It’s back-to-school time, and there are some amazing bargains if you’re looking for new laptops: following Walmart, just about all major retailers offer at least one sub $300 model – a bit underpowered, if you ask me, but for $100 more you can get fairly powerful computers, still below the $500 treshold. Netbooks are no exception, and there’s a new kid on the block: the superslim notebook priced just above the netbook range, but with more powerful processors.
Just look at this beauty from Lenovo: with various coupons it is now available in the $570-$599 range, while comparable Acer Timeline notebooks ( 4 pounds, 8-hr battery life) can be picked up for $550.
These super-slims share a common trait: the lack of an optical drive. All fine with me – I can count the number of times I used the CD / DVD drive in any of my computers, and for these babies optimized for travel they would just mean extra weight. I don’t need them. Except. For. That One Time.
That one time is the upgrade to Windows 7. Most of these units come with Windows Vista, and while for the past year or so the optimal solution would have been to “downgrade” to XP even at extra cost, from now on customers are better off putting up with Vista and taking advantage of the free Windows 7 upgrade program. For example, here’s what Lenovo says:
Each upgrade kit will be mailed separately and contain:
- Windows 7 Certificate of Authenticity
- Windows 7 OS Upgrade DVD
- Lenovo Drivers / Apps DVD1
- Instructions on how to upgrade the operating system
Hm. DVD. How will you install it on a drive-less PC? I fired off an email to Lenovo, and you can follow the Customer Service Failure here. Eventually they came through, Mark, who I found out is active on a number of Lenovo forums responded in a comment, apologizing for the miscommunication. Great. But here’s the gist of his answer:
In direct answer to your question, the present plan / program is to deliver the upgrades on DVD – currently no provision for direct download. This would require customers such as yourself to use an external, USB optical drive.
Ouch. They can’t be serious. I’m smelling lawsuits, big time. (again) Here’s why: there are workarounds (see later), but generally customers who buy a computer with the promise of a free upgrade, can expect it to come in a form that they can apply without the purchase of additional equipment. USB optical drives run anywhere upwards of $80, which is more than a paid Win7 upgrade if you caught the initial discounts – so much for a freebie. This is so outrageous, that I don’t even believe it will hold – I’d like to hope it’s simply a matter of OEM’s not having sorted out the details yet.
As for those workarounds, here’s a quick conversationI had with Ed Bott, who has just decoded Microsoft’s cryptic update matrix:
Summing it up, the solution is either:
- Copying the install DVD to your hard drive via a network, and install from there, or
- Creating a setup USB and install from there
I’m still not sure about not needing to reboot from your install media, and neither solution is too obvious for the less technically inclined. Here are a few writeups on creating bootable Win7 flash drives – simple, isn’t it? You can many will rather buy an external optical drive, or go to a service provider – neither option is free. Unless OEMs come to there senses and deliver the upgrade in a directly installable (download or USB) format.
I bet they will.