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  1. #1
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    House Call 2013 Part 2: Prepping for an upgrade




    TOP STORY

    House Call 2013 Part 2: Prepping for an upgrade


    By Fred Langa

    In this second part of my House Call visit with Windows Secrets reader Pam Newberry, we clean up a cranky Vista notebook and upgrade it to Windows 8.
    The cleanup process included updating software, checking drivers, and removing unnecessary files from the hard drive before installing Windows 8.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/house-call-2013-part-2-prepping-for-an-upgrade (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
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    My upgrade of vista was not as successful.

    First I went through the update and clean everything process and then I started the install, keeping files and windows settings - 2 hours later I got to what I thought was the final screen, the Windows 8 logo was up (operating system colours had been set) and i got a message saying that install could not be completed, restoring vista. After 5 min I was back to where I started with vista running nicely.

    I tried again and the upgrade cancelled after about 10seconds saying that it could not be completed.

    Two days later, on a Sat, I tried again this time only transfering the files (no settings). It all appeared to go well and finally Windows8 was up and running. everything on the 'Metro' screen worked as you would expect. When I switched to the 'standard' screen I had some icons on the task bar but nothing on the desktop. when i tried to open a taskbar program it would show me the preview but it would not go onto the desktop. I also discovered that the default sleep mode would completely shut the computer down, needing the power button to restart it (unlike Vista where the mouse or keyboard would restart it).

    After switching back and forwards lots of time I eventually got a desktop that functioned and could try and see what was going on. It turns out that the most usefull programs (like file explorerer) run on the desktop not the 'Metro' interface. Also even though I selected data only for the transfer, the 4 user profiles I had came across - except that you couldn't log out without crashing windows, but you could switch users. Rebooting would generally start in the last profile but not always.

    I realised that I ONLY had 8Gb of free drive space so i thought that maybe this was the problem, so set about freeing up space. By this time the computer must have been rebooted from cold about 50 times and the count was increasing. By the time I had free'd up 80Gb of HDD space everything looked like it was operating correctly - both desktops were fully functional, loging out would take you to the login screen etc. At 3.00AM I called it fully operational and went to bed.

    On getting up the next morning I went to show the family the new operating system - by this time the computer was completely powered off. On pressing the power button all I got was a DVD drive light continuously on and a continuous clunk from the drive. The multitude of restarts and reboots had killed the motherboard, which was confirmed at my workplace.

    My best way forward now appears to be a new computer......

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    All of my computers and those that I build for people only have Critical updates selected in Windows Update. I have found that installing Network or Video card drivers via Windows Update automatically on a device that is not having problems can be asking for problems. If it ain't broke don't fix it. This goes with the other recommended updates that fix problems that the particular may not even be having since the conditions outlined in the KB article has not been met.

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    Fred, How could you?

    Fred, how could you not make sure that the system's hard drive was A-OK before doing any updates or upgrades? Ground Zero for any computer that shows up here is to make sure the hardware is in solid operating condition before mucking around with software. It's unlikely that the Dell's memory had gone bad, so I would have eschewed running MEMTEST-86+.

    But at a bare, bare minimum, download and run Piriform's Defraggler and use it to examine the SMART data on the drive. If the drive has even one reallocated sector or at least one sector pending reallocation, replace the drive. I do not let a computer out of here with a hard drive having bad sectors. Yes, the drive may run OK for many years, but a reallocated sector is a symptom of something gone wrong with the drive: a read-write head touching down on a disc surface for an instant or a defective disk surface. And it can only get worse, especially if some of the drive surface coating has flaked off. Then you have debris floating around in a hermetically sealed space.

    You could also run the drive manufacturer's diagnostics, a free download from any drive manufacturer except Toshiba, who have never offered a free drive diagnostic.

    ... Ben Myers

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcguy View Post
    All of my computers and those that I build for people only have Critical updates selected in Windows Update. I have found that installing Network or Video card drivers via Windows Update automatically on a device that is not having problems can be asking for problems. If it ain't broke don't fix it. This goes with the other recommended updates that fix problems that the particular may not even be having since the conditions outlined in the KB article has not been met.
    Yes, agreed! The Microsoft update site is the worst possible choice for hardware driver updates. Better to install the latest from the computer manufacturer's web site, or, worst case, from the CHIP manufacturer's web site. Numerous times, applying a hardware driver update from the Microsoft update site has hosed up a system for me. So I simply do not trust these updates any more... Ben Myers

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    Why bother cleaning up Vista before upgrading the OS? Wouldn't the quickest (and best?) way be to just do a clean install of Win 8?

    I know I don't have as much experience as you do, but I typically go with a clean install, manually copy all of the personal files and install any necessary programs. For there, I know I won't any old ghosts haunting the system. There's no chance of some Microsoft conversion going wrong. I'd typically rely on a new copy of the personal files I just did vs. relying on a backup.

  7. #7
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    I agree that testing SMART data on a hard drive is a good practice to do periodically, upgrading or not. I use the Acronis Drive Monitor, but nearly all modern hard drives ship with at least some utilities, or utilities can be downloaded from manufacturer websites, which will do a lot of HDD diagnostics and present in a very readable form, what is healthy, and where any problems may be. Memory could also have been tested, but this would have taken up time and the House Call was time-limited.

