Friday, December 16, 2016

Installing Windows 7 in late 2016

I've moved my main PC from Windows 10 (which I have run for about 2 years now) back to Windows 7.  The two main reasons:

  1. I can't stop it from rebooting for updates (it doesn't even really give much warning) which has resulted in ruined 3D prints (wasting hours of time and much filament) and aborting downloads that had in one case been going on for over a day.
  2. I can't shut up Cortana. There's no facility for it. Even if I shut off ALL the Cortana options, it still pops up windows saying things like "I can tell you when you need to leave to make it to appointments" - windows that pop up when I do have appointments, leading me to believe that despite turning everything off, Cortana is still sending my personal information into the cloud.
There ARE things online about how to disable Cortana, but it apparently involves basically pithing Windows - Cortana is into the OS and now provides the basic search capabilities, so if you disable it, you're back to essentially Windows XP level of user experience.  Ain't nobody got time for that.


Anyway, the only real reason I was on Windows 8.1 and 10 was to use Storage Spaces to mirror a large drive. After the last time Cortana bugged me, I decided it was worth $300 to me to shut it up, so I bought a Synology RAID box and one more 5T drives, bringing my total to three. In RAID5 mode that gives 10T of space.  With that I was able to get a bunch of stuff that had been offline back online again.

I don't want to give the wrong impression.  I think Windows 10 is a good operating system.  Better than Windows 7.  But the above baggage kills it.  Dating a supermodel sounds like fun at first too, until she/he turns out to be insane or a complete idiot.  Or worse yet, an Amway salesperson. Some things just can't be tolerated.

Anyway, back to Windows 7.  Updating a fresh Windows 7 SP1 install has long been a problem due to it getting stuck in "Checking for updates..." for hours.  There have been many fixes for this, along the lines of "install this KB update or that one and it'll be fixed."  Well, whether by design or accident, as far as I can tell, none of those work anymore. I installed every KB update that was suggested as a fix for this issue, and then rebooted my machine and left it in "checking for updates."  After 28 hours and no movement, I gave up on that.

I had previously tried running the April 2016 "all updates since SP1" update, but it said "does not apply to your computer."  This time I read some more and a Reddit thread revealed that it meant "all except that one thing" - there is a prerequisite to running it.  Good grief.

Anyway, I did the prereq, then installed the big one, then every rollup release up through December, and NOW Windows update works, finding an additional 54 updates.  So finally, I think I have an up to date Windows 7 install to run for hopefully another 4 or 5 years.  When I get to the point where 7 is no longer viable, I'm not sure where I will go.  I've tried Linux and for my purposes, it's a complete non-starter.  Every one of the 5 times that I have tried moving to Linux on the desktop in the past, I've spent FAR more time than I did here on Windows, and in the end it's always been useless, I wound up with a machine that I still couldn't actually get my work done on.

Anyway TL;DR, here's the sequence to get up to date on Windows 7 64 bit:
Install these things in this order:

  • Windows 7 SP1 (or update to SP1 if your install media is that old)
  • Windows6.1-KB3020369-x64.msu - prerequisite to the April 2016 rollup
  • Windows6.1-kb3125574-v4-x64_2dafb1d203c8964239af3048b5dd4b1264cd93b9.msu April 2016
  • Windows6.1-KB3156417-x64.msu May 2016
  • (no June 2016 - it was superceded)
  • Windows6.1-KB3172605-x64.msu July 2016
  • Windows6.1-KB3179573-x64.msu August 2016
  • Windows6.1-KB3185278-x64.msu September 2016
  • Windows6.1-KB3185330-x64.msu October 2016
  • Windows6.1-kb3197868-x64_b07be176e165c11b9ccbcf03d014b2aef9a514b6.msu November 2016
  • Windows6.1-kb3207752-x64_ae76c47886acadcbe337b7b565f63f0991afc7be.msu December 2016
  • Google for Windows 7 rollup (month year) for future security updates

Then run Windows Update.  Once the above was done, I was able to run it quickly.

Also, unfortunately at this point it's probably a good idea to turn off automatic updates, because you never know, Microsoft could sneak down the pipes and start shoving Windows 10 down your throat in the middle of the night again without warning.  Do remember to check at least once a month or whenever the internets make scary noises about vulnerabilities.  Set a reminder in Google Calendar or whatever; be careful but don't become part of the problem. 

And finally, get a disk imaging program - Macrium Reflect Free is good.  Image your boot disk and keep it safe.  Then if Microsoft does do something unpleasant to you, you can just restore the boot image immediately.

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