Category Archives: Windows

Upgrading Windows 7 to Windows 10

After installing Windows 10 on a friends’ computer, I thought it was time to upgrade my own. My primary concern was my limited available space on my C-drive (I have two more drives with plenty of space). I tried to find good advice or information online, but no luck, so here is my report:

Upgrading Windows 7 to Windows 10: storage requirements

My Windows 7 computer had a C-drive with the following available capacity:
12.6 of 55.3 GB Free (after running disk cleanup).

That is, Windows and some programs were installed on C, most files on other drives. Anyway, Windows 7 was pretty eager to upgrade, and I started the procedure.

  1. It was “Checking requirements” (3 times, different dialogues)
  2. Downloading: available space down to 9.4GB
  3. Preparing for installation: down to 8,1GB

So far it had been the typical low-quality MS experience of different dialogs giving quite dull information and no real sense of progress, but now it got really bad:

win7to10_1

The f**k is this? I did not know anything about installing the Insider Preview (there has never been any pre-release W7 whatsoever on this computer). And “something needing my attention”, being thrown back from the Windows 10 upgrade wizard to the Windows 7 system upgrade, not very impressive. Anyway, I just clicked “check your PC”, the Windows 10 upgrade continued, and I got this:

win7to10_2

This is really crap! It had already checked requirements three different times, yet not figured out I had too little space. I could have told it, before it even started, that I probably had too little space. The good thing however was that I could pick another drive to use for extra space, and I happened to have an internal drive available.

After that, up to 10.5Gb availble space on my C-drive, and restart. Now my computer was working on its own for almost an hour. After that Windows 10 came up, and everything seemed fine.

With Windows 10, I now have 17.8GB free space on my C-drive. That was nice! Perhaps a reason in its own to upgrade to Windows 10.

Conclusion: upgrading to Windows 10 with limited available space on C is a good idea, but make sure to have an extra external (or internal) drive for the process itself.

(Tried) Installing Windows 7 for the last time

A friend of mine came to me with his broken gaming computer. He does not know much about computers, but had surely invested in good hardware (some store configured and built it).

Why did it break? Well, a 90GB SSD + 1TB HD, Windows 7, is a guaranteed disaster for someone not an expert. Paging is on the SSD and it can be hard to get out of there. Everything installs on C: and it can be hard even for en export to not put stuff there. Eventually, the C drive will be full, fragmented, thrashing, and the SSD drive will break down.

We put a brand new 250GB SSD drive in place of his old broken down, and started installing Windows 7. I decided to try a Windows 7 with SP1 DVD – that worked fine with his original product key. That was the end of the good news.

First thing to do is Windows update… millions up critical updates I expected… except the only thing it updated was Windows update itself. After that, it got “stuck”. I tried numerous things like:

  • Waiting…
  • Someone suggested a proxy reset, or other network related problems.
  • Windows Update Troubleshooter (found 4 problems, fixed 3 of them). This is possibly the most retarded Windows tool I have seen. How would “working in the first place” be?
  • Some command line command to search for corrupted system files (there were none on this 1h young system and brand new hard drive).

After about two hours I thought enough is enough. Microsoft offers a free upgrade from 7 to 10, but not for my friend who had a legitimate Windows 7 key, with no way of getting to the point where upgrade to 10 is possible.

I believe Windows 7 (even with SP1) is just “too old and outdated” to successfully communicate with the Microsoft upgrade servers, and without some special knowledge it is impossible to get through.

Why is this Microsoft?

  • Are MS incapable of keeping old (but still supported) versions working?
  • Are MS intentionally breaking fresh Windows 7 installations to enforce Windows 10 migration?

In any way, it

  • Wastes peoples time.
  • Drives people to hacks and cracks to install software they already paid for.
  • Drives people to pay for something (Windows 10) that they should be able to upgrade to for free.

Anyway, while I spent several hours trying to install Windows 7 on his desktop, without much assistance he installed Xubuntu on his (Virus-sick Windows 8) laptop. And he was very happy with it.

