Upgrading an eMachines T5082 to Windows 7: problematic at best

I finally upgraded the last of the machines in my house-that I am going to upgrade-to Windows 7.  It is my wife’s computer and is an eMachines T5082.  The machine originally came with 512mb of RAM, 160gb HDD, on board x200 ATI graphics and Windows Home Basic.  Not a screamer of a machine, but it was adequate for what my wife wanted to do:  internet, some word processing stuff and email.  It ran great until SP1 for Vista was released and it was all downhill after that. I found that I had to upgrade the RAM to 1.5 GB of RAM so that Vista could run acceptably.  Since I had already added a video card-an ATI Radeon x1650, adding the RAM didn’t do as much as I had hoped.  Still, my wife said it was fine and didn’t want to do anything else with the machine.

Fast forward a bit and the machine got slower.  After having the great upgrade success with the three machines I had upgraded, and knowing we still had one upgrade license, she suggested that we upgrade her computer with more memory and Windows 7.  I did a bit of research, bought what I thought was a decent RAM stick (from Corsair) and then ran the upgrade advisor on her machine.  All looked pretty good. There were a few craplets that I had to uninstall as well as the ATI Catalyst software. 

I proceeded to install the RAM and restart the computer.  BLUE SCREEN on boot.  Several times.  I swap the RAM sticks around and, still, no go.  So, I go back to the 1.5 GB that was there.  Turns out, the two 1gb sticks are of differing speed: 533mhz and 667mhz.  The eMachine couldn’t handle the mix.

I began the upgrade process and wanted to do an in place upgrade so I could preserve everything.  It worked well on the two laptops, so I had hoped it would work here.  Of course, it did not.

Two aborted upgrades later (each blue screened during the ‘expanding Windows files’ period,) I was left with an un-bootable machine.  I figured out that there was a device driver that was causing the problem, but it was too late.  Setup told me that it was rolling back to the previous version of Windows, but it did not work.  The really weird thing is that it never actually installed Windows 7.

The third time I tried, I booted the computer with the upgrade DVD.  It got all the way through to the ‘completing installation’ and first reboot before it blue screened.  Undeterred, I scratched my head and went into the bios setup screen.  I disabled the ‘hyperthreading’ feature and rebooted.

I began the upgrade once more.  It went all the way through to the SAME spot as before:  ‘Completing Installation’, reboot and DIE.  Only, this time, the blue screen rebooted the computer and presented me with the option of starting in SAFE MODE, which I did.  Now, this is where it gets really odd.  It started the ‘setting up Windows for the first time’ and then complained about being in safe mode.  I allowed it to restart and, voila! it completed the upgrade.

I remembered that the Linksys wireless adaptor was not supported (it is a USB device called ‘Speedbooster’) I swapped it for a newer Linksys USB device ‘WUSB113’, I think, that I knew worked with 7 since I used it on my old HP laptop with RC1 of 7.  Getting the eMachine on line was simple and the rest of the setup proceeded without incident.

By the way, I have to say that the support for Windows 7 from Linksys and Netgear appears to be spotty or poor.  I really don’t get it, it is not like they didn’t know.  eMachines isn’t much better.  I suppose, if you have a newer eMachines computer, you might be in good shape. However, this machine is about two years old and is no longer getting updates.  Fortunately, it uses fairly common components and 7 was able to install updated drivers for everything except for that first USB wireless adaptor. 

ATI was also a bit of a let down as the x1650 card has been moved to ‘legacy’, which means it will not get a 7 specific driver.  Again, however, the Vista driver works fine and 7 was able to install a driver for it as well.  The machine has native Aero support and is working just fine.

I installed Microsoft Security Essentials instead of AVG.  I’m now running Security Essentials on two machines and, so far, it has been fine.  No noticeable slowdowns, no infections, etc.  The price was right.

Performance of the T5082 is noticeably better than under Vista Home Basic.  The 1.5gb of RAM does not seem to be a hindrance and applications seem to be very responsive and ‘snappy’.  Not quite as much as my 8gb machine, but better than it was.  Internet Explorer starts darn near instantly and renders her home page in just a few seconds, compare to the nearly minute long process as before.  Whatever Microsoft did to enhance performance is clearly working.  Even Office apps start up just fine.  Heck, OneNote was up before I even released the mouse button.

While the outcome here was positive, it was only that way because I stuck with it and have some technical background.  I’m not afraid to click the OK button.  However, this is a total failure for eMachines.  I’m not going to blame any of it on the operating system.  This machine should support 7 with no problems since it came with Vista pre-installed.  Here’s the thing, though: it JUST BARELY supported Vista.  Maybe some of the blame is ours because we bought the machine mainly because of the price and because it DID come with Vista.  I didn’t do any homework before we bought it.  I suspect it was an XP machine and eMachines rushed it out with Vista Home Basic-which was as close to XP as Vista could get. It ran, but not all that well-compared to XP.  So, if I were a ‘normal’ person, I would have stopped with the first failure or, maybe, the second.  I would not have gone further. I would have gotten all ticked off, called Microsoft – who would have been unhelpful and passed the buck to eMachines, who would also be unhelpful and blame Microsoft.  As Joe User, I would get ticked at them both and probably buy a Mac.  OK, may be not buy a Mac, but I certainly would not get another eMachine.

One interesting thing I have noticed is that every time 7 restarted, instead of seeing the Windows 7 boot screen, I still see the Vista ‘cylon’ eye.  The nifty swirling Windows 7 logo is never seen and, instead, the old Vista ‘now loading’ screen is shown.  Not once during any of the upgrades did the 7 boot screen display.  It still does not.  Makes me a bit nervous.

Upgrades of any kind, be it an operating system, memory or hard drive, are nothing trivial.  For techie types, they may be second nature, but for most people, they are a daunting task.  Companies like Microsoft and even Apple should document the process better as well as making the upgrade installer bullet proof.  In may case, what was supposed to be a helpful feature resulted in my original Vista install being rendered useless.   It should not be that way.

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