Thursday, January 13, 2011

Windows 7 Installation - First Try

I decided to install Windows 7.  I had previously written up my preferred Windows XP installation process.  This post updates that previous writeup for Windows 7.  It seemed likely that I would find additional helpful Win7 tweaks after using it for a while, so I considered this my first try.  The version I was installing was Win7 Ultimate.  My efforts as described here were fairly comprehensive -- I worked through lots of issues -- but also pretty disorganized.  The second try, I hoped, would be better.

I decided to get and use a 32-bit version of Win7.  I had tried a 64-bit version of Ubuntu and found that there were quite a few problems.  Even at the time of this writing, I was hearing some indications that reminded me that 64-bit Win7 and other 64-bit operating systems were still not established.  This was from the perspective of someone who usesd the computer for work, and a wide variety of general-purpose work functions at that, and not much for play.  I would have had a different opinion if I had different needs.  Presumably 64-bit had more speed.

I also decided to do a clean installation, completely overwriting the previous Windows XP installation.  Although I didn't look into it, it sounded like there might be some kind of "hard link" alternative.  I didn't explore it, so I was not sure if it was actually much easier than the fresh install option.  For upgrades from Vista, apparently there was an Upgrade Advisor that might have been helpful.

In my case, with my Gigabyte motherboard, the essential first step, before even completing the Win7 installation, was to install two motherboard drivers that were supposed to be installed from floppy disk.  I did not realize this.  A belated search led to one source who claimed that reinstallation was not necessary, but I had only just done the installation, and it had been pretty easy, so I decided it was easier to just reinstall than to follow his directions.

I started by downloading the current drivers from the motherboard manufacturer's website.  Gigabyte's website contained a link to DriverAgent, which did a free scan for missing drivers but then wanted to charge me a fee to download and install them. I decided to just get them from the Gigabyte site. I unzipped them, but to see and actually install their setup files, I had to make adjustments in Windows Explorer (Tools > Folder Options > View > unhide everything). I made other changes to the View tab while I was there. It had not changed much since Windows XP, so I used pretty much the same settings as before. (For details, go to the previous writeup and search for "Windows Explorer.")  The drivers unzipped automatically into separate folders.

It then occurred to me that possibly a complete reinstallation was not necessary.  I left my new but imperfect Windows 7 installation in place for the moment and rebooted from the Windows 7 DVD.  I clicked Next to get past the first Install Windows screen and chose the "Repair your computer" option. In the System Recovery Options dialog, I clicked on the Load Drivers button, inserted the CD containing the drivers, double-clicked on the file that was a "setup information" file type in the folder for the first driver, and clicked Add Drivers. I repeated those steps for the other driver. Evidently these steps loaded the drivers into memory.  Then I clicked Next and proceeded to the System Recovery Options dialog.  I clicked Startup Repair, but it could not detect a problem.  So I gave up on this approach and did the complete reinstallation.

Gigabyte's webpage said that the two drivers that had to be installed during Windows 7 installation would have to be installed from a floppy drive.  I did not have a floppy drive.  I burned the folders containing those drivers onto a CD.  Then I inserted the Windows 7 DVD and rebooted.  When the BIOS was loading, I got an option to press any key to boot from the DVD.  I did that.  This put me at the Install Windows screen.  I clicked Next > Install Now.  I took the custom installation option.  When I saw the question, "Where do you want to install Windows?" I clicked "Load Driver."  But after a minute, it came back with a message:

No device drivers were found. Make sure that the installation media contains the correct drivers, and then click OK.
One of these troublesome drivers was for a RAID array.  I had not actually set one up yet.  I unchecked the option that said, "Hide drivers that are not compatible with hardware on this computer," and then clicked Rescan. I still got the same message.  I wasn't sure what that meant regarding the quality of my download and the relevance of the drivers that Gigabyte's webpage had listed for my motherboard.  It appeared that I would be able to set up software RAID in Windows 7 regardless of my hardware, and that a hardware RAID array would have to be in place before I installed Windows.  As I was thinking this over, I came across a good article on RAID in Windows 7 that made me think that a Win7 software RAID array was actually better for my purposes anyway.  So at this point I bailed out of the attempt at reinstallation and just rebooted the Windows 7 installation that I had already set up.  I describe my actual RAID setup process in a separate post.

