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We like Windows 7: it’s faster than Vista, makes better use of your system resources, is packed with interesting features, and looks great, too.
But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, of course. If you’ve moved to Windows 7 recently then you might have noticed various upgrade problems, interface issues and features that seem to have disappeared entirely, among many other complications with the new system.
Don’t despair, though – while these problems can be really frustrating, answers are beginning to appear. We’ve uncovered some of the best and most effective solutions around, so follow our guide and your Windows 7 installation will soon be back on track.
1. Vista upgrade hangs at 62%
Windows 7 can start causing problems before it’s even installed, as many people report their upgrade hangs forever at 62%. Which is annoying.
Reboot, and your PC should roll back to Windows Vista. You can then open the setup log file \$WINDOWS.~BT\Sources\Panther\setupact.log to view what happened. Microsoft say this is usually caused because the Iphlpsvc service has stopped responding, and just adding an environment variable to ignore it will fix the problem. Point your browser at for the fix.
If this doesn’t help (or your upgrade hangs at something other than 62%) then browse the setup log for other clues. And you might also try to boot and install from the Windows 7 disc, if possible, as that reduces the chance of any conflict with your existing Vista (or XP) setup.
Windows 7 install
INSTALL WINDOWS 7: Windows 7 upgrades are usually quick, but sometimes it doesn’t install at all
2. DVD drive not found
In some cases your DVD drive may not be found by Windows 7, even if it’s visible in the BIOS and using the standard driver.
The standard solution here is to run REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\, then delete both UpperFilters and LowerFilters in the right-hand pane (UpperFilters.bak and LowerFilters.bak entries can be ignored).
No change? Resetting the drive letter has worked for some. Click Start, type Disk Management and choose the “Create and format hard disk partitions” link. If your optical drive is visible here then right-click it, select Change Drive Letter and Paths, click Change and choose a new letter. If the drive is now visible in Explorer, then repeat the process to change the drive letter back; if it’s still not visible, reboot and it should appear.
3. Aero isn’t running
If Windows 7 isn’t looking its best – transparency has been turned off, say – then the Aero theme may not have been fully enabled on your system. Click Start, type Aero, choose the “Find and fix problems with transparency and other visual effects” link, and click Next to launch the Aero wizard. It’ll try to identify and resolve and problems. And if it doesn’t, then install the latest driver for your graphics hardware. That could be all your system needs.
Some Aero features may be disabled in the Registry, though. For example, if Aero Peek (the ability to make open windows transparent to display your desktop underneath) doesn’t work for you, then launch REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM and make sure EnableAeroPeek is set to 1, rather than 0.
Windows 7 aero
NO AERO: Windows 7′s troubleshooting wizards will fix many display problems while you watch
4. Aero Snap irritations
Windows 7′s new ability to move and resize windows, all in one movement, can be a genuine productivity boost. But if you find windows moving around when you don’t expect it then Aero Snap is more of an annoyance than anything else, though at least it’s one you can disable in just a few seconds.
Launch Control Panel, click Ease of Access, and select either “Change how your mouse works” or “Change how your keyboard works”. Then browse down to the “Make it easier to manage windows” section, check “Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen”, click OK, and program windows now won’t go anywhere unless you specifically command it.
5. iPhone won’t sync in Windows 7
Irritated iPhone users are beginning to report major difficulties in getting their iPhone to sync with Windows 7 systems. Particularly 64-bit Windows 7 systems, based around the P55 chipset. The iPhone is usually (though not always) recognised, but iTunes then complains that it can’t connect to the unit because of an “unknown error”, usually (though again, not always) 0xE8000065.
Disabling USB power management appears to be one solution. Click Start, type DEVMGMT.MSC and press [Enter] to launch Device Manager, then click View > Devices By Type. Expand the Universal Serial Bus controllers section of the tree, right-click each USB Root Hub entry in turn, select Properties > Power Management, and clear “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”.
Reboot your PC after this tweak and try again. This works for some, but if you’re out of luck then check the Apple Discussions thread for other ideas.
iTunes on windows 7
SYNCING FEELING: iTunes on Windows 7 won’t always see, or sync with, your iPod
6. Windows 7 themes change your custom icons
Windows 7 has some spectacular new themes – there’s a great selection at the Microsoft site – but installing them can have one annoying side-effect. If you’ve previously changed a system icon like Computer or the Recycle Bin then that could disappear, replaced by the equivalent icon from the theme pack.
To prevent this, right-click an empty part of the desktop, select Personalize > Change Desktop Icons, clear the “Allow themes to change desktop icons” box and click OK. Your icons will now be preserved, and the only way to change them will be manually, from the same Desktop Icons dialogue.
