Story of a migration from

Windows 7


Windows 10

    The author and administrator of Powhertz is a proud user of the Linux operating system since more than 21 years, including 19 as the main operating system. At home, going through Red Hat Linux (1999-2003), Linux Mandrake (2003-2005), EduLinux (2005-2007), Ubuntu (2007-2017), and finally Linux Mint (2017-2020), like at work (Red Hat Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu), I've always been enthousiast to use and promote the most popular free ("as in speech") operating system for the desktop. However, even though I spend more than 99% of my usage time in Linux, I've always kept an installation of Microsoft Windows on another partition, for occasional uses. My current PC (for which I would like to praise Gateway; it is clearly the most reliable PC I've ever owned in my life, still working wonderfully after more than 10 years!) came with a preinstalled ("OEM") Windows 7, 100% legal, that I was maintaining up to date and that was still useful to me for some specific tasks such as:
    Windows 8 was released in adversity, and did not interest me at all. Windows 8.1 seems to have had a better welcome, but did not better convinced me to make a move. Windows 10 followed in 2015, with a FREE upgrade (for a migration from 7 or 8, upgrade not offered from Vista or XP), a first ever for a major release of Windows, certainly inspired by a similar change at its competitor Apple in 2013. It is the first time that I thought about upgrading my old Windows 7, but the public's mixed reception of Windows 10 had me choose the status quo. But since every good thing comes to an end, Microsoft has ceased supporting Windows 7 in January (2020), 10½ years after its initial release. We definitely couldn't whine about that; 10½ years support to consumers, it is extraordinarily long and generous! It is actually TWICE as much as any distribution of Linux or version of MacOS! When we inevitably reach that fateful moment, we must take action. When we continue using an operating system (any one) that is no longer supported, we no longer receive security updates and we will sooner or later become vulnerable to attacks by hackers, who are going to exploit new security flaws found after the end of the OS' support.

    In my case, I was evaluating the risks to be very low. I was booting this Windows 7 about once a month, usually just to make a very specific task that gives me very low exposition to security flaws. That is why I did not sacrifice sleepless nights to make that upgrade in January, and patiently waited that I have enough time to do it. That time has finally come in this month of July 2020. It would be inaccurate to say that I had been using a 100% unsupported operating system for 6 months, because I did receive some updates after the fateful date, including the last one that was the Edge web browser (the successor of Internet Explorer), which was surprisingly pushed to me as a security update!... without uninstalling IE 11 for it!... But except for that Edge that was a false security update (let's agree, Edge is certainly more secure than IE, but if it is only installed side-by-side of IE and that the user can continue using  IE as before, then it is not a security update), I saw that I had not received any other security update for a good while. It was greatly time to take action!

The myth

Myth: the upgrade to Windows 10 was only free for 1 year, from July 2015 to July 2016. After that date, it is required to purchase a Windows license, at a minimum cost of CA$189 or US$139.

Fact: Although it is no longer possible to make this upgrade for free from Windows Update or the Get Windows 10 (GWX) application, it is still possible to make it from a Windows 10 upgrade DVD or USB key. That is surprising, but moderately surprising. What is really unbelievable, is that it is not even necessary to have downloaded the ISO image of that DVD or USB key before the end of the promotion; we can still download it today, exactly 4 years later, for free on Microsoft's Web site!!! Big thanks to CNet for its extremely useful article on the subject! In short, we only have to:
* If that boot on a DVD or USB key doesn't work at first hand, you may have to modify the configuration of your PC's BIOS.

That procedure unveiled by CNet is the one that Powhertz successfully followed. Yes, you can still upgrade a Windows 7 to Windows 10 for free and legally!

