A Platform Challenge story (Win10)

My recent attempts to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is a good illustration of some of the platform challenges associated with digital preservation planning. The background to this tale is that my lifetime collection of work documents is held in a document management system called Fish which employs an underlying SQL Express database to store the digital documents. The high level index to the collection is contained in a FileMaker database which integrates with Fish via some simple commands. All these pieces of software run on a laptop under the Windows 7 operating system.

Last year, when I first heard about Microsoft’s plan to enable users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free for an initial period, I decided that I would take advantage of the offer but would leave it till close to the cut-off date – which turned out to be the day before yesterday (29Jul2016).  In the intervening months, FileMaker issued yet another new version of its database (15) which I decided to take up (at £280) as my current  version (11) was no longer going to be supported, and I wanted to have a version which I could be sure would work successfully under Windows 10.

With FileMaker 15 in place, I got confirmation from my document management supplier that Fish does work under Windows 10, and so set about preparing to undertake the Win10 upgrade. The upgrade screen informed me that there were no incompatibility problems with any of my software, and my wife had already undertaken the upgrade successfully on her laptop at the first time of asking with the anti-virus programme that we both employ still running, so I thought there was fighting chance that the upgrade might go smoothly. I made a comprehensive set of backups, and set the upgrade going. It failed, giving me the rather cryptic error message 80070004-3000D. I soon discovered that , despite this being such a specific error number, there is no specific reason for failure associated with it. I spent many hours over the following four weeks trawling the net and reading a whole variety of advice from Microsoft and others about this error.

One of the first things I came across alerted me to potential problems with the SQL Express database that I was running. After further research I eliminated that as being a reason for the failure of the upgrade, but I did discover that Microsoft were not going to support the version I am running (2008R2) under Windows 10. I discussed this with my document management system supplier who advised that they had recently performed an upgrade to a later version for a client but that it hadn’t been entirely straightforward. They advised me to delay upgrading the database as long as possible. I checked the net again and found at least one entry saying that SQL Express 2008R2 was working under Windows 10, so I decide to set aside the SQL challenge for the time being.

I subsequently tried out a whole variety of suggestions I found on the net to overcome the error including removing superfluous user profiles; checking that folders such as Programme Files, Programme Data and Users are in the same directory as the OS; running scannow; checking I don’t have a proxy server; checking I have no empty folders in the Start Menu; checking that my computer name is not System or other reserved name and is more than 8 characters long; checking regedit to ensure that OS upgrades are allowed; performing the upgrade in Administrator mode; and creating a new Administrator role and upgrading from that. None of these worked across about 8 upgrade attempts, and each time I got the same 80070004-3000D error message.

Finally the deadline passed, and I was glad to be able to be able to stop the whole very time consuming and frustrating exercise. However, Microsoft was able to deliver a final sting from its very long and uncontrolled tail: I tried to write to them alerting them of my inability to find a solution to 80070004-3000D and asking them to confirm I would still be eligible for a free update if and when I did. I used a box on one of their ‘Contact us’ support screens which said something like ‘describe your problem here’ and which had a NEXT button underneath. I wrote out my problem, but, on pressing the NEXT button, another screen appeared which said ‘this page doesn’t exist’. Highly annoyed, I returned to the previous screen, copied my text, put it in a mail message to myself so it was properly date stamped, printed it out and sent it to the UK Microsoft HQ in Stockley Park. I do not expect to hear back from them.

For now I will continue using Windows 7, and the question of whether and when to upgrade to Windows 10 will become just another platform question that will need to be addressed in the Digital Preservation Planning exercise I intend to embark on for my document collection in the next six months or so.

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