The other troublesome driver was for AHCI.  After installing the other drivers and rebooting, I got an option to set the BIOS to boot in AHCI mode.  Or something like that -- it had a short fuse and demanded a decision before I could really read what it was saying.  I went with the Yes option, I think, and that made Windows unable to run.  I had to reboot, hit Del to go into the BIOS, and look around to replace the AHCI option with the Native IDE option.  I then observed that, of course, the BIOS update had wiped out my settings, so I changed some other items while I was there.  Then I rebooted.

The next step was to install antivirus and firewall software.  I had always previously gone with free versions, most recently AVG.  For the moment, I decided to continue with AVG, but also looked into stronger alternatives, and on that basis, I thought I would eventually switch to F-Secure.

Next, updates.  I wanted to download them once and save them, so that I wouldn't have to re-download hundreds of megabytes' worth of updates and service packs every time I re-installed Windows 7.  But I had spent a lot of time taking the manual approach with Windows XP, it was hard to be sure of the right order to install them in, and it was a lot easier to just let the Windows Update site do it automatically.  I had already encountered an opportunity to set the downloads the way I wanted, which was to download but not install.  I preferred that because otherwise Windows XP, at least, would keep insisting on rebooting the system, until at some point that reminder would pop up right while I was in the middle of typing something and, presto! I would hit the wrong key and the system would reboot, taking all my work with it.  Unlike XP, Win7 wasn't showing me an icon in the system tray to indicate that it had downloaded updates and was waiting for a chance to install them.  It also didn't offer to do so when I clicked the Turn Off option to shut down the system.  But I could tell that it had downloaded updates because, when I did go to the Windows Update page, it didn't need to download anything; it just proceeded right into the installation of about 140MB worth of updates (counting those that weren't ready to install until after a reboot).

While updates were installing, I looked into user accounts.  For efficiency reasons, I had been running WinXP as administrator.  Microsoft said the user account would protect my computer by preventing users (me) from making changes that affect everyone who used the computer (me).  In other words, I decided to continue to do my work while logged in as administrator.  So before I installed programs that might configure themselves for individual user accounts, I did a search for how to delete my user account.  The advice I followed led me to the Control Panel, so at this point I decided to go ahead with the full Control Panel tour, which I had postponed until later when installed WinXP.

Ideally, I would have taken care of the accounts at this point.  But I didn't.  So some of the changes described below were made to my own personal account ("Ray"), and therefore had to be redone after I started up the Administrator account and deleted the Ray and Guest accounts.  Another thing that complicated that step of changing accounts was that I did not approach it through Control Panel.  I made the change in a different way, before looking at Control Panel > User Accounts.  So I was not sure what that User Accounts area would have looked like originally.

What actually happened was that I went ahead with the Control Panel tour (below), and toward the end of that process I discovered Ultimate Windows Tweaker (UWT), and used it to make some of the changes that I would have made through Control Panel.  UWT had some options that Control Panel did not have, but it also lacked some options that Control Panel.  It probably did not make much difference which came first, but in my own future installations I felt I would probably go through Control Panel first, and then run UWT, or possibly God Mode (below).

At any rate, I had to go into Control Panel > User Accounts (having switched, at the top right corner of Control Panel, from Category view to small icons), select the Ray account, and then click the "Delete the account" option.  There did not appear to be a way of deleting the Guest account, so I just left it turned off.  Then, to continue preparing for the Control Panel tour, I opened Internet Explorer and opened a separate tab for each webpage that I often checked in Internet Explorer (e.g., Hotmail).  Then, in Intenet Explorer, I went to Tools > Intenet Options > Home Page > Use current.