7. Taskbar problems
We like the new Windows 7 taskbar, but many people seem less than impressed with the new approach to taskbar buttons, finding it difficult to tell at a glance whether an icon is a running application or a pinned shortcut. If this sounds like you then there’s an easy way to restore more standard taskbar buttons, though – right-click the taskbar, select Properties, and set Taskbar Buttons to “Never combine” or “Combine when taskbar is full”.
You can even restore the old Quick Launch toolbar in just a few clicks. Simply right-click the taskbar, click Toolbars > New Toolbar, type %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch in the folder box and click Select Folder. The Quick Launch toolbar should then reappear, and you can move and resize it to suit your needs.
Windows 7 taskbar
STANDARD TASKBAR: Just a few seconds work and your taskbar has that retro look
8. Missing Explorer folders
Click Start > Computer in Windows 7 and you’ll find system folders like Control Panel and the Recycle Bin are no longer displayed in the left-hand Explore pane. This seems like a backward step to us, but there’s a quick solution. Click Tools > Folder Options, check “Show all folders”, click OK and all your top-level system folders will reappear.
9. Missing applets
Windows 7 installs quickly and takes up less hard drive space than you might expect, but in part that’s down to cheating – Mail, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery and other applets are no longer bundled with a standard Windows installation. Instead you must download the programs you need from the Windows Live Essentials site.
Installing Live Essentials will also get you potentially unnecessary extras, though, like an ActiveX control to help in uploading files to Windows Live SkyDrive. And the Windows Live Sign-In Assistant, which can be useful if you want to switch between multiple Windows Live accounts. If you have only one Windows Live account, and no plans to use Live SkyDrive, then these can safely be removed from the Control Panel Uninstall A Program applet.
Windows live essentials
TAKE YOUR PICK: You can install as many, or as few of the Live Essentials programs as you like
10. Too many minidumps
By default Windows 7 now keeps the last 50 minidump files (memory images saved when your PC crashes). If you’re keen on using dump files to troubleshoot crashes then this is good news, but if you’ve no interest in that kind of advanced debugging then minidumps are just a waste of your valuable hard drive space. In which case you should run REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\CrashControl, and set MiniDumpsCount to 1. Windows will only now keep the last dump file and you’ll free up a little hard drive space.
11. HP Multifunction Printer problems
If you’ve an HP multifunction printer with its “Full Feature Software solution” or “Basic Driver solution” installed then, after upgrading to Windows 7, you may find the printer stops working. Press the buttons on the front of the printer and nothing will happen; launch the software manually and you’ll see reports that it can’t connect to your hardware.
The problem is that a few files and Registry entries have been lost in the migration to Windows Vista, and even reinstalling the original HP software won’t help. Fortunately there’s a new version of HP Solution Center that should get everything working again, though, and you can find out more about it at the HP support site.
12. Hidden extensions
Explorer’s default settings in Windows 7 hide file extensions, as well as system files and folders.
To fix this, launch Explorer and click Tools > Folder Options > View.
Clear the “Hide extensions for known file types” to show file extensions, reducing the likelihood that you’ll accidentally double-click on virus.txt.exe in future.
And as long as there are no novice users on your system who might go poking around in Explorer, we’d also choose to “Show hidden files and folders” as well as clear the “Hide protected operating system files” box. It’s often important to see these files when you’re troubleshooting, or following problem-solving instructions from someone else
13. DVD audio issues
Windows 7 runs well even on old notebooks, say reviewers, and in general they’re right. But we have seen reports of problems, for example with DVD audio, where movie sound is either completely unintelligible or doesn’t appear at all.
Should anything similar happen to you then head off to Control Panel, click Hardware and Sound > Sound, right-click your current default playback device (it’ll have a green tick displayed) and select Properties.
Then click Advanced, clear any settings in the Exclusive Mode box and click OK. You’ve now ensured that older or badly-behaved drivers can’t take complete control of the speakers any more, and this alone will often be enough to get your system working again. (But if it doesn’t, installing new audio drivers is your next best option.)
14. Windows Live MovieMaker
For some bizarre reason Windows Live MovieMaker won’t let you import network files by default. Okay, so they’ll be large and may monopolise network traffic for a while, but shouldn’t that be your choice?
Anyway, a quick Registry tweak will solve this annoying problem. Simply run REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows Live\Movie Maker, add a DWORD value called AllowNetworkFiles and set it to 1: job done.
Windows movie maker
IMPORT NETWORK FILES: Network access is only a Registry tweak away
15. XP Mode doesn’t work
If you’ve ancient software that won’t work under Windows 7 then in theory you can use XP Mode, a virtual machine with an installation of Windows XP that should be more successful. In practice, however, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Problem 1 is XP Mode requires hardware support from the CPU. The Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool can check your system to see if it’s compatible.
