Microsoft, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…
This year I’m 37. I’ve been using (and building and fixing) PC’s since windows 95 came out. In those 16 years, I have wasted and lost countless days thanks to the good yet incompetent people at Microsoft. Many a night and weekend I have spent with an opened PC, hard disks spilling out like the guts of a tauntaun the day after Wampa-ramadhan has ended, trying to fix what should not have gone wrong.
I switched to a Mac last year and like most religious converts I’ve turned into a bit of a zealot. Now I know Macs can and do go wrong. They’re made by the lowest bidder in China, after all. But what Apple engineers have gotten right is this: backup and recovery. More on this later.
Microsoft, however, hasn’t. This became evident when an elderly couple, who had purchased a Windows 7 based PC last year (because they WILL ask me to fix their stuff but they completely ignore any recommendations I make as to what they should buy), asked me if I’d have a look at their machine, which had suddenly refused to boot. After inspection I managed to get it to work with the Windows 7 install and repair disk (only needed 8 reboots, wonderful system that) and ran a diagnostic on the disk. The Western Digital 1 TB Caviar Green turned out to be as reliable as a Wall Street banker with a presidential pardon. Or so WD’s own diagnostic tool told me, which I am inclined to believe. The machine was only under warranty for 2 or 3 weeks (so I guess the selfdestruct mechanism kicked in a bit too early) so I recommended they (well, Muggins here) got a new drive for 50 euro so we could get the whole thing over with rather than having to ship the damn thing (a Medion, purchased at a fuckin’ SUPERMARKET no less) back to the manufacturer and get it back after 3 weeks with a factory reinstall and a refurbished harddisk. Not having any expertise in the matter, they agreed.
That was Monday morning. It’s Thursday evening as I write this. What I have learned is that I will FORBID my wife to get a new PC with Windows 7 on it.
Long story (fairly) short: you can’t clone a harddisk with Windows 7 on it to a new harddisk. Well you CAN, in that Easeus provides free software to do it. Only takes 24 hours on a 1 TB drive. But then you end up with a PC that doesn’t boot (which can be fixed with the Windows 7 install disk, thankfully – bootmgr seems to evade cloning, or could it be that Microsoft has invented the most retarded bootmanager ever? Several times over, I might add?) and when it DOES boot, you will find that Windows Update no longer works. The service refuses to start (well actually it does start) and after only 2 or 3 hours of Googling you find out that this is because Windows now thinks it’s an illegal copy. After all, the harddisk has changed and that seems to be cause for alarm. (After all, when do harddisk ever go wrong? Never. Absolutely never. That’s why there are over 100 backup-software companies.) Not that it MENTIONS this to you at all, oh no. That would be telling!
Now, Windows 7 backup DOES have 2 options that, at first glance, seem promising. First off all, there’s a backup. That’s nice, a backup. All your important files and folders, safely tucked away on an external USB drive, fresh copies every Sunday at noon… Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? And then there’s SYSTEM image backup recovery or whatever it’s called. In other words: you can create an image of your system that you can restore at any time. Got a virus? Tried a few too many free and nasty freeware applications? Feel like a fresh start? Well, just put back the recovery image, then your backup and Bob’s your uncle.
Except… That backup will only work on the VERY SAME MACHINE you made it on. Identical down to the molecular level. So this Windows Backup is absolutely fucking useless when, oh I’ll just grab a random example out of thin air… lemmetink… how about… WHEN YOUR FUCKING HARDDISK DIED.
“But Martijn, or Martin, or whatever the fuck that ‘IJ’ sound in your name is,” I hear you mutter, you speccy cunt, “Microsoft has accounted for this! Simply reactivate Windows! Call that phonenumber, enter a simple series of 9 blocks of 6 digits (I kid you not) and you’ll get a code to reactivate Windows. Simple as that. They’re not bullies, over in Redmond, oh no! They UNDERSTAND hardware can go wrong. They’re only here to help you! But since there are 1 billion Chinese and Windows XP has only sold 15 copies in that country so far, can you BLAME them for being strict? They’re not like Apple, who deliver both hard- and software and therefore don’t NEED to worry about piracy because if you can run the OS you MUST have a piece of kit from Apple anyway. Whereas Microsoft has only ever produced a mouse, a keyboard and an MP3-player that nobody will touch with a ten foot pole!”
To which I say: I don’t care. My copy WAS legit and the fucking phone system told me it wasn’t. TWICE. They’ve been in this business at least 16 years (let’s chalk anything pre-Win95 up as ‘betatesting’ shall we) and they STILL can’t get it right.
Okay, so why is a Mac better? Macs have harddisks, made by the same feckless imbeciles at Western Digital or Samsung or… um… okay, either of those two companies. They can and do still fail. How’s THAT better?
Time Machine, that’s how. Motherlovin’ TIME MACHINE. Not only does it get you files back you deleted days or even weeks ago (depending on harddisk capacity) but you can even restore your Mac operating system. (How you can swap out a harddisk in one of those iMacs is another matter… I fear a toilet plunger may need to be called into action for that, to lift the damned Window out.) All you need is the damned OS install disk and a time machine harddisk and you’re done. Case closed. No cloning. No activating partitions. No missing bootmanagers. No nuttin’.
So if your Windows 7 PC refuses to run Windows Update or even to connect to windowsupdate.microsoft.com or you’re calling that number to reactivate Windows and it doesn’t work, here’s what you do:
Do a factory reinstall. It will ‘regenerate’ the ID for the new combination of hard- and software. That’s not hardcoded into the factory image, you see. You’ll be able to reactivate the install just when you did they day you bought it. Then take a full day (you’ll need it) to copy your backupped files, reinstall all your software and the 10 or 20 GB of Microsoft Updates plus your virus scanner-updates, Java updates, Microsoft .net framework files, your 300 MB HP printerdriver, your other shit AND THEN SELL THE DAMNED THING TO SOME OTHER MUG AND GET A MAC YOU CHEAP-ASS HOBO!