I installed Vista! Give me a cookie!

Late last year, while listening to the flux capacitor of the internet, I heard of a rumor of a giveaway of Microsoft software. True enough, after waiting patiently, I received a copy of Microsoft Vista Business in the mail a week ago. Free stuff from Microsoft? There’s a switch!

While I realize all the tech bloggers have long since made their opinions known, I’m one of the first I know to have upgraded and thought I’d share my experience.

The short version: I did a “Clean Install” of Windows Vista on a recent laptop. The Acer Laptop had a legacy problem, but after that issue was solved, the Vista upgrade went smoothly. It’s too early to tell if there’s anything besides a pretty look to the old XP or not. If your computer has an older video card, hold back on your upgrade.

The long version: Alison bought a new laptop for herself in August of 2006, and while it had a slip of paper inside that mentioned Vista, it didn’t mention anything about getting a FREE copy of a Vista upgrade. It was just a note saying that the laptop was “Vista ready”. jeez, thanks for that… I imagine that the same laptop sold later in 2006 came with that upgrade slip.

http://powertogether.com/ was a promotion to learn more about Vista and to receive a copy of Vista when it finally hit the stores – There was a promotion to learn about Office 2007 and get a copy of that as well, but I had trouble logging in and couldn’t participate in that promotion. The offer was to listen to three of a couple of dozen of Microsoft seminars about various Vista topics, and you qualify. I did listen (boring Power Point presentations for the most part, but most of the topics were way over my head, so it may have been nail bitingly exciting for all I can figure out!)

On to the upgrade: Acer laptop, the Acer Aspire 5102 WLMi [review site] that came with XP with the Media Center Edition. The laptop was a plus for us because of the extra bright screen and 2Gigs of memory. I figured I didn’t want to waste time replacing memory on a laptop, and the extra cost of the memory was at a minimum when we bought the machine — I couldn’t have purchased the same memory for less.

The problem with the Acer laptop was because Acer formats its laptops with FAT32 [Wikipedia] and not NTFS. [Wiki] I had studied the problem before, and I thought Acer was crazy for doing that. Turns out Acer discovered a small hard drive performance increase with FAT32 and that’s why they were sticking with it instead of the more modern NTFS. But Windows 2000 and XP can be installed on either hard drive file system, so there’s not any conflict…

Until you try to install Vista, which can only be installed on… you guessed it, NTFS.

The install program for Vista comes with a link to the Windows Advisor, which you can download yourself and run — it inspects your system and tells you what drivers you’ll need, and which drivers it can’t find, giving you warning which systems might not work after the upgrade. In my case, it helped download a few drivers, and sure enough, told me some things wouldn’t work after the upgrade. I sighed and said, okay, telling the computer to go ahead and install.

It wouldn’t. Vista had to reformat the disk. This is when I stopped and pulled all the files off. It turns out I didn’t need to. I managed to keep all the files. Here’s what I did.

I happen to have a copy of PartitionMagic by Symantec

The disk I got was Vista Business, but what’s more, the version wasn’t the upgrade version.

This meant a “clean install” was needed, which meant that no setting or mail would be saved.

Okay, all the files were transferred off anyway, so we were safe to install. Luckily, this wasn’t Alison’s primary machine.

What Vista’s clean install does is move all the files into a directory called Windows.old so they are there if you need to search for documents.

Overall the install went well. The drivers that Vista found before the install must have been there, because the laptop worked fine. The total time of install once everything got going was about 30 minutes and it didn’t need babysitting to take out the DVD from the drive during the final reboot.

What didn’t work? The center button of the touchpad and the flash card reader. Going to Acer’s website and grabbing those driver install files did the trick, although the flash card reader driver failed to exit properly.

— —
The upshot — the “So What?” about Vista —

Vista now “rates” your hardware, so that you know exactly how sucky your equipment is.

Windows calls it your “Windows Experience”
See a link to all that this means at Windows “Blog” for Vista [link]

Vista rates your computer. Memory, Hard Drive, Graphics… and then it tells you how well your machine scores.

3.0 is passing — you don’t want to see this:

Welcome to Vista! 2.1?? Your Computer Sucks

If you see something below a 3.0 score for your graphics, that means that you probably shouldn’t have replaced XP with Vista. It means that your computer sucks.

In my case, my graphics rated exactly a 3.0, which meant everything on Vista will show up fine. Since I don’t expect to be running two monitors or doing any serious frag fest gaming, everything will work fine.

Everything else at this point about Vista is a learning experience. Other installs of software went okay, but Vista wants you to approve every single operation that involves installing software or using unsigned software, which means you have extra OK buttons to hit. Annoying. There’s a way to turn that off, but for now, I don’t mind having it there.

How does Vista Look? You mean, the big “Aero” window thingee that you needed all that graphic power for?

Eh. The windows do some nice transitions upon opening and closing, and the edges of the windows are translucent. That’s about it for me.

I did want to test out Windows Media Player and pulled up an .AVI file of a High Def show I had on there… yeah… no codec. Wow, just like the XP version! In other words, no change. Windows still hasn’t learned to get their software to figure out where the proper software is, so I had to go and find the K-Lite Codec pack and install it. Now everything I could watch before I’m watching again on Vista. (The install of the K-Lite Codec pack takes a bit of option check box inspection, so do some research)

I’ll repeat what other and more tech type folks have already said: Vista is coming, but you aren’t required to rush out to install it right away. There’s nothing there that you can’t do with XP, unless you’re a power user.

Vista: Not Evil, but it is Microsoft. Which is like the brother of evil.