Windows 7 endless reboot answer evades Microsoft

Users remained stymied today by endless reboots after trying to upgrade their PCs to Windows 7, according to messages posted on Microsoft's support forum.

An answer has yet to be found for all users, who began reporting the problem last Friday after watching the upgrade stall two-thirds of the way through the process. Most users said that their PCs had displayed an error that claimed the upgrade had been unsuccessful and that Vista would be restored. Instead, their PCs again booted to the Windows 7 setup process, failed, then restarted the vicious cycle .

Several Microsoft engineers, including the company's senior group manager for Windows supportability, have offered advice, but on Monday users continued to publish complaints on a growing forum thread .

"I think I've gotten to the point where trying to install Windows 7 is simply not worth it," said "Chimaera717" around 1 p.m. ET today. Chimaera717 was one of the first users to gripe about reboot hell. "I'm more content with actually having a working computer. Anyone know if we can get our money back?"

Earlier, Microsoft support engineers posting to the thread urged users to burn downloaded upgrades -- which were delivered as disk image, or .iso, files -- at their DVD drives' slowest speeds to reduce the chance of corrupting the data, one possible explanation for the endless reboots. At the same time, one user pointed others to a document published last July on Microsoft's support site that spelled out a possible solution .

Late Monday, Paul Aaron, Microsoft's senior group manager for Windows supportability, chimed in with a link to another support document . "From reading through the article, it looks like there is a service running in the background that is preventing the upgrade from completing," Aaron said. "Hope this helps."

The document, published in early September, noted that the "iphlpsvc" service -- which offers IPv6 connectivity over an IPv4 network -- may cause Vista-to-Windows 7 upgrades to hang at the 62%-completed mark. The fix that Aaron highlighted requires users to modify the advanced system settings of the PC.

Those instructions didn't do anything for some users, who said that their systems were still crippled.

"You people at Microsoft just don't get it, do you?" protested a user tagged as "FJP57" on the thread. "The problem for many here is that the store-bought upgrade, not just the download, is failing in all types and makes of computers. Read the posts. It's not isolated. There is NO BOOT MENU OPTION TO LOAD VISTA AGAIN. IT'S GONE. The boot cycles over and over again. It's that simple. This is not an operator error. It's a Microsoft problem."

The endless reboot is among the top active threads on Microsof's Windows 7 installation support forum. Only the thread that outlines the problem college students have had upgrading using a discounted $30 download has more messages and views.

According to Microsoft's head of support, however, the endless reboot problem isn't on the company's top list of concerns. "It's very early in the process," said Ben Bennett, the director of Microsoft's Windows consumer global support group, in an interview Monday afternoon. "In terms of the top issues of customers who choose to upgrade, the XP-to-Windows 7 [upgrade] is up there on the list for lots of reasons. The netbook upgrade scenario -- how do I upgrade my netbook to Windows 7 -- is also a big one. And another is, 'Where are my applications?' after people have upgraded. They wonder what happened to e-mail and photo editing, for example. Those are the top issues so far."

Overall, said Bennett, the volume of support calls and queries for Windows 7 is lower than Microsoft expected. "With Vista [in 2007], sales were not quite what we expected, but Windows 7 is very different," Bennett said, as he declined to quantify the difference between Vista and Windows 7 support volume, saying that it was in part reliant on sales. "But on the pure support side, Windows 7 is similar to our lower volume expectations. It's still very, very early, but volumes are lower on the support side with Windows 7 while volumes are higher on the sales side."

Microsoft's long-term expectations are that it will field a smaller number of support calls and questions for Windows 7 compared to Vista, Bennett said.

Some users whose PCs are constantly rebooting disagreed with that rosier outlook for Windows 7.

"I have to say that my system is a very generic Windows Vista Home Basic install that I've done nothing to," said someone nicknamed "tjtull" in a message posted around 2 p.m. ET today. "I haven't added any fancy video cards or drivers to it. The machine I'm trying to upgrade is a notebook computer that has nothing special about it and no peripherals attached to it. Not to grouse continually about this, but I find it inexplicable that a vanilla upgrade from the same software company would not work on my vanilla install."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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