In the end we installed Windows 10 on the desktop, and I think it is the only version of Windows currently worth installing (unless you have a server). That was, admittedly, a quite positive experience and it worked quite fine.

Visual Studio alternative folder – a joke?

I was thinking about installing Visual Studio 2013 Express… if nothing else to compile my program from my last post.

Well, 5.3Gb was not so bad, but I do not really want Visual Studio on my C drive, since:

  • C is an expensive SSD drive, that I want to avoid filling up
  • I am not going to use Visual Studio a lot, and it is fine for me if it is a little slower – can live on my Q-drive (an old IDE drive)
  • I am just going to use the command line tools that come with Visual Studio anyway, so I really don’t need to waste my SSD C-drive with 5.3 GB of dev tools

Perhaps my arguments are just stupid, but they make sense to me.

This is the funny dialog I got when installing…

VSExp2012

I mean, seriously??? I can change installation directory, which will move 1GB to the other drive, and keep over 4GB on C. Why did you even bother with an alternative install path, Micro$oft? Why does Windows support more than one hard drive at all?

Obviously there are other people being annoyed with this too. And there are ideas about using symlinks in Windows to solve the problem… but the problem is that a lot of those 4GB may go just everywhere on the C-drive anyway.

The people who design Windows are obviously retarded and Windows is a mess. I am not going to make my Windows gaming computer dirty by installing stupid Visual Studio on it. I remain happy to use Windows as little as possible.

This was annoying with my Nokia N8 that put plenty of stuff on the little C-partition that could not be moved to the big D-partion. But Windows 7 not being better than Symbian – come on?

How it is done right
For those of you who only ever used Windows, I will quickly explain how this is done right. You give the user the option of installing anywhere, in particular

  • Standard system path – so everyone can use it (c:\Program files)
  • Non standard path – so everyone can use it, but it does not get in the way for those who dont care (q:\extra\devtools)
  • The users home directory!

The last option obviously requires no admin rights whatsoever. This is very good, because you know for sure nothing is installed elsewhere.

For development tools, this has several advantages:

  • If installing the dev tools does not modify the system in any way, you can be sure that the programs you build behave the same way for your end user as they do for you – and with behave, I typically mean “work”
  • You can install several dev tools/versions side by side, and be sure they do not disturb each other or rely on each other
  • You can be sure that your system works just as it used to, even after you installed dev tools

Finally, I want to remind that even though dev tools (compilers, linkers, libraries, IDEs) are very advanced stuff… in the end of the day they only produce regular files; sequences of bytes. No privileged access is needed to produce a binary file! There is no magic about it.

It is not only unnecessary that Visual Studio installs itself in C – it is a suspicious behavior. Only bad things and bad practices can come from it.

Finally, clever software providers get this right! And Valve have ambitious Linux plans… just because they are clever.

Connect to Office Communicator/Lync with Pidgin

This is a post I have wanted to write for a very long time 😀

My company has an Office Communciator 2010 setup, and for a long time I have tried to connect to it with my (X)Ubuntu computer. Pidgin has not worked, and installing Office Communicator 2010 in Wine has not worked either. But now… the stars were obviously aligned, I was lucky to try the right configuration, or some update to the Office Communicator Plugin for Pidgin fixed something. Error messages from Pidgin are usually not very detailed or helpful.

My configuration:

  1. You need the pidgin-sipe package (Xubuntu 13.04)
  2. Username: my email address
  3. Login: username\domain
  4. Advanced:
  5. Server: set this one
  6. Connection Type: TCP
  7. Authentication Scheme: NTML

Of course, your OCS Server might be configured in a different way. But perhaps this is a little helpful to someone. The way I obtained the server address was to run the netstat command on a windows computer before and after starting and stopping the Office Communicator 2010 client.

Hard drive full of Steam DLC

As I am getting more and more DLC for Train Simulator 2013 my C-drive was getting full. Steam was installed there, c:\Program Files (x86)\Steam.

