posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2009 20:19 UTC
IconNow that Windows 7 has been out and about for a while, the first balance sheets regarding its success start popping up. Consumer helpdesk firm iYogi surveyed 100000 of their customers, and the results of that test paint a relatively positive picture for Microsoft's latest operating system release - but one problem point sticks out like a big eye sore.

Thirty one percent of the people experiencing problems with Windows 7 report problems upgrading to the operating system. The second biggest group, 26%, stated they were confused what happened to programs like Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Photo Gallery after the upgrade. As most of you will know, Microsoft decided to remove these from Windows, having users download them via Live instead. There were other issues too, such as people realising the Aero theme isn't running (14%) or that their DVD drive isn't working (8%).

So far, these first four problems - the top four identified by iYogi - seem to be related to upgrading or fresh installations. They are unlikely to occur when buying an OEM machine, since those will have been tested to work. The good news for Microsoft here is that more than 95% of Windows sales are new machines, meaning that these problems only affect a very small group. There's bad news here too, which I'll cover in a second.

First, let me complete the list. The rest of the list are issues that do not seem to be related to upgrading or fresh installations. Six percent of the people surveyed by iYogi found hidden file extensions problematic, while another six percent mentioned minidumps. Aero Snap (3%) and the iPhone (2%) proved problematic too, while 2% also noted that custom icons disappeared when changing icon themes. Lastly, 1% noted problems with the new taskbar.

I mentioned the good news - the bad news here is of course that it is appalling that upgrading the world's most popular desktop operating system can be so problematic. We as geeks probably never upgrade to a new Windows release at all, instead opting to follow what common sense dictates: new Windows release? Clean install!

I think we can all agree that when it comes to seamless upgrades to new releases, Apple is the undisputed king. I've upgraded countless Macs from one release of the Mac OS to another, and they've all been mostly smooth sailing. Problems do occur, of course, but they are usually cases where a clear culprit can be pinpointed. In Windows, there's really no specific issue - it's problematic all over the place.

Linux distributions generally do a better job than Windows in theory, but the reports of Linux installations not working any more after a dist-upgrade - rpm or deb-based - are countless. In fact, I've never had an upgrade of Ubuntu succeed, and RPM distributions have given me nothing but grief too. Anecdotall, yes, but anyone who ever dared to browse Linux forums after a new Ubuntu release knows that the upgrade process is anything but smooth sailing for a lot of people. The release of 9.10 left countless people with Intel video chips with non-working machines.

Overall though, both Linux and Mac OS X generally do a much better job at upgrading, and I'm hoping that the cleaning of Windows is not only going on in the trenches, but higher up the stack as well. Maybe we might, one day, be able to cease proclaiming that ancient geek wisdom: new Windows release? Clean install!

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