    Since I have a Toshiba laptop I have a better support and download site for updating drivers and system software than Dell offers. It takes only minutes to check everything needed for my model. And Toshiba also has a Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant to further reduce the need to pick and choose from among the hundreds of possibly system upgrades. But here the computer was an older Dell model, so you have to use what you can get.

    Under no circumstances would I use Microsoft Update for drivers except during the bets testing phase of a new OS upgrade. With Windows 8, I did use MS Updates until NVidia came out with their own versions of their drivers. But now I only use NVidia's own driver updates, and those can be hard to find for first-generation Intel core i-5 systems with NVidia GeForce310M graphics subsystems. I must confess that I let DriverMax find these updates, even though like Fred, I don't generally trust third-party updaters for drivers.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2013-02-21 at 08:23.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    I hadn't previously heard of " What’s My Computer Doing?" I'll give it try.
    Thanks Fred, I always enjoy reading the house calls
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Build your own system; get everything you want and nothing you don't.
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    Nice article. However I did something many users might have tried. I relocated /users to keep my more static stuff programs on the c:\ drive which is an SSD. And the windows upgrade program won't allow me to upgrade. Here is how microsoft tries to run away from their responsibilities. Have ideas ?

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/...-89ac08411b0b/

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    Why not just install Windows 8 by reformatting the hard drive and wipe the old Windows version and all its problems out? Seems like that would have been easier than stabilizing Vista if nothing but a fresh image from Dell was installed. Does the statement "Whatever Windows you're starting with, the standard Win8 upgrade process will use it to install Win8" mean that you have to have a Windows OS on the hard drive? Is this to avoid purchasing a new license? Thanks.

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    I too was wondering why Fred chose to drive through the upgrade process instead of installing onto a freshly formatted (and tested) system disk. The teaser at the end of his Part 1 article -- "A clean OS upgrade!" -- suggested to me that he'd start from an empty system.

    Given that he was time-constrained, as is anyone who does such work for a living, I imagine he was frustrated by the time it took for Windows Update to bring current such a back-level system. It would have aggravated me to spend all that time updating a system, knowing that I was about to turn around and ditch it!

    The article points out that there was, effectively, no user data of any value to be preserved, so that can't be the reason to upgrade in place.

    For me, the clincher would have been recognizing that, after all that effort, I was left with a system I didn't trust. That's not a base I'd be comfortable building upon.

    Fred has a long and laudable track record. I'm sure he chose the upgrade-in-place path for a good reason. Was it because Microsoft's licensing policy insisted on an extant Windows? Did he want to report on the Windows 8 upgrade experience, as well as helping Pam into a reliable environment? I wish he'd remarked on his reasoning.

    Nonetheless, I found the two-part series to be an interesting read, and I learned a couple of things from it (the inexpensive disk adapter, the What's My Computer Doing software), as I usually do from Fred's columns. A great public service, and not just to Pam!

  12. #12
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    Because an upgrade type of install is probably what most people would opt to do in the first place.

    I don't think that it can be stressed often enough how important it is to get ones operating system in order prior to an upgrade.
    A healthy foundation makes for a better upgrade, or at least a less troublesome one.

    I see the article demonstrating that well enough despite it being more time consuming in the end.
    Last edited by CLiNT; 2013-03-08 at 09:22.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Build your own system; get everything you want and nothing you don't.
    Latest Build:
    ASUS X99 Deluxe, Core i7-5960X, Corsair Hydro H100i, Plextor M6e 256GB M.2 SSD, Corsair DOMINATOR Platinum 32GB DDR4@2666, W8.1 64 bit,
    EVGA GTX980, Seasonic PLATINUM-1000W PSU, MountainMods U2-UFO Case, and 7 other internal drives.

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    I have a few issues. First, you gave no idea of what sort of problem programs you found running. Also, as someone else mentioned, letting WU update drivers is a great way to destroy a system with bad or old drivers; I would ONLY do that if it was the only way to try and get a viable driver for some component that the vendor did not offer drivers for. Most times I've allowed keyboard, video, network and like drivers update from WU the computer has barely survived the resultant mess. Also, why upgrade to the horrific Win 8 once Vista was working properly? Win 7 Pro, sure. But this computer is presumably not a child oriented touch screen based system, so 8 would seem to make little sense except for the temporary low price.

    Also, for WU, I prefer to check the list of updates before allowing WU to proceed. And I try to never do them the first day or two, allowing others to destroy their PC's on improperly debugged updates first - hopefully MS withdraws and fixes them. And I always babysit .Net updates, since they are so subject to failures.

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Two days? I follow Woody Leonhard's advice and wait at least two weeks on the current batch of MS Updates -- except for Flash Player and MSRT in Win 8. And any out of cycle emergency fixes, usually for IE.
    -- Bob Primak --

  15. #15
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    There is no such thing as a destroyed PC if folks would invest a little time & energy learning how
    to backup their systems [PROPERLY] in the first place.
    DRIVE IMAGING
    Invest a little time and energy in a well thought out BACKUP regimen and you will have minimal down time, and headache.

    Build your own system; get everything you want and nothing you don't.
    Latest Build:
    ASUS X99 Deluxe, Core i7-5960X, Corsair Hydro H100i, Plextor M6e 256GB M.2 SSD, Corsair DOMINATOR Platinum 32GB DDR4@2666, W8.1 64 bit,
    EVGA GTX980, Seasonic PLATINUM-1000W PSU, MountainMods U2-UFO Case, and 7 other internal drives.

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