Moving stuff to another hard drive is not so easy in Windows, since there are no real symbolic links. I thought about getting a new (bigger) hard drive and migrating to it using backup/restore of entire Windows… felt like too much work.

Then I found this article about moving Steam to another location! Obviously, the Steam poeple are smart people! I moved Steam using this method from my 60GB SSD drive to and old internal IDE-drive I had available. It worked perfectly! The whole process took less than an hour and caused little problems; the Steam desktop shortcuts stopped working, and Steam does not auto-start now. Load times for Train Simulator 2013 increased 2x-3x, not as bad as I thought actually. Not sure if I will invest in a new SSD just for Steam.

Sid Meiers Railroads crashes

Like many other people, I found that Sid Meiers Railroads crashes (at least on Windows 7 x64). I downloaded the official 1.10 patch which did not help much. However, this modified binary seems to work for me.

Download and use at own risk.

Death of my SSD

My new SSD drive lasted about 6 weeks. It is the first one I ever bought (not counting the built-in one in my Eee 701). And I thought I had taken extra good care of it, not even using it for the pagefile.

If you run Windows 7, I recommend making a System Image Backup (Control Panel -> System and Security -> Backup And Restore) to a spare drive. When I did that I got the following error message:

The Backup Failed. New bad clusters were found on the source volume. These clusters were not backed up.

Before I ran the backup, I had noticed nothing suspicious about the drive. Now I checked the Windows Event log (System Log), and found Errors from Source=Disk, with ID=7.

Trying to fix
I tried to run chkdsk over and over again. First via right-clicking on c:, clicking Properties, Tools, and checking/fixing errors. I also tried running chkdsk /b from the command line. This reduced the number of errors in the event log down to one (when the computer started), but I could not get rid of the last error. The Image Backup kept failing. Days later I had several errors again. This made me definitely give up on the drive.

The Windows Backup Image
The Windows Backup Image feature is simple and nice. But as usual with Microsoft it is after all a half-crappy tool that works if you are lucky. I don’t like:

  • When the backup above failed, the tool anyway created a backup image. How am I supposed to know if I can use that backup or not?
  • When running the backup again, the tool obviously just read files/data that had changed, effectively avoiding the bad blocks. So when running again I did not even get an error, making me even more uncertain about the usability of the backup.
  • The recovery CD can only recover to a hard drive that is not smaller than the original hard drive. This applies even if the original backed-up Windows partition is smaller than the new drive. (I was afraid replacing my 128GB SSD with another brand/model 128GB SSD, because the new drive could very possibly be a few blocks smaller than the original one).

I recovered the system to an old non-SSD drive with success, but performance was so depressing.

New Drive
In the end I replaced my broken 128 GB OCZ Octane S2 with a 60GB Intel Series 520 drive. They were almost exactly the same price. I re-installed Windows from scratch. Online Windows Activation was OK this second time I used the same key – I did not have to call Microsoft and explain anything.

Conclusion
The performance of SSD on the system/root drive is fantastic. Booting and starting programs is so fast. I just could not go back to a normal drive. But I hesitate to store my own files on SSD, and I will think twice before getting a budget SSD drive again.

Recover scenarios to the new smaller drive
I will be honest and admit I never tried to restore the old system to my 60GB drive. My experience with not being able to restore to a smaller hard drive comes from another computer.

Intel has an SSD Toolbox, and I think it contains migration tools. Perhaps those tools could have handled the smaller (albeit large enough) destination Intel SSD drive.

There are ways to resize partitions, backup and restore them and make them bootable. But I did not trust the quality of my backup 100% (after all Windows said it failed). And I hesitate to use dd to write images to SSD drives.

Fixing the bad blocks?
Bad blocks are supposed to be more common on SSD drives than traditional drives, but firmware should handle it. I found no useful tools from the drive manufacturer, OCZ. My nice dealer allowed me to replace the drive after I explained that Windows failed to backup it, and chkdsk didn’t fix it.

