Last month both my DVD-ROMs broke within a day of each other. The newer one, which I paid too much for at Best Buy last year with some of my tax return money, has a jammed cover that most of the time I can't even pry open; the other one, which was factory-installed back in 2002 when this relic was assembled, has a problem where it can play back original movie discs and run some original install disks, but not my home-brewed install disks or data backups (haven't tried home-brewed music or movie discs yet since I've been too distracted by losing the other playback options).
When I try to burn a data and/or ISO CD or DVD with the remaining burner I can't. I've tried ImgBurner, DeepBurner, FreeBurner, Magic ISO, BURNCDCC, and several other burning tools but their unanimous consensus is: "You don't have a DVD/CD-ROM drive". Oh, really? Well, here I am trying not to kick the darn thing in with my foot so I must have one, but you'd never know it when I try to burn something. The computer also will not recognize blank CDs or DVDs. Vista and 7 both freeze when I insert blank media. Device Manager lists the DVD-ROM by manufacturer name (I guess - I can't make out what sort of name that is, but at any rate it's the same name I've seen on it since I had XP) and it tells me it's working properly. The DVD-ROM also shows up just fine in the My Computer list, but that's it.
Since this problem started about one second after I wiped XP, I was unable to reinstall XP from my restore discs, nor from my back-up (home-brewed) restore discs, nor could I do what I usually do when I wipe an operating system: insert my XP Professional disc and format C:\ before I install a new OS or reinstall my last one. (For the curious, you pop the Pro disc in, select the format option (slow not Quick), then turn the computer off as soon as the format is done; reboot, and pop the install disc in for whatever operating system you want). I had no idea what was going on so I popped in one OS install disc after another until I reached my last resort: my Vista disc. Unfortunately, it worked just fine.
Next, I was unable to activate Vista in a timely manner. Every registry hack I used to extend the activation deadline was disabled, one after another, by Windows Update, which as of last night left me 17 days to find a new operating system. However, I had no way to burn an image/ISO of a new operating system: I could download but not burn or install it. Yet I'm writing this on my brand-spanking new install of Windows 7. How'd I do it? I don't really know. At the 11th hour, after performing at least 13 million searches, some kind of miracle occurred and I hit on this:
Virtual CloneDrive works and behaves just like a physical CD/DVD drive, however it exists only virtually. Image files generated with CloneDVD or CloneCD can be mounted onto a virtual drive from your hard-disk or from a network drive and used in the same manner as inserting them into a normal CD/DVD drive.
Probably the best virtual drive software, Virtual CloneDrive allows you to enjoy the freedom of a virtual drive and is completely free.
Daemon Tools, which I've used extensively in the past, seems like a torture device compared to Virtual CloneDrive, which is so easy to use your 5 year old could mount virtual drives - no problem. So why did I choose to install Windows 7, when I now had the freedom to install any operating system I wanted? It was there. I downloaded it last week when I realized the clock was running out on Vista. I certainly wasn't about to buy a license for Vista, I didn't feel like downloading/torrenting XP, and I didn't feel like messing around with Linux...so what choice did that leave, really?
One reason I wanted to try 7 are the many positive reviews to the effect of: "Faster than Vista, just as fast or even faster than XP". Oh, really? Vista Home Premium is the only version of Vista that runs smoothly or even correctly on my older hardware - a fact I learned after years of trial and error - a fact that makes no sense since Vista Basic is supposed to be - but isn't - the better choice for my computer's specs - and still it ran like a truck compared to XP, so I was leary of any positive reviews about 7, but I wanted to try it all the same. One thing the reviewers were wrong about is how long 7 takes to install. Most reviewers concur install goes "about twice as fast" as a Vista install does, but it came out about the same on my computer - maybe because of the older hardware...it's hard to say.
The only thing that made me nervous about installing 7 was being unable to format first. Formatting is something I always do; now I've installed four operating systems on top of each other without formatting (XP Home-->Vista-->Vista again - to extend my activation deadline-->Windows 7). It scares me to use a computer that's this messy, but I have little choice until I do something about the ROM drives. Almost as if in answer to my fears, 7 blue-screened with an IRCQ error ten minutes after first run. That's the first blue screen I've seen in any version of Windows on my computer in the last few years. I have no idea what caused it; all I was doing was peeking in the Control Panel and adjusting Clear Type and screen resolution. Then: Bam. Blue. Restart. "Start Windows normally." Enter. Wait. Everything has been fine since then outside of one unexpected restart after I opened Firefox 3.5 for the first time (figures it would lose its lunch over Firefox).
By the time I got that out of the way it was 2 in the morning. I had to get up early so I left Media Player 11 open to gather my music while I slept and messed around with the computer again after I got home tonight. After spending 3-5 hours on 7, I can see it runs noticeably faster than Vista. It's also quieter than Vista was. It's not churning the hard discs or doing that evil thing Vista does when you open a program or browser (mainly, freezing and hanging as though it's running Communist plot scenarios/outcomes in the background - Vista is quite freaky). 7 runs like XP does after I do every power tweak/hack/registry edit I can think of, disable every background program that doesn't absolutely need to run, remove every non-Windows program I won't die without, and clean the hard disks of all the garbage and temp data until they sparkle. 7, in fact, runs better than XP-out-of-the-box does on my hardware - which as I mentioned earlier, is utterly ancient stuff.
7 is also damn pretty. It's so damn pretty I took a few screen caps. I'm into trippy wallpapers big-time, and I like that 7 has a setting that lets you rotate them automatically. The only bad thing is because I can't run Aero on this hardware, I can't run screen savers, either. There's got to be a registry hack to get around that but if so, I haven't found one.