Windows 7 beta testers - get ready for a wipe and reload

The latest post on Microsoft's Engineering Windows 7 blog outlines what existing Windows 7 beta testers will have to do in order to be able upgrade to the release candidate. Two words: Clean install.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

The latest post on Microsoft's Engineering Windows 7 blog outlines what existing Windows 7 beta testers will have to do in order to be able upgrade to the release candidate.

Two words: Clean install.

We’ve also learned that many of you (millions) are running Windows 7 Beta full time. You’re anxious for a refresh. You’ve installed all your applications. You’ve configured and customized the system. You would love to get the RC and quickly upgrade to it from Beta. The RC, however, is about getting breadth coverage to validate the product in real-world scenarios. As a result, we want to encourage you to revert to a Vista image and upgrade or to do a clean install, rather than upgrade the existing Beta.  We know that means reinstalling, recustomizing, reconfiguring, and so on.  That is a real pain.  The reality is that upgrading from one pre-release build to another is not a scenario we want to focus on because it is not something real-world customers will experience. During development we introduce changes in the product (under the hood) that aren’t always compatible with what we call “build-to-build” upgrade.  The supported upgrade scenario is from Windows Vista to Windows 7. [emphasis added]

This was to be expected. After all, given all the changes since the Beta 1 build and the RC build, it's unrealistic to expect to be able to upgrade and guarantee no problems. However, given that the Beta 1 build was released early January, and it's now early April, beta testers have had three months to set up their systems and get comfortable. Back when Vista was being beta tested, testers had access to new builds regularly, so test systems were always in a state of flux.

However, if you really want to avoid carrying out a clean install, Microsoft has offered a workaround:

  1. Download the ISO as you did previously and burn the ISO to a DVD.
  2. Copy the whole image to a storage location you wish to run the upgrade from (a bootable flash drive or a directory on any partition on the machine running the pre-release build).
  3. Browse to the sources directory.
  4. Open the file cversion.ini in a text editor like Notepad.
  5. Modify the MinClient build number to a value lower than the down-level build. For example, change 7100 to 7000 (pictured below).
  6. Save the file in place with the same name.
  7. Run setup like you would normally from this modified copy of the image and the version check will be bypassed.

Personally, I wouldn't do this because there's a good chance that you'll end up having to do a clean install anyway.

It's also worth repeating Microsoft's warnings on playing it safe:

ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR MACHINE before running any OS installation and NEVER TEST AN OS ON YOUR ONLY COPY OF ANY DATA. Testing a pre-release product means just that—it is testing and it is pre-release. Even though this is a Release Candidate, we are still testing the product. We have very high confidence but even if an error happens once in 1,000,000 we want to make sure everyone is taking the precautions normal for a pre-release product.

Good medicine.

Windows 7 beta testers aren't the only ones who will find themselves having to carry out a clean install in order to go up to the release candidate (or final release) of Windows 7. XP users will also find themselves unable to upgrade.

Speaking of the real world, many have asked about upgrading from Windows XP. There's no change here to the plan as has been discussed on many forums.  We realized at the start of this project that the “upgrade” from XP would not be an experience we think would yield the best results. There are simply too many changes in how PCs have been configured (applets, hardware support, driver model, etc.) that having all of that support carry forth to Windows 7 would not be nearly as high quality as a clean install.

So if you gave Vista a miss and hoped that Windows 7 would be an easy upgrade, you're outta luck. That said, I've never found upgrading to be the easy option in the long run and nothing beats a clean install.

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