A Note To Microsoft

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Microsoft has begun its “swap for Windows XP Pro 64-bit” program.

There seems to be a few bugs in the webpages covering it, though, which led me to send this email to Microsoft (links added to original):

Your website offers apparently contradictory information to those who build their own PCs and wish to participate in the Windows XP Professional x64 upgrade.

Your webpage http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/64bit/upgrade/default.mspx
(Upgrade to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition from Windows XP Professional (32-bit)) says in part:

“If you built your PC yourself or have purchased it through a system builder, you can make the exchange through the link to the right.”

However, when you click on the link and go to:
http://microsoft.productorder.com/clientx64/, it says:

“In order to be eligible to receive Windows ® XP Professional x64 Edition, your computer must have been ordered between March 31, 2003 and July 31, 2005 with Microsoft Windows ® XP Pro (32 Bit) preinstalled.”

The second statement appears to preclude home builders. Those who build their own computers will rarely if ever have Windows preinstalled. They will buy a copy of Windows and install it themselves, entering the product key from the COA they received from their retail or OEM version of the program.

As someone who writes for a computer hardware website largely visited by those who build their own computers, I have a particular interest in getting this matter resolved for my audience. The current instructions will leave them unsure as to whether or not they qualify for the upgrade: one page explicitly says “Yes,” the other implicitly says, “No.”

Could you please provide guidance and/or make any necessary editing corrections to the pages in question?

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Edward Stroligo,
www.overclockers.com

Let’s see what they have to say about that. I suspect wording or no wording, the exchange will work fine so long as you have a valid Certificate of Authentication product key (and please note, you’re going to tell them who you are and where you live so they can MAIL it to you, so if that key isn’t up to snuff, don’t), but I don’t KNOW that.

Two other items of note:

First, the only way you install this is through a clean install. You stick this in and start it up; it formats your OS drive. No big deal if you know that, big deal if you don’t.

Second, Microsoft says:

“Windows ® XP Professional x64 Edition requires 64-bit hardware drivers (32-bit drivers are not supported). Drivers for 64-bit Windows are created at the discretion of hardware manufacturers and may not be available for some of your hardware components.”

Got that? For hardware drivers, no 64-bittee, no workee. Don’t install this and assume 64-bit drivers for your hardware are going to be in the OS. Even Microsoft says they will provide only “limited inital hardware driver support.”

This is especially important for upgraders, because if you install, and find out that a critical component isn’t supported, you just can’t go back to your 32-bit Pro; it is no longer licensed.

Don’t assume your 32-bit apps and games will work, either. Many will, but not all. Take a look here for a small sample of what does and doesn’t work. If it’s a utility like an anti-virus program or firewall, it probably won’t work.

In the past, when we’ve had similiar OS upgrades, there have been places like NT Compatible to indicate whether components or apps worked or not (though the pickings are very slim for x64 at this site at the moment).

A Guest Editorial

If you want an effortless experience, DON’T DO THIS. If your approach is, “Let me do it, and figure out the problems later,” on a machine that has to keep working, DON’T DO THIS. If you’re not ready to put in a good deal of effort and be downright anal-retentive in researching everything BEFORE stepping up, DON’T DO THIS.

In other words, you can’t be half-assed about it. This is pioneer work, not an effortless task.

Or, as Paul Therrott puts it:

For now, Microsoft can talk up the technical superiority of XP x64 all it wants, but compatibility issues are going to sink this operating system faster than you can say Microsoft Bob. There is little doubt that x64 is the future of desktop computing, but attempting to move to XP x64 will prove to be a fruitless trip for many people. To its credit, the software giant is being very clear about the near niche nature of its first x64-based desktop operating system, and the company has repeatedly told me that XP x64 is really just aimed at technical workstations, business desktop users, and enthusiasts.

Based on this information, and my own experience, I must issue a cautionary note to readers: If you’re thinking about migrating to XP x64 immediately, don’t. Instead, evaluate the RC2 version in a dual-boot scenario with XP 32-bit first. Test all of your important hardware and software and make sure they work, or at least work well enough. And do so knowing that, even if everything appears to work fine, it’s possible that a desirable hardware device or software application will appear this year that simply won’t work in XP x64.

. . . [W]hile while XP x64 is far more compatible with hardware and software than its Itanium-based predecessor, it is also not compatible enough to meet the needs of average users. Therefore, most XP users should stick with XP 32-bit through at least the end of 2005.

This is very good advice . . .

But

The RC2 version Mr. Thurrott talks about is available here.

It’s only good for 120 days, though (though something tells me some on the Dark Side have figured out a way to extend that :))

However, it’s not clear when the OS swap program ends (it apparently does for machines ordered after 7/31/05), and we’re not even sure at this point if DIYers even qualify).

So if you plan on a free upgrade, you may be time-constrained.

For those who don’t have a current copy of XP Professional, matters get odder. Microsoft does not plan to come out with a retail version of the program. This is pretty bizarre.

Say you built an Athlon 64 box and put Windows XP Home or some version of Linux on it. To get Windows for 64-bit, you’re either going to have to buy a 32-bit WinXP Pro just to get the upgrade, or wait until an OEM version of WinXP for 64 shows up at some retailer.

Odd. Very odd.

In any event, within a month, I’ll be futzing around with one or more of these systems to report on what I find, good and bad.

And since I am anal-retentive when it comes to these sort of things, in the process I’ll dig up the resources so you don’t have to.

In time. For now, just know that these cookies are half-baked at best.

Ed

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