What I wanted, for this purpose, was to konw how to use the PowerShell ISE to create a set of modules for PowerShell that would do things (e.g., adding features) that otherwise I would have to do manually, by going into this menu and choosing that option, etc.  Why should so many of us spend so much time doing that sort of thing, when it was (in my understanding) entirely possible to use PowerShell commands, already installed in Win7, to share a set of commands that would do it all automatically, in one step?  But apparently I was misunderstanding something about this.  My search suggested that, while there were plenty of websites sharing Win7 tweaks, there were almost none sharing Win7 tweaks contained in PowerShell modules.

Registry edits were an alternative for some such tweaks.  My key sources for guidance, in these tweaks, included the massive collection of SevenForums tutorials and the How-To Geek list of registry hacks.  This was the point at which, in future installations, I would run Win7RegEdit.reg, a text file that I built up during the process of learning how to configure Win7.  Running it at this point, which I did not do, would have affected some of the other instructions shown below.  Before running it, I would need to adjust editing permissions for one branch of the registry.  Steps for that:  go into regedit, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID, right-click on CLSID, go tinto Permissions, highlight Administrators, click Allow Full Control, go into Advanced, check "Replace all child object permissions with inheritable permissions from this object."

Next, in Control Panel, at the top right corner, I switched from Category view to small icons.  Then, going down the list, I hit a number of other items.  These are shown here in alphabetical order as they appeared in Control Panel, but this order also happened to be important for a few of these items:
  • Action Center:  I had already set my Windows Update settings.
  • Administrative Tools:  in Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management, right-click on the CD-ROM drive (at the bottom) and change its drive letter to Y.  Then change other drive letters (after rebooting, if necessary) as needed.
  • AutoPlay:  turned off for all devices.  Defaults set to "Take no action" for all items except movies and videos.
  • Backup and Restore:  I had not had good luck with Windows System Restore.  I preferred Acronis True Image.  So I just verified that this option was turned off.
  • Folder Options:  finished setting items I had not already set (above).
  • Internet Options:  I went into Tools > General tab > Browsing history > Settings > Move folder to another drive. I also went to Tools > General tab > Tabs > Settings > adjust as desired. I went to Security tab > Custom Level > Scripting section (near the bottom) > Allow programmatic clipboard access > Enable.  Then I navigated to and played a video, so as to trigger the process of installing Adobe Flash Player.
  • Notification Area Icons:  Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar.
  • Personalization:  Windows Classic theme.  Window Color > Adjust at least Active Title Bar, Inactive Title Bar, Menu, and Desktop.
  • Power Options:  Show additional plans > High performance > Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings > Change settings that are currently unavailable > High performance > change individual items as desired > Apply.
  • Programs and Features:  Turn Windows features on or off > Make sure Indexing Service is off.
  • System:  Windows Activation > Activate.  System Protection > Hardware tab > Device Manager > verify are no yellow-circle exclamation marks.  Hardware tab > Device Installation Settings > Yes, do this automatically.  Advanced tab > Performance > Settings > Advanced > Change > Uncheck automatically manage paging file size for all drivers; instead, set a paging file of 4000-8000 MB (or more) on each hard drive.  System Protection tab > Configure > adjust Disk Space Usage as needed.
  • Taskbar and Start Menu:  Start Menu tab > Customize.  Adjust various items to taste.  Turn on Run command.  Save and close.
  • User Accounts:  see above.  When the dust settled, I had only the Administrator account here.
  • Windows Defender:  turn on.
  • Windows Update:  after installing desired updates, highlight all unwanted updates (e.g., foreign language packs, right-click, and select "Hide updates."  
For purposes of doing these tweaks, UWT (above) was not the only consolidated alternative to Control Panel.  Another was God Mode.  Apparently this was just originally going to be an All Tasks folder in Win7, but Microsoft didn't include it in the final version, and bloggers gave it the God Mode name.  It seems there were actually a number of different subcollections of tweaks which, at brief glance, didn't look like they added much to UWT for my purposes.  What I decided to do with this was to create a Start Menu entry for an All Tasks folder.  The full folder name was long, so I parked it further down in the Programs listing within the Start Menu (below), and just put a shortcut to it at the top level of the Start Menu.  To automate part of that last step, I wrote a command for a DOS batch file. That batch file (Win7NewInstall.bat) eventually came to have other lines as well.