The long (and frustrating) desert crossing

We now know that it is free and that anybody can do it, but that doesn't mean that it will be a pleasant experience for everyone! You might be surprised that Microsoft does not recommend it. In the following page from the Windows 10 support :
, we can read that it is possible to buy Windows 10 for our Windows 7 or 8.1 PC, but that: "An upgrade can take place on your existing device, though Microsoft recommends using Windows 10 on a new PC to take advantage of the latest features and security improvements.". I had read those words in the past (several months before my upgrade) and it seemed obvious to me at that time that they were just aiming at stimulating sales in a troubled PC market. Following my experience, I understood that it was also aiming at avoiding requests to Microsoft's support team, for an upgrade process having some loopholes. Despite that recommendation that surely convinced more than one to replace their whole PC, phrases such as "problem migrating from Windows 7 to 10" are amongst the most popular keywords on the Google search engine, the given example returning more than 2.7 billion (not million, billion!) results! Far from me the intent to discourage you from proceeding to the upgrade of your Windows 7 to Windows 10, we must do it! According to NetMarketShare, still 23.35% of all people using a "desktop" type computer on the Web were still using Windows 7 in June 2020, which is way too much for an unsupported operating system! Far from me too the idea to encourage you to replace your whole PC if it still works fine; wasting some precious hardware for a sole and only softwares consideration would be anti-ecological, spendthrift and a little bit stupid! All I say is that the upgrade process will work like a charm for some, while it could be very frustrating for others... including myself! That is why I wanted so much to share my experience, in hope that it can help other users who would be in the same situation.

So I booted up my PC with my Windows 10 upgrade DVD. On track for an upgrade from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 10 Home! It started very nicely, but it is long, very long! Not only because Windows 10 is big, but also because of a lot of updates to download from the Internet, even though my ISO image was dating of May 2020 and that I was therefore expecting to have for only 2 months of extra updates to download. At least, that's what I'm expecting. Is it really the case? Impossible for me to know, because those updates done during the Windows 10 installation are not showing in the Windows Update history once the installation is complete. That history starts from the moment where the Windows 10 installation is over and that the user starts applying updates by himself. The full installation process lasts nearly 2 hours, so it is not reasonably possible to remain stoic in front of the computer for all that time. Like anyone else, there is a point where I stood up and went doing something else. When I came back, bad surprise: the installer is in the process of a rollback, showing the following message in French: "Annulation des modifications apportées à votre ordinateur portable" ("Undoing changes made to your laptop computer")... which is a bit funny since my PC is not a laptop computer at all! Once that rollback completed I can see the following error:

Échec de l'installation lors de la phase SECOND_BOOT. Erreur lors de l'opération SYSPREP-RESPECIALIZE.

A search for that error on Google is giving me a very wide range of causes and solutions, very few of which having the potential to apply to my case. Apparently, my savior will be called SetupDiag, a small utility that Microsoft seems to have released in 2016 I think, and seems to have become extremely popular in the past 2 years. That utility was filling me with hope, but unfortunately, it does not work very well on my Windows 7 PC. I nonetheless manage to grab one relevant information out of it: "processing rule: DeviceInstallHang". But what device, and what more? I was unable to get to know more with SetupDiag.

So I started searches in my Windows' log files, such as setupact.log . Not any better at all. All I found in there is this, which finally proved to be a false clue: "AudMig: No audio endpoint migration settings found 0x2".

But then, what can I do to get the relevant information in order to understand what causes my error "during the SYSPREP-RESPECIALIZE operation" ?! That's where a user screenshot, found during my searches on Google, has changed everything: there is supposed to be a BSOD ("Blue Screen Of Death", well-known expression for Windows' crash blue screens since "forever", or at least since Windows 95) displaying before the computer automatically reboots and starts the rollback! That screen probably contain the revelant information that I am looking for!

So I start over the whole installation process, for a 2nd time. This time, I don't look at my screen continuously for nearly 2 hours, but at least, I stay just next to it to make something else while keeping the screen in my field of view. That starts getting a little clearer: I was able to see that the crash happened at 84% of the progress of the Windows 10 updates installation step! But I still missed the details of the BSOD!

