Lucky number 7

Well, I was all excited last week when my Windows 7 Party pack arrived.  I figured a quick update of my Media PC and I’d be on my way.  My brother asked me on Thursday whether or not I had already updated my box but I was at a meeting on Thursday.  He said he’d just been a Windows 7 training session at Avnet and the average time to update was around 15 minutes so I shouldn’t have any problems.  I decided to put off the upgrade until Friday since I had some time while most of the family was at a marching band event.  I had 45 minutes to spare so it should be easy.

That’s when the fun began.  First, I started the update and it took FOREVER to complete.  Actually, it never did complete.  I left for my filming duties at the game and when I returned, the HDTV attached to my Media PC was blue (not the Windows Blue Screen of Death mind you, but no TV signal was coming to my set.)  After a few minutes the TV turned off (due to the lack of signal) so I shut the system off and rebooted.  Windows 7 obligingly rolled back the update and I was able to record Stargate Universe (albeit, I missed a few scenes and we picked up the repeat on SyFy channel at 11:00 PM).  Weird, but okay maybe I missed something.

I tried again in the morning and afternoon, with both failing.  Now I was 0-3 and scratching my head.  Rather than waste precious time waiting for the update to complete, I decided in the morning to watch “Supersize Me” during the update and in the afternoon, I watched “Citizen Kane” – Both were better than I expected.  At this time I was seriously considering CANCELING the Windows 7 party, even if I had to return the software to Microsoft.  After the third failed update, I thought, maybe there was a “blue screen of death” message that was just not being displayed to the big screen so I decided to borrow a VGA monitor and attach that during attempt #4.  That way, maybe I’d get some reason why the update was failing.  (Attempt #3 included a bootlog that somehow got lost so I didn’t have any diagnostic information.)  Anyways, wouldn’t you know it, but having the VGA monitor attached, the update completed successfully!  Windows 7 even fixed an audio problem I was having on HD stations!  It still took some 7 hours to complete, though.  I re-attached the HDTV and got no signal.  HUH?  Why was it working on the VGA monitor and not on the big screen?  I decided maybe the video drivers were incompatible with Windows 7 or needed to be updated.  That didn’t solve the problem either.  I interrupted Windows 7’s boot cycle (press F8 during boot up) and started in 640×480 mode and the big screen started displaying info.  At least there was something.  I tried a few times changing the video modes with no success so I changed video modes using the NVidia control panel rather than Windows 7’s control panel.  After 8 hours (actually more like 14 hours considering I started at 10:00 AM on Saturday morning), the system is finally working as expected.

I suspect that the bad video drivers were the ultimate culprit.  Without any way of visually seeing that the update was progressing, I assumed that the update had hung so that’s why I ended up killing the update when the screen went blue.  There was never really anything wrong with the update other than the screen turning off due to bad video drivers.  This was apparent when I had the VGA monitor attached.

Moral of the story: only update to Windows 7 if you have a regular VGA monitor attached or you’re sure you have the correct video drivers (I would still opt for the first option.)  It’s unlikely that many people will run into this particularly nasty bug, but hopefully this blog will point at least one person in the right direction.  Other than that, Windows 7 Media center is great and I love the new task bar.  The OS feels ‘snappier’ and nearly everything is as easy to use or easier than Vista was.  An additional bonus: Windows XP mode is available as an update to Windows 7 Ultimate so I might yet be able to play Myst 5 on the big screen (Myst 5 wouldn’t run under Vista but it should run under Windows XP in emulation on Win 7).

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