How to upgrade to Windows 7 in less than 100 hours

I’ve been down a hellish road that I don’t want anyone else to follow. I write this tale of caution to make sure of this.

It all started simply enough a few weeks ago when I noticed an offer for a cheap downloadable version of Windows 7. Bear in mind I vetted the living daylights out of this site before even considering buying it, which you should do any time you’re getting a deal that looks too good to be true. In my vetting though I failed to notice that it wasn’t as simple as downloading an ISO and burning it to a DVD. Oh how foolish I feel now.

Fast forward to this past Thursday night: Launch day for Windows 7. I fire up my Mac and check my e-mail to download my copy of the software. Since I have DSL and the download was a couple of gigabytes, I figured the best idea was to let it download overnight on my desktop.

This was a great idea if the software worked properly.

One of the downsides right off the bat was the fact it was a .exe file, which means I had to download the software on my PC partition. Not so much a bad thing, just an inconvenience. At least that’s what I thought before realizing I was downloading an upgrade, not a full version.

Friday rolls around and I woke up to my clean, seldom-used Windows desktop having some kind of magical “setup1.box” and “setup2.box” file with a random .exe file chilling somewhere else. What’s not there? An ISO file for me to burn a disc with before heading to work and installing it there.

Not knowing what a .box file was off the top of my head, I popped open the .exe file because you should always open random executable files that you don’t know where they came from. That made a folder called “expandedSetup” which I had no freaking clue what to do with and an error that something screwed up with the unpacking. This would some back to haunt me later.

I retreated back to the e-mail the download link came in and saw the U-word: Upgrade.

This requires a search on all of my hard drives for my LEGAL copy of XP. A search that extended into Saturday. I have a lot of hard drives and one of these days I’ll get them all organized onto one drive with everything on it so it can fail and take everything with it.

After finding that copy of XP in the wee hours of Saturday, it was time to it on my machine via Boot Camp. Smart idea, until the process stalled out halfway through, leaving me with a hard drive that needed to be reformatted. Granted, it would have worked just fine, but in order for me to install Windows on it, the reformat was necessary.

I cloned my hard drive with a great piece of software called Carbon Copy Cloner. Easy to use, gets the job done and it’s free. Of course after it’s saved your bacon a time or two, you’ll feel guilty enough to donate to the company that makes this absolutely amazing piece of software.

After some Target Disk Mode magic, my hard drive was reformatted and cloned back to where it was, though one of my Photoshop plugins is still being a prig about registration (I hate you too, DRM).

Finally I was ready at work and burned a copy of XP to a disc and installed it. And then I tried to get online. And then I noticed I didn’t have the right drivers.

Profanities raced through my head the likes of which would make sailors not only blush, but likely give up the sailing business altogether. After furiously searching for them, I found a piece of information that meant my day was about to get even longer: I needed the Snow Leopard install disc. Which was at home. 30 miles away. The next stream of profanities probably sent those same sailors into the priesthood.

So there I was 72 hours later finally getting the proper drivers installed. After finishing that arduous process (OK it was just putting in the disc and letting it do its thing, but everything leading up to that was bad enough) I decided to let Windows Update run. I already had enough problems, I didn’t want not having Service Pack 3 to be the next problem.

Sunday bloody freaking Sunday finally came and I was ready to just click on a button and let the damn thing run. It wasn’t meant to be that easy. Every time I tried to unpack the .exe file, the error I mentioned earlier kept popping up.

Handy tip for any time you have a weird error pop up on your screen: Type it into Google. That’s how I came up with this mess I wasn’t looking forward to typing in.

It turns out the good people at Digital River who handled Microsoft’s downloads had a corrupted version of one of the files or something along those lines.

After downloading a handy utility from Microsoft called Oscdimg.exe it was time to fiddle with the command line. Word of advice to Microsoft: Installing an operating system shouldn’t involve tinkering with the command line.

I started with this beauty:

oscdimg -n -m -bC:UsersUSERNAMEDesktopexpandedSetupbootetfsboot.com” C:UsersUSERNAMEDesktopexpandedSetup C:Win7.iso

…which was great until that last part where it didn’t work. Even running as administrator didn’t seem to fix the issue. However, by changing the path to lead to the Shared Documents folder, all the permissions issues went away and I was finally able to get an ISO to burn a disc to. This is about 96 hours after beginning the installation process. When I got home last night, I popped in the disc, let it do its thing and thankfully everything went smoothly from there.

I’ll be writing a separate post later on my thoughts about Windows 7 and why you’re a fool to upgrade to it.

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