutes). After answering a few questions, the upgrade took care of itself.

[Update: On Sunday January 18, installed W7B on my Lenovo x41 Tablet in dual-boot mode. So far so good. I hope to write a separate post about my tablet experiences with it soon.’]

Below I describe the problems, bugs, likes, dislikes and other observations I’ve made after constantly using the beta in a production environment for five days.

1. Upgrade Problems, Issues, Bugs

The upgrade went smoothly for the most part. But, I did experience the following problems, issues and bugs:

  • Windows Desktop Gadgets Do Not Work When UAC is Shut Off: This bug took me several days to isolate. As you’ll read below, I shut off UAC because, among other reasons, Woopra wouldn’t start automatically with it turned on. Isolation was tricky because when you first turn off UAC, the gadgets don’t immediately disappear. But they will be gone after your next reboot. In my case the next reboot came after I installed a sound card driver (see below). For days I though my sound card driver was knocking out my gadgets … until I found this article explaining the bug. Suffice it to say, in Windows 7 Beta, if you turn off UAC, your gadgets will disappear. For now I’ve set UAC on the lowest settings to keep my gadgets going. This means Woopra won’t auto-start any more (see below) and I have to manually bypass the UAC warnings each time I manually start it up.
  • Multi-monitor & Screen Resolution Setup Issue: I have four monitors connected to my Dell XPS rig. Both: (i) the Windows 7 Beta - Chante the appearance of your displays screenrelative positioning settings (ie: where monitors sit next to each other); and (ii) the screen resolution settings s (ie: 1900 x 1200);  used in Vista were futzed up after the upgrade. Plus, the procedure used to adjust the relative monitor positioning has changed in W7B. It took me some time to figure that out. To adjust each of these settings in W7B, right click on the desktop and select ‘Screen Resolution’  (click image for larger view). From there you can position your monitors and set the screen resolutions back to where they should be. 

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Windows 7 Beta Available Today

windows 7 logo Starting today, anyone can download the Windows 7 beta (W7B) here. Microsoft’s promotional W7B  page is here. The definitive WB7 blog post (by Brandon LeBlanc) explaining how it all works is here. The W7B FAQ is here. Paul Thurrott’s W7B info is here.

[Jan 10, 2009 – 2:30 pm EST Update: Official Microsoft Servers are back up!  Get it here now! Microsoft has removed the 2.5 download cap. Anyone can download beta for two full weeks (ending Jan 24 until February 10, 2009).]

[Jan 10, 2009 – 1:34 pm EST Update: Get it now! Click here for instructions on how you can easily bypass the official download channels and get official Microsoft beta keys and links to the download. I just did this and got two keys – one for each of the 32 bit and for64 bit versions.]

[Jan 9, 2009 5:49pm EST Update: Warning: As you can see here, the Microsoft servers were slammed. Check back at the windows blog from time to time to be notified when download servers are back up.]

Warning: From this download instructions page:

The Beta will stop working on August 1, 2009. To continue using your PC, please be prepared to reinstall a prior version of Windows or a subsequent release of Windows 7 before the expiration date. You won’t be able to upgrade from the Beta to the final retail version of Windows 7.

You’ll know you are starting to get through when you get to this sign-up screen (click for larger view):

windows 7 beta test-drive download screen

You’ll be all set with the key and ready to download when you see this screen:

Windows 7 Beta Product Key Page 
The beta is limited to the first 2.5 million downloads will be available to all until January 24, 2009. Both 32 bit and 64 bit versions are available. You will need a Windows Live ID (such as a Hotmail, MSN, Xbox Live account etc.). The beta will only upgrade computers with Vista SP1 installed. You can, however do a clean install from an XP machine (wiping out the OS and starting from scratch).

[Update: Sunday January 11: I have installed it. There’s been a few hiccups. It’s certainly faster than Vista. I intend to write a complete post about my experiences soon].

The download is an iso file. You’ll have to burn an .iso to a DVD in order to install. You can burn it to a DVD with Roxio or Nero. If you don’t have those, the free ImgBurn software will do the  job.

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