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Don't upgrade that Zune... yet

Some first-generation Zune owners are upset about the new software being thrust upon them by Microsoft.

Screen shot of Zune support messageboard.
The flaming pushpin is never a good sign on a support message board.

(Update: As of 2/01/08, many of the bugs discussed in this blog post have been addressed in Firmware update 2.3 and the PC software update 2.3. While no software is 100% perfect, the Zune software development team has been making significant strides in the past few months, and most users shouldn't experience these same hiccups that were encountered early on.)

Legions of first-gen Zune owners are are downloading the latest version (v1.2) of the PC-based Zune software, and profoundly regretting it. If the Zune support message boards are any indication, there are some bitter first-gen Zune owners out there who are feeling slighted by Microsoft's all-inclusive upgrade to their Zune line.

The major sticking point on the forum (with 9,200 views and counting) seems to be abducted library metadata (album art, ID3 tags, playlists, song ratings) caused by upgrading to the latest version of the Zune PC software. The Zune support team has posted a seemingly viable solution to the problem, but not everyone is happy having to poke around on their computer's Local Settings folder to rename and delete files.

To see if the complaints had any merit, I upgraded from v1.1 of the software (the version I was given for the official CNET review) to the latest version. The result? The majority of my personal music library had been scrambled--artist and album information got all mixed up, and album art was reassigned randomly across my collection. My Zune Pass subscription music files, however, survived unharmed. To be clear, the Zune software upgrade didn't scramble my actual music files, they just appeared scrambled within the Zune software. The same files displayed perfectly fine in Windows Media Player. Instructions posted in the Zune forum solved my metadata scramble problem, but it was a hassle.

Another problem people are running into with the new Zune software is an error message ambiguously telling users that they are "missing a package." The solution for this seems more nebulous. Suggestions range from making sure Windows is up-to-date, to enabling firewall protection.

The overarching problem users are complaining about are the features that have been stripped out of the Zune PC software. Smart playlists, in-depth ID3 tag editing, drag-and-drop album art, and the five-star rating system have been scrapped in an effort to presumably make the software less intimidating to new users. In the big picture, I think the Zune's new PC software makes the device more attractive to a larger range of consumers, but I can understand power-users feeling betrayed by having features taken away from them. The problem is compounded by the fact that the closed ecosystem of the Zune hardware and software leaves more demanding users with nowhere else to turn.

My recommendation: first-gen Zune users should resist the temptation of upgrading their Zune PC software until the next version is available. Doing so could result in a huge headache of reassigning album art, rebuilding playlists, and tinkering with hidden application files.

Anyone else having these upgrade glitches? Thoughts on the new Zune PC software? Sound off in the comments section.