upgrade hell

I spent a good number of hours this weekend in Windows upgrade hell.

Nora’s computer, running Windows 98, was having difficulties, and I figured a first reasonable step before spending money on it was a clean operating system install. I picked up a Windows XP upgrade disc at CompUSA and set to work Sunday afternoon.

I’m not geek enough to know whether the difficulty lay in the CD drive, or the hard disk, but when the install aborted partway through, I was screwed. I kept getting errors as the install routine copied files from the CD to the install directory. In other words, it had removed the old OS, but hadn’t yet installed the new OS. Luckily I was geek enough to have the BIOS boot off the CD, giving me something marginally more useful than a large beige paperweight. The errors were mystifying – it would, in seemingly random fashion, be unable to copy some small number of files from the install directory to the CD. But since the install was failing, there was no way I could figure out to manually get in, find the necessary files and put them in the right spot to fix it.

After hours of trying, I finally succeeded seemingly by chance – the only file it failed on was apparently unimportant enough that it was able to complete the install, and I was then able to track down a copy of the file, put it in the right place, and the thing seems to work now.

Windows XP, despite my GNU/GNOME/Linux preferences, is a very nice operating system. But I wonder how people without a geek in the house survive the ordeal I went through trying to get it installed.