Windows 7 upgrade paralyzes some PCs with endless reboots

'I am stuck in limbo,' says user; Microsoft investigating

Some users trying to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 have seen their PCs crippled by an endless series of reboots, according to reports on Microsoft's support forum.

A Microsoft engineer writing on the same forum said the company was investigating users' problems, but downplayed them as "isolated issues."

Users began posting messages about the endless reboots Friday, saying that the Windows 7 installation would hang two-thirds through the upgrade. They reported a message on their machines that claimed the upgrade had been unsuccessful and that Vista would be restored. Instead, their PCs again booted to the Windows 7 setup process, failed, then restarted the cycle.

"My upgrade failed in [the] last step," said a user identified as "Manjigani" in a thread titled "Windows 7 -- Install Message -- Upgrade Unsuccessful" on the Windows 7 support forum. "And now it is in continuous loop. I let it run overnight hoping that it will fix itself, but no luck. I am stuck in limbo."

"All the promises of stability and simplicity, and now there are so many problems with installation," bemoaned another used, "Derrty," on the same thread. "I can't even access my laptop nor do I have the ability to roll my system back to Vista. All indications are the install removed any trace of Vista."

Other than trying to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, there did not seem to be any common characteristics of the computers or the users' actions. Some said that they had purchased a Windows 7 upgrade electronically from Microsoft's online store, others said they had downloaded the upgrade from Digital River, the Minneapolis-based company that fulfills Microsoft's $29.99 offer to college students, while still others said they had bought a retail copy of the new operating system at stores like Best Buy.

Users vented their rage online in scores of messages.

"How on earth is Windows 7 so poorly manufactured that there even NEEDS to be a solution to installation issues?" asked "Chimaera717," who later reported receiving a marketing message from Microsoft while struggling with the endless reboots. "I just got an e-mail from Windows, titled 'Windows 7: Your PC, Simplified.' I really want to e-mail them back and say 'Windows 7: My PC, Crippled'."

Microsoft support engineers entered the thread Sunday, asking for information from affected users, such as the version of Vista running before the Windows 7 upgrade attempt, and what, if any, antivirus software was on the machine.

Sunday afternoon, a support engineer named "Keith" said that some users' problems may be related to the optical drive speed when creating an install DVD from a disk image downloaded from the Microsoft store or through Digital River. "Make sure you are burning the image at the slowest speed possible to avoid corruption on the installation disc," said Keith.

"Digital River and Microsoft are investigating reports of this issue," he added. "This appears to be a series of isolated issues that are often related to the user's Internet provider or installed third-party software."

Students, who have faced other problems with their downloaded Windows 7 upgrades, were told by Microsoft to seek help from Digital River through a special request-help page .

One user pointed others to a document published last July on Microsoft's support site. The document outlined the endless reboot problem . "When attempting to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 the upgrade attempt may fail with the message 'This version of Windows could not be installed, Your previous version of Windows has been restored, and you can continue to use it'," the support document stated. "However, the next reboot of the machine will launch the upgrade process again only to fail with the same message."

The document included steps users could take to try to regain control of their crippled computers.

This is not the first time that a Windows upgrade has crippled computers with endless reboots. In February 2008, updates meant to prepare PCs for the release of Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) brought machines to their knees with reboot after reboot. In May 2008, the upgrade to Windows XP SP3 did the same. Microsoft blamed computer makers for the XP snafu.

This story, "Windows 7 upgrade paralyzes some PCs with endless reboots" was originally published by Computerworld.

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