Indications in Linux
I booted the Ubuntu 12.04 CD, and ran the following commands:

$ sudo md5sum /dev/sda
md5sum: /dev/sda: Input/output error
$ sudo badblocks -b 4096 -c 1024 -e 10 /dev/sdg
1312474
1312575
(and another 8 lines with bad blocks)

The system log or dmesg command gave more details.

Problem with Pagefile on second drive in Windows 7

My Windows 7 computer has 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD drive. I dont want to page on my SSD drive (because I believe it will shorten the life of it, and I dont believe in paging anyway), so I disabled paging. However, occationally Windows claimed it ran out of memory and killed my applications. I am very suspicious it really ran out of memory (4GB should have been plenty for what I did), but nevertheless it killed my applications.

I decided to install a second drive, an old rotating hard drive, that I assigned the drive letter b: and named backup. That is where I want my pagefile.sys (and some backups).

When configuring Windows the way I wanted, I got the error:
Windows created a temporary paging file on your computer because of a problem that occured with your paging file configuration when you started your computer. The total paging file size for all drives may be somewhat larger than the size you specified
.
What this really meant was that I got a pagefile on c: anyway. And the error message popped up every time i started my computer.

Like many other people who have written about similar problems, I tried all combinations of disabling and enabling pagefile for the different drives, but very very hard to get it the way I wanted.

Finally it worked – and as usual with Windows it is impossible to know what really made the difference. And I dont want to break the configuration just to fix it again to learn!

Anyway, these are things I did that MIGHT have had anything to do with it (perhaps it had to do with the stars or something):

  1. I renamed b: to q: (in case Windows 7 does not believe in paging on its second floppy drive) (Most Likely This One!)
  2. I first obtained a working configuration with pagefile on both c: and q:, both of them using an interval, none of them System managed
  3. I reduced c: in steps, first to 16-256, next to 16-16
  4. I finally effectively disabled pagefile on c: by setting “initial size”, to 0 (not by using No Pagefile)

I recommend that you change your folder view setting so you can see systems/hidden/protected files along the way.

Sometimes people say Windows is good. Sometimes I say, “well, yes, Windows 7 is ok, they got it right now”. But the truth is that Windows f***ing sucks. This reconfigure/reboot/pray-way of solving problems is so braindead. And it is impossible to learn or understand.

Remote Desktop & Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium seems to be the right version of Windows for home usage, right? I mean for media, gaming, communication and casual work. And it is the version MS ships with a PC you can buy in a store. Well, Microsoft believes that Remote Desktop (the server part) is not a Home Premium feature, but a Professional feature. I think there are plenty of home-related uses for Remote Desktop (supporting a relative remotely, sitting in the sofa with your tablet while controlling your PC, access your computer from work or when traveling).

The upgrade to Professional is 180 Euros, and requires some work. This is simply Microsoft making their products suck for their paying customers! I’d say people who buy a PC in a store really don’t have the choice to pick Professional or Ultimate. The wares people are probably smart enough to not bother with anything less than Ultimate.

Luckily, there is a simple hack for Home Premium, and this one works today (well, yesterday), despite SP1 and everything.

Windows 8 Developer Preview on Qemu

The Windows 8 Developer Preview installs easily on Qemu 0.14.1 on Ubuntu.

$ qemu-system-i386 -m 1024 -vga std -net nic -net user -cdrom w8.iso c.qcow2

Performance is… not good at all, but completely possible to get an impression of Windows 8 and Metro.

This is the x86 version – I have not completed the x64 version at this time. I will get back about the 64-bit version with developer tools.

Update: Well, the released version of Windows 8 is not very impressive. I think I lost my curiosity for WinRT for now. Perhaps my curiosity will awaken again, but for now I think my Windows 8 experimentation is over.

For those of you who want an idea… when you click “Start” to get the start menu, instead you get the full screen Metro interface where you start applications. And it starts with this Metro in full screen. And to get to the desktop, you start the Explorer application from the Metro interface. I think the start menu got larger in every version of Windows since NT4, and I never liked it. I don’t like it this time either.