So I start over the whole installation process, for a 3rd time. This time, I wait for the for Windows 10 updates installation step, and then I watch very closely while I impatiently wait to get to 84%! Here it is, at 84%, I see that damn BSOD!! I have time to write down error code DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL, but after just a few seconds, ten seconds at most, it reboots before I have time to read the BSOD through the end! Still, that DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL reinvigorate my hope! But yet again, as for the SYSPREP-RESPECIALIZE, I realize that this is a pretty generic error that can have various causes and solutions. Without more information on what causes that DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL, I am lining up for hours of trials and errors, without a guaranteed result at the end of those valiant efforts.

So I start over the whole installation process, for a 4th time. This time, I feel very experimented! I know that it is useless to watch the screen until I reach 58% of the progress of the Windows 10 updates installation step, after which I only have a few more minutes to wait. The 84% comes, I am all febrile with my pencil in hand, ready to write as quickly as possible any information what will display after the DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL! You are going to tell me that I just had to take a picture of the BSOD in my 3rd installation attempt. That is right, but I could not know that this BSOD would show up and hide to quickly that I would not even have time to note that it is displaying! So voilà: I manage to note the end of the BSOD, which says: "What failed: jraid.sys". Now, we've got something! A simple search on Google quickly learns me that jraid.sys is a RAID driver by JMicron, and that I can deactivate it without any problem if I am not using a RAID (a storage mode offering redundancy) on my PC. It is absolutely my case, so I open up the Device Manager of my Windows 7 and go into:
Device Manager > Storage controllers > JMicron JMB36X Controller, corresponding to file C:\Windows\system32\DRIVERS\jraid.sys (version, I click on the Disable button, and I...

... , start over the whole installation process, for a 5th time! Deception, I get the same BSOD again! :'(   I search on Google again, and end up finding a discussion from a user very exacttly in my situation, who says he was forced to UNINSTALL that driver, and not only Disable it, during a Windows 10 update (not necessarly during an upgrade to Windows 10, but an update of Windows 10). So I go back in the Device Manager of my Windows 7 again and go back in:
Device Manager > Storage controllers > JMicron JMB36X Controller
The driver is still disabled, but this time, I click on the "Uninstall" button, without checking the checkbox to also delete the file from disk, though. And guess what?

I start over the whole installation process, for a 6th time! This time is the good one! When I saw the progress state of the Windows 10 updates installation getting by the fateful threshold of the 84%, I felt overwhelmed by a feeling of joy!! But while still being well aware that the game still isn't over yet. Who said that I will not have another BSOD by the end of the installation process, or another major problem in Windows 10 once the installation is over? Well, very fortunately, it will not be my case! The installation of Windows 10 ends up with success and my PC reboots in Windows 10, without any crash! Wow! How many hours invested in this desert crossing? 6 times nearly 2 hours = nearly 12 hours of installation as is, but we muat add all the searches on Google, my attempts with SetupDiag and with the Windows 7 upgrade log files, etc. This upgrade probably reaches a total of over 15 hours of work, but at least that hard work and big frustrations are not in vain!

Pleasant result

If the installation was long and painful, the end result is pleasantly surprising. First of all, usage is relatively fluid. Of course that it will not be perfectly fluid on a 10½ year old PC, but it is totally usable. Actually, I regret not having done some benchmarks to compare the execution time of certain tasks (like the Windows boot, opening a session, start a browser, etc.) between Windows 7 and Windows 10 because honestly, I think those times would be very similar! So according to my little experience, Windows 10 would not really have higher hardware requirements than Windows 7 in terms of processor, RAM or graphics card, regardless of what they say. The only downside that I had is a new video recording feature (like the traditional screenshot, but in video instead of photo), that gave me this error: " Sorry, this PC doesn't meet the hardware requirements for recording clips.". So what? This is not a regression anyway, Windows 7 was not offering this functionality...

