Win 7 Upgrade: One step forward, two steps back

Redmond (WA) – Windows 7 Beta testers are being encouraged by Microsoft to downgrade to Vista prior to installing the next Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) for testing. Microsoft is actually pleading with users to do this, claiming to have greatly improved the upgrade-from-Vista process. They want a real-world upgrade experience in RC testing, and the majority Windows 7 users will not be upgrading from the beta when the official product released later this year. Microsoft recognizes this is a major pain, and is asking for your cooperation.

Microsoft claims a fresh install from Vista will reveal more data to Microsoft than simply upgrading from the current Windows 7 Beta. According to the engineering blog:

“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.” [Microsoft’s bolding. -Editor]

Microsoft is providing a workaround for those who absolutely do not want to migrate to Windows 7 RC by first downgrading. Microsoft documents those steps here:

“Here’s what you can do to bypass the check for pre-release upgrade IF YOU REALLY REALLY NEED TO

1) Download the ISO as you did previously and burn the ISO to a DVD.

2) Copy the whole image to a storage location you wish to run the upgrade from (a bootable flash drive or a directory on any partition on the machine running the pre-release build).

3) Browse to the sources directory.

4) Open the file cversion.ini in a text editor like Notepad.

5) Modify the MinClient build number to a value lower than the down-level build. For example, change 7100 to 7000.

6) Save the file in place with the same name.

7) Run setup like you would normally from this modified copy of the image and the version check will be bypassed.”

Microsoft suggests using the Windows Easy Transfer utility to those users who do want to first downgrade to Vista before installing Windows 7 RC. The utility will copy all of your accounts, settings, files, etc., from the current Windows 7 Beta version, allowing you to re-install Vista and then run the Windows 7 RC upgrade option, to then restore your account settings when finished.

Microsoft notes that the same steps will be required next time, when Microsoft moves from the RC level to the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) level, which will come immediately prior to the official release.

In something that is quite unusual, Microsoft is really pleading is case here. They not only acknowledge how painful this highly suggested downgrade-before-upgrade process is, but write their blog entry in such a way as to almost make you feel sorry for them. Microsoft’s Windows 7 Team writes this in the blog:

“Again, we know many people (including tens of thousands at Microsoft) are relying on the pre-release builds of Windows 7 for mission critical and daily work, making this step less than convenient. We’re working hard to provide the highest quality release we can and so we’d like to make sure for this final phase of testing we’re supporting the most real world scenarios possible, which incremental build to build upgrades are not. At the same time everyone on the beta has been so great we wanted to make sure we at least offered an opportunity to make your own expert and informed choice about how to handle the upgrade.

We’re always humbled by the excitement around the releases and by the support and enthusiasm from those that choose to run our pre-releases. We’re incredibly appreciative of the time and effort you put into doing so. In return we hope we are providing you with a great release to work with at each stage of the evolution of the product. Our next stop is the RC…see you there!


So, are you ready to help Microsoft by devoting several hours of your time to the downgrade, and then upgrade, just to test if it really works better?

Read more on Microsoft’s Windows 7 Engineering Blog.