Monday, January 26, 2009

Windows 7 - Installation and Configuration Notes

Well here's my detailed report on Windows 7 (And yes, its very long).
  1. First off, you need to repartition your hard disk. The Windows 7 install will clean out your partition. So you need to empty out a partition, or use GParted (Ubuntu)/QTParted (Kubuntu) to create one from the empty space in your hard disk.
  2. This must a primary partition, Windows 7 will use 8 GB + 2xMemory Size initially. I recommend creating at least a 20GB partition (I ended up creating a 37 GB partition - equivalent to a 40 GB HDD.)
  3. Do NOT let the installer create the partiton for you (say from a new HDD or unpartitioned space). Otherwise, in typical M$ fashion, the installer will create a proprietary format 200 MB recovery partition. If a 3rd party tool deletes this partition, you may corrupt the partition table, so format the partition before passing it to the installer
  4. On a side note, if you format with "Enable Compression" on the drive, Windows 7 installer will still disable compression; I dont know the reason for this but obviously, if you want to reenable compression, do it from inside Windows 7 not from your previous version.
  5. Windows 7 will mount its own partition as C:. One of the first things you should do on the first boot is map your partitions as you want them, I suggest mapping your old C: (if different from the Windows 7 boot partition) to what the Windows 7 partition maps to in the old windows version, to minimize confusion :)
  6. By default the Boot drive (normally C:) will be unmapped - since Windows 7 has "stolen" its mapping. Now you will get ONE CHANCE to map it to a new drive letter using the UI. So make sure you get it right, else you will have to muck around in the registry. Do not use this to remap your Windows 7 C:, you willl destroy your installation. Windows 7 also hides empty CD drives, you can force it to show them using Folder options/
  7. There is a nasty bug in Windows 7 that will corrupt your MP3 files. Install this update before you do anything else.
  8. The OS will mostly recognize your hardware on its own. Looking for drivers in Windows Update is turned off be default so turn it on. Also if your driver installer disk refuses to recognize the OS, you can just get into device manager, right click any non-functional devices and update driver by giving the CD drive as the search path.
  9. You can run an Administrator version of the command prompt (aka sudo in Ubuntu) this way. It is needed for many things - bcdedit, installing TFTPD32 as a service etc...
  10. If you want to recover some HDD space from Windows and you dont use the Hibernate feature :) you can recover space equal to Memory Size from Windows by executing "powercfg -h off" in an Administrative command Window.
  11. You can use bcdedit to rename your "Earlier Version of Windows" to "Windows XP" (or something else)
  12. Windows 7 comes with Windows Media Player 12. Unfortunately. this has the equalizer hidden.
  13. If (like me) you are using the 64-bit version of Windows 7, you need iTunes 64-bit not the normal version.
  14. You can remove the "Send Feedback" link if you want. (I personally like it)
  15. Also I would suggest getting a ReadyBoost capable flash drive and leaving it permanently attached to your machine to get a nice performance boost. They are even selling them in India now. BTW, it should be possible to use just about any flash drive with this feature, not just one of the newer ones :)
  16. Driver Signing: Sigh... Where to start? While many have claimed $ony's hand behind this, the fact remains that 64-bit Vista and Windows 7 (I have no idea of the behavior in 32-bit Windows 7) require all drivers to be signed. This is an annoyance - it prevents you from installing many devices and also certain software (mostly stuff like Daemon Tools, although newer versions supposedly have managed to get a signature). How to fix this?
    • Here's what doesn't work. Use GPEdit - Run gpedit.msc. Navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Driver Installation. Seemingly you can use this to set "Code Signing for device drivers" However, on closer inspection, this is not valid for Windows versions after 2003. Also, even the documentation (in the left pane) is out of date - the System properties no longer look and behave as described.
    • Use bcdedit to set DDISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS. This only works for the next boot, so you have to set it in a logoff script. Alternately, you can do this by using F8 and selecting "Disable driver signing" at boot time. However, if you install an unsigned driver and forget to do this even once, the system may crash.
    • The best option, seems to be to use ReadyDriver Plus, which (for now) seems free. This installs a new boot option on your system, which automatically sets DDISABLE_INTEGRITY_CHECKS before booting. The program seems free for now.
    I'll try the 3rd option, if I run into an actual unsigned driver. For now, Daemon Tools website says it works with Windows 7 so I should be fine...
All my devices are working properly with the OS, with the exception of my ancient Pinnacle PCTV Vision tuner card. Pinnacle has some drivers, but they don't work - maybe due to driver signing :) However, I only use my tuner to upscale the output from my PS2 for my LCD TV, so I can easily reboot to XP to use it :)

Overall, this seems like a really nice version of Windows. I am in fact, willing to switch to using it as my main OS, I just need Nero installed and I should be good to go :) This is probably not a good idea - M$ specifically states that you will have to reinstall at the end of the beta, hopefully they will give an upgrade path (probably they will - considering the sheer popularity of this beta)

This seems to be M$'s answer to power users/enthusiasts - "Here's an OS for you please think of Vista as dead, use this and stop using us as a punching bag" :) And it works...

Allow me to leave you with some horribly pixellated night photos of Rashtrapati Bhavan (taken on Republic Day) with my Nokia 5800...
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