Moving to Windows 7 x64 for Developers

I recently purchased and installed a new boot SSD, and rather than worry about copying my installation, I decided to get Windows 7; and further; to move to 64 bit. I had actually previously purchased a 64 bit version of Vista, but been baffled by an issue with lack of support for VPN 64-bit software by Cisco, so I ended up overwriting it with a 32 bit install.

I purchased the Ultimate edition of Windows 7, so this gave me both 32 and 64-bit install disks in case I experienced the same issue again; but fortunately this time I had strong reason to believe that there was an alternative VPN software out there by Shrewsoft.

Installation Freeze

Before I could get to be concerned about VPN’s, however, I had to install Windows; and that was not as straight-forward as it ought to have been.

The initial phases of the installation went very smoothly and quickly, but after a few minutes the installer seemed to hang at the point it said it was “Completing Installation”. Fortunately, I managed to find this page, which had the fix on. I’m going to paraphrase, because I believe I picked different options on my ‘failing’ install, so:
When you get to the point of the installation where you select where you want to install Windows 7, select the new disk drive, and DO NOT just hit “Format”, select “Delete” (if it is not a new disk) then “Allocate”

It will then create 2 partitions.:

  • Par 1 – Will be called “System Allocated” and only be 100mb ( This was the key )
  • Par 2 – Will be your new OS volume – (You can also just leave the area “Unallocated” and click “Next” ). [In fact, I had originally allocated this partition, and still got the problem, it was leaving it unallocated that did the trick!]

If you read all the comments on the post linked to above, you will see that ‘lazuline’ found that suggested: “Hey, I got past the hanging at “completing install” by pressing shift+f10 and the typing “explorer.exe”. it started loading some settings and then froze with the screen saying “restarting computer”. But when i hard reset my computer, it booted into setting up a user account!” I had tried this option first, but something about the failure to restart by Windows etc was a bad sign, and I decided to go back to the fresh install option outlined above.
It seems crazy that a clean Windows install on a clean disk presented such issues, but this is the joy of computing these days!

VPN

As I noted previously, the lack of a Cisco VPN for x64 was a frustration; and frankly a little baffling. Various web research suggests that they do actually have a product that supports 64-bit clients, but getting information on it was a struggle. Fortunately, I found a Rackspace (the hosting company my client uses) support article on Shrewsoft VPN, and following those instructions really helped.

Shrewosft VPN has been working like a dream (I have version 2.15 which seems to be the first integrated version to support WIndows 7 and 64 bit together), and I recommend it for my needs anyway (connecting to Rackspace-hosted Cisco VPN’s.)

Subversion

We use a Subversion source code control repository at work, and I knew that I would need to install Tortoise Windows Client on my machine. Without thinking, I installed an old download, and as it did not complain, thought I was set to go. Regrettably, my usual overlay icons did not appear in Explorer on files that ought to have shown as linking to subversion, nor any of the right-click Tortoise commands. Later, meanwhile, when viewed through a Visual Studio file-open dialog, I could see the icons on the same folder structure!

It turns out that Windows 7 has two different explorers: one 32-bit and one 64-bit, and Tortoise installs can only integrate with the relevent bittiness. So, off to find the 64-bit install of Tortoise. This should not have presented any issues, but it turns out that later versions of the client software require particular versions of the Subversion server… and we do not have that later version!

Thus far I have not managed to resolve this issue; obviously I will endeavour to get my employer to upgrade the subversion server, but we will have to wait and see what happens.

Visual Studio 2008 and Sql Server 2008

I found installs of both these tools to be fine, but felt especially slow on the SP1 updates.

Was it Worth It?

There is little point in me reviewing Windows 7 considering it has been out for months. It interestingly rates my computer as much faster than it was – it went from 5.9 to 7.3, yet the only things I changed were the boot drive (from WD Raptor to Intel SSD). It seems possible that moving to 64 bit might speed up the CPU a little, but it would seem strange to me that it would be an across-the-board improvement. So perhaps they have cheekily changed the rating system?

Moving to a smaller boot disk (from 300GB to 160GB) was certainly worthwhile doing a clean install (i.e. I didn’t try to copy my existing drive across), and that too was well-worthwhile because it’s always so lovely to get a slightly cleaner boot and start-menu experience.

Otherwise, I am happy with the upgrade so far; I can see all my 4GB of memory for a change, and when I see software like Photoshop install in a 64-bit mode, I know that will be faster which will be great! Getting the subversion issue sorted will be necessary for it not to be a hassle.

Update 09/04/2010: I did get Tortoise x64 to work in the end. I used version 1.5.9 which I either missed previously, or was fooled into thinking required a later version of the server than we have. Overlay-icons still do not appear sometimes (this is icons not appearing at all, not the wrong overlay icons appearing) but at least the integration is there.

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