In the past, I had overlooked some Control Panel items that would have been useful.  So in that God Mode (what I called the All Control Panel Options) folder, I hit Ctrl-A (i.e., I selected everything) and then right-clicked and said "Create shortcut."  This put 276 shortcuts on my desktop.  I moved them to a folder, where I could see their full names.  I deleted those that I didn't think I would need.  I moved a bunch of them to a folder for items that I would run only when installing a new system.  I put the rest in other categories, and moved them to relevant places in my Start Menu.  This was an alternative to the approach of removing or hiding unwanted items in Control Panel.  With these steps, I hoped to be able to do without Control Panel, but it was still there unchanged for purposes of following steps advised by others.

I had worked out a customized Start Menu, with several advantages.  Another post describes the process of making that work in Win7.

Something else that I should have done early in the process was to map my network drives.  The problem was, I was simultaneously doing some hardware changes.  I had a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) unit, but for performance reasons I wanted to change to some other arrangement.  I needed to get that other arrangement in place first -- actually, before proceeding with this installation -- or at least I needed to know which drives would be where, because of course when I mapped them I would assign them drive letters, and aspects of this installation would be looking for those letters.  So I took a detour, during this installation, to figure out that part of my hardware arrangement. 

The next task was to customize Windows Explorer.  It looked like I was stuck with the new menu bar that Microsoft added at the top, unless I wanted to risk seriously screwing up the system.  I wondered if there was a good alternative to WinExp.  When I started looking around, I saw statements that resonated with my experience regarding WinExp's slowness.  It developed that there were a bunch of alternatives.  I prepared a separate post leading to my conclusions in that area.  Basically, I decided to start with Total Commander and see if I liked it.  Of course, I could still use Windows Explorer regardless.  This somewhat took the fire out of my interest in more Windows Explorer tweaks.

Other Tweaks

Early in the process, I installed Google Chrome.  I had to.  It was impossible to get anything done in Internet Explorer, especially in terms of looking at lots of different webpages providing advice on how to solve problems.  Within Chrome Extensions, I installed Webpage Decorator.  The reason for this extension was to make it easier to see which links in Google searches I had already visited.  Their colors were almost identical in Chrome originally.  After installing it, I clicked its newly installed icon (at the right end of the Chrome search bar) and made the colors of links and visited links more clearly distinct.

I got an uninvited item on the taskbar saying, "Welcome to Windows Media Player."  I went through a custom installation, making it the default player for the time being.  Then I unpinned the icon from the taskbar.

Also, from almost the beginning, Windows Defender would give me an error message at startup:  "Service has stopped.  A problem caused this program's service to stop.  To start the service, click the Start now button or restart your computer."  I searched for a solution and noticed lots of posts on how to uninstall or disable Windows Defender.  I looked into that.  While Windows Defender appeared to be antispyware that ordinarily performed a valid function, it was also no different than other antispyware.  Apparently this problem could be caused by conflicts with other antivirus software (e.g., McAfee).  I originally thought Windows Defender kept being turned off after I turned it on because I had disabled UAC; apparently Windows Defender was related to that.  Ordinarily, to turn it off, I would go to Control Panel > Windows Defender > Turn it on > Tools > Options > Administrator > uncheck > Save.  This would still produce the error, "This program is turned off."  In another approach, I tried running services.msc and selecting Disabled as the Startup type under Windows Defender (right-click > Properties).  But that, too, left me with a reminder to turn on Windows Defender on startup.  Anyway, this approach of trying to shut Windows Defender up was not working.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  I went back to services.msc and set it to Automatic; I went into Control Panel and uninstalled AVG antivirus; and I downloaded and installed Microsoft Security Essentials.  I planned to upgrade to better antivirus software later, but hoped that this would reduce conflicts for the short term.


By this point, it was time to start over again.  The reason was that this installation had somehow acquired a networking problem that I just could not fix. The reinstallation is described in another post.