Then, I admit being impressed to see that all of the applications that I had in Windows 7 are still there, and that they are almost all still functional. I know, I had selected the "Keep personal files and apps" installation option, which is selected by default anyway, so I should expect this result! But I did not know if I could really believe it, and the answer is yes! All of those old applications have been migrated in a directory named "Roaming" and, if I understood correctly, those applications in "roaming" are executed in a mode that would be simulating Windows 7 in Windows 10. And that works pretty well! The only applications that did not work for me in that mode are Acrobat Reader DC, that I simply had to uninstall and reinstall natively in Windows 10, and the HP software for my printer, that kind of detected that they were not working fine when I tried to use them, and migrated on their own to a Windows 8 mode, which works fine in my Windows 10. I also had to uninstall my Skype 7.3, because a Skype 8 already comes with Windows 10 anyway. I did not have to touch my other applications, not even my antivirus which seems to have adapted to Windows 10 in a transparent way.

An ordeal never comes alone

Too good to be true? After 3 or 4 boots in Windows 10 without any problem, unbelievable, the DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL BSOD is suddenly back, still related to jraid.sys!!! I thought that Windows Update has certainly applied an update that reinstalled my trouble-causing RAID driver, that this will get back on every Windows 10 update and that I might even be forced to get back to Windows 7 forever! But before panicking, I bring back my good old reflexes of the '90s: let's reboot Windows in fail-safe mode! The driver at fault will probably be inactive in there, and I will probably be able to diagnose and fix the problem. In my boot loader, I see an item called "Windows Recovery Environment". I tell myself that this must be like a new name for the fail-safe mode in modern versions of Windows! I therefore select this option. Surprise: this is not the fail-safe mode at all, but an interface with the colors of my PC maker, Gateway, with restore options. Immediately seeing that this is not what I'm looking for, I click "Quit" without changing anything else, thinking that this will not bring any change to my system. Upon reboot, CATASTROPHE: my boot loader is corrupted!!! My PC therefore becomes nearly unusable!!!

So I reboot my PC with my Linux installation DVD, which allows me to use a good partitioning tool. This allows me to see that the Windows Recovery Environment has screwed up my hard drive partitions, but not completely... My partitions 1, 2 and 3, used by Windows, seem intact. As we know, partition 4 is only used to make extended partitions, in other words allowing the old PC architecture, initially limited to 4 partitions, to get above that limit. My partition 5, my Linux swap partition, is surprisingly untouched. However, my FAT32-formatted partition 6, a format typical of Windows, is completely deleted, as well as my EXT4-formatted partition 7, corresponding to my Linux' main mount point. In short, I no longer have a Linux, I no longer have a FAT32 data partition, I've got a screwed up boot loader, but maybe I still have a working Windows 10 and a working Linux swap partition, who knows?!

I therefore reinstall my Linux, and the GRUB boot loader. Luckily, the whole contents of my FAT32 partition was saved elsewhere, and was restored without any loss. My PC is therefore saved, but what about that wicked Windows 10 that had put me into that mess? I know, it is mostly the fault of that "Windows Recovery Environment" of my Gateway PC, but none of this would have happened if Windows 10 did not suddenly resuscitate the trouble-making driver that I had not only disabled but deleted! Pleasant surprise: I manage to boot in Windows 10 without any problem! That means the partitions tied to my Windows were really intact. Luckily, Windows does not crash immediately; doing as fast as I can, I had time to open the Device Manager and re-uninstall my jraid.sys driver, which was indeed back and re-enabled. I then opened Windows Update to confirm my theory about what happened, but Windows Update's update history does not list any update whatsoever since the installation of my Windows 10. I try a manual update to see if that history is really working properly, and it is affirmative, my update gets properly listed there. So, my driver that I uninstalled came back alone, and it would not even my related to an automatic update from Windows. What a mystery! I really don't understand how Windows may have come to this.


Despite all of those pitfalls, we can say that this migration was a success. At the time of writing these lines, my Windows 10 still works and the jraid.sys driver did not reinstall or re-enabled. In summary:


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