Problem 2 is the feature must be enabled in the BIOS. Microsoft has some instructions, but essentially you just need to browse your BIOS setup program looking for an AMD-V, Intel VT or VIA VT virtualisation setting and ensure it’s turned on.
Unfortunately problem number 3 is that some laptop manufacturers have previously disabled this setting for “security” reasons. Sony Vaios had the feature turned off for a while, for instance, prompting some to recommend ways in which you can edit their firmware to restore the setting, although Sony seems to have restored it recently. If hardware virtualisation is turned off on your system then check with the manufacturer – a BIOS upgrade may fix the problem.
And if all else fails, just use a package like VirtualBox that doesn’t insist on hardware support. You will need to provide a licenced copy of XP (or whatever other version you want to use) to install on it, though.
XP mode in windows 7
WINDOWS 7 XP MODE: Good news – this CPU is up to the task of running XP Mode
16. Add Windows Media Center to AutoPlay options
Windows 7 includes Media Center, but for some strange reason you can’t choose it as an AutoPlay handler. The only standard program that can be launched to play DVD-Video discs, say, is Media Player, which seems an odd limitation.
Fortunately there’s no fundamental change that’s preventing this from working, it’s just that Windows 7 doesn’t contain the required Registry entries. If you’ve a Windows Vista PC to hand then you could export these yourself: just go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AutoplayHandlers and save all the keys and values beginning with EHome.
Windows expert Ramesh Srinivasan has done the hard work already, though, so it’s probably easier to download the .REG file from him. Take a look at Srinivasan’s Winhelponline to find out more.
17. Missing crash dump files
Impressive though Windows 7 is, it’ll crash sometimes, and if you’ve installed diagnostic software like the Windows debugging tools then you’ll want the crash dump file to hand for further investigations. And yet in some situations you’ll find the memory.dmp file never appears. So what’s going on?
First, click Start, right-click Computer and select Properties > Advanced System Settings > Startup and Recovery Settings. Make sure that “Write debugging information” is set to something other than “none”, and that “Dump file” is the default “%SystemRoot%\MEMORY.DMP”.
If that’s all correct then check your free hard drive space. If your system isn’t on a domain, and has less than 25GB free, then Windows 7 will no longer keep a crash dump file. If you’d like to change that, launch REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\CrashControl, create a new DWORD value called AlwaysKeepMemoryDump, set it to 1, and in future the crash dump file will always be preserved.
18. Can’t disable hibernation
Windows 7 doesn’t make it easy to turn off hibernation, annoying if you never use it as you’ll permanently have a “hiberfil.sys” file taking up a sizeable portion of your hard drive. To rectify this situation, launch REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Power, and set HibernateEnabled to zero.
19. Poor video quality
The new Windows 7 power plan settings affect more of your software than ever before. If you notice video playback quality seems poor, for instance, then click Start, type Power Options and click the Power Options link. Click Change Plan Settings for your currently selected plan, click Change Advanced Settings, expand the Multimedia Settings section and make sure “Playing video” is set to “Optimise performance”.
Alternatively, if you often play video on a laptop, then change the new setting to “Optimise performance” and you may see an improvement in battery life.
20. Where’s Software Explorer?
If you’ve ever played with Windows Defender on Vista then you’ll have probably noticed the Software Explorer feature, a very useful way to find out and control exactly what’s launched on your PC when Windows starts. So it’s a little annoying to see this has disappeared in the latest version, leaving you with only the aging MSCONFIG to control your startup programs.
We’d recommend you download and use Autoruns, then, instead. It’s rather more technical than Software Explorer, but nothing else provides quite as much useful detail on the add-ons and extensions you’ll be loading when Windows, Explorer and your browser are launched.
START UP: Autoruns shows all the programs that will load when your PC starts
21. Explorer navigation
The Windows 7 version of Explorer has partly disconnected its two panes, so if you’re double-clicking your way down a complex set of folders in the right-hand pane, the left hand tree won’t always expand to follow you.
This may improve performance a little, but it also means that you won’t always be able to see the complete folder structure unless you expand it manually, which on balance seems a bad idea. If you agree then click Organize > Folder and Search Options, check “Automatically expand to current folder”, and click OK to restore normal operations.
22. Windows Live Messenger and the system tray
Close Windows Live Messenger on Windows 7 and it’ll display its icon on the taskbar, chewing up useful application space, rather than in the system tray where many believe it belongs.
Fortunately there’s a very quick fix: right-click the shortcut to Windows Live Messenger, click Properties > Compatibility, check “Run this program in compatibility mode for” and choose “Windows XP (Service Pack 3)” from the list. Close Messenger and its icon should now appear in the system tray, just as you’d expect.

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