August 03, 2009

Major Windows 7 gotcha you should know about that may block you from upgrading

OK, so anyone who knows me expects that I stay up on the bleeding edge when it comes to dev tools and operating systems. Yes, I have been using Windows 7 for almost a year now and have been loving it. However, I never ran it on my production dev environment as I felt I did not what to disrupt our software development workflow until Windows 7 was in final release. With it out to RTM now, I felt it was as good as time as any to migrate, especially since we recently released our latest build of our own product and have a bit of time to do this.

So last week I deployed Windows 7 to both of my production dev systems, as well as the primary QA lab workstations. It was the worst thing I could ever have done, halting all major development and test authoring in our office due to a MAJOR gotcha Microsoft failed to let us know about during the beta and RC.

Ready for this....

You cannot run Virtual PC 7 (beta) in Windows 7 WITHOUT hardware virtualization. OK, I can live with that, since the new XP mode (which is an excellent feature) may very well need it. That didn't concern me. It was my fall back that failed to work that blew my mind...

You cannot run Virtual PC 2007 in Windows 7, as they have a hard block preventing it from being installed on Windows 7 due to compatibility issues. So the same machine that I have been using for development using Vista for a few years has now become a glorified browsing brick. I cannot do any of my kernel mode and system level development or debugging as I am not ALLOWED to install Virtual PC 2007 on the same hardware that worked before. *sigh*

What surprised me is that Ben, the Virtual PC Guy at Microsoft blogged that it was possible to run Virtual PC on Windows 7, and in his own words:

While all the integration aspects of Virtual Machine Additions work (mouse integration, shared folders, etc...) there is no performance tuning for Windows 7 at this stage - so for best performance you should use a system with hardware vitalization support.

That sounds to me like it will still work without hardware virtualization. Seems that is not the case.

Since Windows 7 is already to RTM, if this is a block due to Windows, it isn't going to be fixed anytime soon. So hopefully they can do something in the Virtual PC side of the equation, or they are going to disappoint a lot of unknowing developers.

This just became a MAJOR blocking issue for many dev shops that are using Virtual PC for isolated testing.

If this concerns you, then I recommend you download Intel's Processor Identification Utility so you can check to see if your dev environment is capable of running hardware virtualization.

Failing to do so might get you stuck like I did, now having me decide if I want to degrade back to Windows Vista just to get work done. There goes another day to prep my main systems again. *sigh*

UPDATE: Fellow MVP Bill Grant has provided me a solution to my delimma. It appears the issue is because Virtual PC 7 (beta), a built in component for Windows 7 when installed, is causing the blocking issue. By going into "Turn Windows features on or off" and removing Virtual PC support (and effectively removing XP mode support), Virtual PC 2007 can then be installed on machines that do not have hardware virtualization support.

This isn't the most optimal behaviour, but acceptable. Since without VT support in my CPU I can't use XP mode anyways, removing it does not limit WIndows 7 from functioning. I have reported to Microsoft on this odd behaviour since:

  • Virtual PC 7 and XP Mode simply shouldn't be installing if my CPU isn't supported

  • When the Customer Experience dialog pops up there is an option to "Check for Solutions Online". This is a PERFECT time where they could explain to uninstall Virtual PC 7 and XP mode support built into Windows 7 so Virtual PC 2007 will not block. Right now it reports that no solution is available.

So if you do NOT have VT support in your CPU, please uninstall Virtual PC 7 support if you installed it. VPC 2007 will then properly install for you.

Posted by SilverStr at 04:04 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack