Windows

Upgrade path to Windows 7 RC from the Windows 7 beta release

IT pro Brad Bird tells you how to upgrade from the Windows 7 beta release directly to the Windows 7 Release Candidate. Although not supported by Microsoft, the method works if you choose not to go with a clean install.

Microsoft does not officially support upgrading from Windows 7 beta to RC. As a company, they decided that the market who downloads and installs the bate releases are mostly technical and can reinstall an operating system fairly easily. To this end, no effort was made focusing on the upgrade path.

I blogged about this some time ago, and there is an official statement from Microsoft to back this up. As with most aspects in this business, not supported does not mean impossible.

There are two ways to handle installing the Windows 7 RC. The first way is a new install. To retain all your user settings, you would leverage the User State Migration Tool (USMT) from Microsoft. The second way, which I will focus on, is upgrading from the Beta.

You can upgrade to Windows 7 RC straight from Vista; there is no issue there. What I will demonstrate is how to accomplish this from the Windows 7 Beta release, which is not supported by Microsoft.

First, you will want to back up your system. There is the Complete PC Backup utility already loaded in Windows 7, which allows creation of an image or "bare metal" based system backup.

Next, you will want to prepare a USB flash device to boot the Windows 7 media for your install. This is practical from a loading speed standpoint but also necessary. It is necessary because the Windows 7 RC is available as an ISO image, which you cannot rewrite to. Copying the install media to a rewritable location allows you to modify the MinClient build number in the \sources\cversion.ini file to some value lower than the down level build (for example, change 7100 to 7000). (See Figure A.)

Figure B shows the message before modifying the cversion.ini file.

Figure C shows the message after modifying the cversion.ini file.

To create a bootable Window 7 USB stick, follow the instructions in the linked blog with one addition: Note: You need to run the Command Prompt as Administrator when you are making the flash drive bootable or you will receive an Access Denied error.

Understandably, the upgrade process takes much longer than a straight install. This is because of all the settings and data to be migrated. Behold, success!

Figure D

Just to be clear: This process is not supported by Microsoft, but as you can see, it works nicely!

What are your plans for Windows 7?

About

Brad Bird is a lead technical consultant and MCT certified trainer based in Ottawa, ON. He works with large organizations, helping them architect, implement, configure, and customize System Center technologies, integrating them into their business pr...

16 comments
david
david

How do i do this? Copying the install media to a rewritable location allows you to modify the MinClient build number in the \sources\cversion.ini file to some value lower than the down level build (for example, change 7100 to 7000). how do we write the iso file and then where is the ini file?

brad
brad

Use the ISO file to burn to a DVD or use some software likw virtual clonedrive which allows you to mount an ISO file as if it were a drive on your PC. Then, copy the contents to a USB key or some other re-writeable media. To make the media bootable, use the steps in the link that I referenced.

brian
brian

WinRAR opens ISO files. Can you just use that to extract it, instead of burning and then copying?

Agent 77
Agent 77

For some reason, flash drives don't boot on some systems..... This scenario works as well as the outlined steps but just off the DVD media.... Just extract the contents of the ISO, change the cversion.ini file, and rebuild the iso using the files you extracted. BRILLIANT!!!!!!

brad
brad

The principle behind using WinRAR to read the contents of the ISO file is the same as mouting the file as if it were a DVD. This should work just fine.

bmaunde
bmaunde

This is a good development considering the fact that installing and re-installing programs can be a very tiresome and too-involving thing besides it negatively impacting production. But Microsoft has the advice that its better to make a clean installation rather than upgrading. I think i wouyld go by this advice except in cases where the beta is installed on machines that could impact productivity.

brian
brian

Don't really want to be evaluating an RC that's gone through a questionable install. I've heard of some features whose data is incompatible between the beta and RC. BitLocker I think? (I don't use it, so I forget the name easy.) Does anyone know, will there be a supported upgrade path from the RC to the final release, when the RC expires?

brad
brad

The grapevine has said that the path will be like it is currently. No upgrade path from beta, or RC to RTM release... This procedure will likely work again :)

brian
brian

I've been suggesting to some people trying to build powerhouse machines on tiny budgets to install the Windows 7 RC for now, putting off the OS purchase for a year. (The same people also have a horrible prejudice against Vista, partly due to some bad I.T. misconfiguration on their work machines, so it's that or XP64... And I'll have to install it.) Guess they'll just have to put up with a couple days of computer work in the future in exchange for the $150-ish of savings now.

reisen55
reisen55

This is how insane Microsoft has made us. Beta products are test beds only, and really have little real world use beyond that. They are generally lousy too. But now we are considering procedures and protocols to upgrade beta to beta. WE HAVE ENOUGH TROUBLES WITH REAL FIELD RELEASE SOFTWARE F'CRISSAKE.

tep0583
tep0583

The only PCs I'm installing Windows 7 are for Windows 7 testing/evaluation, so I really need to see what the potential issues will be. For this purpose, it really seems to me that a clean load has to be the way to go in order to separate real issues from ones caused by doing an ill-advised and unsupported upgrade. The Beta gave me little trouble and thus far the RC has been very solid. I've noticed a lot of improvements over the Beta, mostly in interface in navigation. Most of the issues were minor annoyances, but I did have a recurring blue screen that was being triggered by Ultra VNC or something else video-related that seems to have been eradicated entirely. Totally agree, a "clean" install is the way to go here. Yes, its annoying to migrate data and settings, but I went into the Beta knowing that I'd have to do it eventually.

brian
brian

was something like "Hey Microsoft says you shouldn't do this, but we did find out this hackish way if you really need to."

alexri
alexri

Procedures? Uuh mate, obviously this isn't enterprise standard stuff, and businesses should not EVER consider using beta/RC OS or even applications. This Item had been released on the Windows 7 blog a long time ago where most of the page the Microsofty explained that upgrading from beta -> RC is just a BAD IDEA. Which is also plenty emphasised in this article. It's good to see that it's being more wide-spread. Please consider the audience before you start to flick the capslock switch.

brad
brad

EAP (Early Adopter Program) customers do install beta software in production. Some people do this. Also, true enough the point was made by MS. I referenced it in the article with the source. I felt the upgrade process was important enough to share. I also believe that I mentionned: A) backup first B) Not supported officially I am using the process myself (eating my own dog food as it were...). No issues to date.

brian
brian

Well I've managed to get most things working in Vista (Finally) so I guess I shouldn't bash it anymore. I just liked the interface improvements in the Windows 7 Beta so much, that the only reason I'm not using it as a primary OS is a little GPU driver dual-screening bug that's probably nVidia's fault. (little, but serious... BSOD) Now the thing stopping me moving to the RC permanently (well until it expires) is that I've got Vista all set up now. :(

brad
brad

Hey there brian. There is no issue going from Vista to Windows 7. While in Vista, load the CD and run setup. The upgrade should be seemless. Any known issues with the upgrade will be outlined. As seen in my article, there is an issue with VSERVER 2005 R2. I also originally had an issue upgrading to windows 7 beta 1 from Vista with Skype and needed to install a new version. For the most part, what works in Vista, will work in Windows 7. This includes drivers if any are missing... :)

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