Fix the most common Windows 7 upgrade problems

Here's how to tackle the three biggest showstoppers of upgrading to Microsoft's latest OS

Experienced PC users know that not every operating-system upgrade goes smoothly -- but that bit of understanding does little to offset the annoyance we feel when we're faced with seemingly unresolvable installation problems. Windows 7 has presented some users with a few serious upgrade bugs of its own. Don't worry: We'll explain how to exterminate them.

Before beginning your Windows 7 upgrade, attach your PC directly to your router via a wired ethernet connection. This will ensure that Windows 7 has a chance to download the latest installation updates directly from Microsoft at the outset of the upgrade process. By the time you read this article, it's possible that Microsoft will have created a fix for some of the following upgrade bugs, so your first step in any upgrade scenario should be to make sure that you have a wired Internet hookup to your PC from the start.

Installation Hangs at 62 Percent

The first installation problem you're likely to encounter in your upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 may not be obvious at first. But after your progress bar sits at 62 percent for more than 10 minutes or so, you'll know something is wrong. The culprit is a service called Iphlpsvc, which may stop responding to the system during the installation. Fortunately, the solution is relatively easy. If you don't feel like messing around with your system settings, download Microsoft's automated fix, MicrosoftFixit50319, and install it. Follow the wizard, and it should resolve the problem in about a minute.

If you'd rather just correct the problem yourself, start by rebooting your PC. After logging back in, click Start, right-click Computer, and click Properties. Click Advanced, Environment variables, then System variables, New. In the 'Variable name' field, type MIG_UPGRADE_IGNORE_PLUGINS. In the 'Variable value' field, type IphlpsvcMigPlugin.dll. Click OK to close the windows, and then start your installation again.

Endless Reboots

A more annoying (and more common) Windows 7 upgrade headache is the reboot loop. This irritating bug causes the system to reboot and to present a message stating that Windows 7 could not be installed, and that the previous version (Vista) has been restored. The next time you reboot the PC, Windows begins the upgrade process again, leading to the same error after the next reboot. And so on.

To escape this endless reboot cycle, select Vista from the boot menu at startup, and then insert your old Vista installation disc into your PC's optical drive. When the Vista setup menu appears, exit setup. Click Start, All Programs, Accessories. Right-click Command Prompt and choose Run as Administrator from the contextual menu. At the command prompt, type D:\boot\Bootsect.exe /NT60 All , replacing D with the letter of the drive that contains your Vista installation disc. This will reset the boot parameters for the system.

Now reboot your machine and begin the installation process again.

Bad Product Key

You paid good money for your Windows 7 upgrade, but when you try to activate your new installation using the product key that came with the disc, you get an error stating that your product key is not valid. Unfortunately, the fix for this problem is easy but time-consuming. Here's how to cope with it.

This problem isn't so much a bug as it is a bit of unfriendly engineering. The invalid-product-key warning arises when you attempt to install an upgrade edition of Windows 7 on a drive that has been formatted. You must install the upgrade edition on a PC that already has either Windows XP or Vista installed on it. If the setup routine fails to locate a previous installation of XP or Vista, Windows 7 thinks it's being installed on a new PC rather than as an upgrade. Therefore, your upgrade product key won't work.

To resolve this issue, you need to have either XP or Vista installed on your hard drive at boot time. That may very well mean digging out your old XP or Vista discs and performing a fresh installation of that version before trying again with Windows 7.

It's important to note that Windows 7 requires you to have Service Pack 1 installed on Vista, and Service Pack 3 installed on Windows XP. So be sure to run your automatic updates on the old OS before moving on to the Windows 7 upgrade. If you have a backup of your XP or Vista system handy, the fastest fix may be to restore that backup to your hard drive and then try the Windows 7 upgrade again.

Once you've put XP or Vista back on your hard drive, boot from that drive and then insert your Windows 7 upgrade DVD. You'll still have the option to perform a clean installation of Windows 7 on your system, if that's what you want to do. Just make sure that your primary hard drive has a qualifying previous version of Windows installed on it, and then boot from the Windows 7 DVD and select Custom (Advanced) as your installation type. You can then format the drive using Windows 7, without encountering the invalid-product-key error at activation time.

In the event that the same activation error pops up after you've followed these instructions, your best bet is to activate Windows 7 by phone. To do so, click Start, Computer, Properties, and choose Click here to activate Windows now. Look for the option to activate by phone, dial the number the system provides, and follow the voice-guided instructions. In the worst-case scenario, a Microsoft support person will help you activate your license.

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Robert Strohmeyer

PC World (US online)
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