Posted by: reformedmusings | January 11, 2009

Windows 7 Beta 1 Installation

Yep, I’m a die-hard Linux guy. Been that way since the draconian DRM in Vista came to light. Oh, and Vista’s poor driver support, crashes, and absurd pricing for the privilege. Haven’t looked back. But…I still like to play with new stuff. When I saw on the ZDNet blogs that Windows 7 Beta 1 was available, I decided to give it a shot under VMWorkstation. Besides, I’m just watching Arizona beat the tar out of Carolina, so the ‘puter doesn’t have much else to do.

Microsoft is making 2.5 million keys available for this beta, which seems like a lot. But, it never hurts to get in early. Well, except for the overloaded servers. neowin has some great hints on where to download and how to get the activation keys. I followed their instructions and had no problems. Be prepared to be patient because the servers are busy and the 32-bit download is 2.4 GB, 64-bit is something like 3.6 GB (can’t remember). You read that right, we’re firmly into DVD territory. I used the Akamai Java download manager because the straight download stalled at around 17%. Akamai worked great.

Quick plug here for Comcast. I’m supposed to have 6 Mbps with a 12 Mbps boost for the initial part of a download. However, the download rate for the Windows 7 DVD iso consistently bounced around 2 MBps, occasional peaks to 2.6 MBps. Since Mb = MB x 8, that amounts to 16 Mbps download. Hmmm. Another unexpected bonus? I have my share of cable HDTV problems, but I just can’t leave this Internet service.

Anyway, I used VMWorkstation 6.5’s Wizard to create the virtual machine. Once I pointed it to the Windows 7 iso image, it decided that it was Vista and set all the correct minimums: 16 GB disk space, 1 GB RAM, and DirectX 9. Installation proceeded smoothly. Here are some screenshots (click on the thumbnails to see larger versions):

win7b1-install1

Initial loading

win7b1-intall2

After first restart

Starting the services

Starting the services

Completing the installation

Completing the installation

Preparing for first use after 2nd reset

Preparing for first use

Preparing the desktop

Preparing the desktop

At last, a login screen

At last, a login screen

After logging in, a wizard helps  setup your local network. This is the second wizard screen:

Home network setup

Home network setup

Windows 7 did all the heavy lifting, only asking for the type of network (home/work) and you sharing desires. Documents was the only box not checked by default. It had no problem picking up the virtual network. After all this, you finally get to the default desktop:

Windows 7 default desktop

Windows 7 default desktop

Nice fish. I believe that it’s a Betta Splendens, also known as a Siamese Fighting Fish.

So, how long did all this take? Not that long, actually. From DVD load to the first reset was 12 minutes, then another 5 minutes to the next reset, then 6 minutes to the last reset, and another 3 minutes to finish. Total installation time was 26 minutes, but remember that this is from an iso image on the hard drive. It would probably take significantly longer off of a DVD. It was very disk intensive, as the temperature of my hard drives went from 35C to 37C, the highest I’ve ever seen them. In contrast, Ubuntu Linux installs in about 10 minutes from a CD and only needs one restart. But rather than a naked system, Ubuntu installs a host of utilities and a full office suite.

After installation, the Action Center (the icon in the System Tray with the red ‘x’ on it) comes up with two messages. One asks you to set the rules for Windows Updates. The other warns that you have no anti-virus installed. The latter offers to take you to a site to pick an AV program. I didn’t bother with that for now.

As usual, you can see a summary of your system information. As you can see, Windows 7 correctly detected the parameters of the virtual machine:

Basic system information

Basic system information

The operating system occupied 8.65 GB out of the 16 GB available on the virtual hard drive:

win7b1-disksp

UPDATE (1/27/2009): I pulled accurate Ubuntu resource usage from a VM with a fresh install.

A relatively fresh Ubuntu 8.10 system setup, which is fully loaded with office and graphics software, only occupies 2.9 GB.

Task Manager’s Performance tab shows 390 MB of RAM used out of 1 GB for a totally naked Windows 7 system. Vista weighs in at between 500 and 600 MB depending on who you believe. A bare Ubuntu 8.10 setup uses 149 MB of RAM. You can get a detailed picture of Windows 7’s situation with the Resource Monitor:

Windows 7 Resource Monitor

Windows 7 Resource Monitor

Then, of course, there is the lovely reminder of the user’s status as a vassal in the Microsoft empire – activation:

Vassels must prove they've paid their fealty to the empire

Vassals must prove they've paid their fealty to the empire

In this case, VMWorkstation automatically fed the key to the activation routine for me. All I had to do was start the process by clicking on the link at the bottom of the system information window. If the empire decides that you have proved worthy, then you get the Microsoft stamp of approval:

The empire has smiled upon a lowly vassal

The empire has smiled upon a lowly vassal

Was all copacetic in the realm? Nope. This is a beta after all. Although to be fair, I think that Windows 7 confused VMWare Tools when I tried to install it in the virtual machine the first time. The net result apparently wasn’t pretty. When trying to go to the advanced setup in Windows 7 after that attempt, I saw my first Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) after just 15 minutes of system use:

win7b1-errorbox

After this, the system would not boot, period. Oops. But, all was not lost. After the second failed boot attempt, Windows offered to diagnose and fix the boot problem with Startup Repair. First it presented an initial choice of how to proceed:

Oops, boot failure!

Oops, boot failure!

After telling Windows 7 to launch Startup Repair, it “boots” into the Startup Repair screen:

Attempting to restore boot capability

Attempting to restore boot capability

It then offered to roll back the installation to a previously known good state, i.e., a Restore Point, which it did:

Go back to a known good configuration

Go back to a known good configuration

It took a few minutes, but eventually it wanted to restart the system:

All done

All done

After that everything worked fine, but I had to reinstall VMWare Tools (which seemed to work normally this time) and reestablish my video settings. This seems like a nice improvement of the old “you’re on your own” approach. I didn’t need the Windows 7 DVD for the repair, and Windows initiated it on its own when it saw the problem. Kudos to Microsoft on taking a non-automatic feature in Vista and making more proactive and user friendly in Windows 7.

Windows 7 Beta 1 has a nasty tendency to trash MP3 files. There is a fix for this under Microsoft KB961367. Window Update apparently doesn’t know about this fix yet, so you’ll have to download and install the patch manually. Updating Defender signatures was the only thing that Windows Update did on its first run.

I did start up Internet Explorer 8, beta 2, and went through the usual setup screens for it. You are offered the chance to use the default Microsoft Search, Live, MSN, etc., or to choose real web services. The “Accelerators” (dictionary, map, translation, mail links) are also offered up. No problems there. I’ve used IE8b2 a bit on a Windows XP virtual machine with no real issues, and also compared it to Firefox 3.01. I installed SilverLight as well, but haven’t had a chance to mess with it yet.

I haven’t had much of a chance to play with the new operating system yet. I’ve seen people complain about the Search box, but I actually found it handy. It’s not a no-brainer, but techniques that you picked up for getting the most out of Internet search engines also seem to work in the Windows 7 search box.

Windows 7 performance in the virtual machine seems fine. I haven’t noticed much difference from Windows XP, except that Windows 7 seems to boot faster. Then again, I don’t have a lot of stuff loaded in the System Tray yet. I’m sure that I’ll manage to bog it down eventually. I won’t bother getting specific numbers in the virtual machine, though, as they wouldn’t accurately reflect those for a native installation.

I’ll be looking at the beta in more detail in the coming week. Stay tuned!

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Responses

  1. […] I covered the Windows 7 Ultimate Beta 1 installation into WMWorkstation 6.5 in this post, along with some data on Windows 7 resource usage. In the next series of posts, I’ll check […]

  2. […] My installation of the Windows 7 beta 1 took 8.65 GB of hard drive space and 390 MB of RAM upon initial boot with nothing else loaded or running. That means no office software, no graphics programs, etc. The RAM usage will balloon as you install the required multiple anti-spyware and anti-virus software, and the disk space swell rapidly as you add the bloated MS Office Pro suite and huge graphic-editing programs. I will be loading some of this stuff shortly as I determine their Windows 7 compatibility. The 32-bit Windows 7 Ultimate installation DVD iso file runs 2.4 GB, so you definitely need that DVD-ROM on your box. […]

  3. […] installation weighed in at only 7.3 GB of hard disk space vice 8.65 GB for the original beta build 7000. Initial memory use pegged at 452 MB against the original’s 390 MB. Hmmm, going in the wrong […]


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