Installing Vista

I installed Vista last night twice; the first was an upgrade from XP Pro on my laptop, the other a fresh install on my desktop. The experience was quite interesting for both; here are a few thoughts about the process:

Laptop

My laptop has a fairly modest configuration, 1.73GHz Pentium M, 512MB, 80GB hard-drive, and Mobil Intel 915 64MB for the graphics. It’s been running Windows XP Pro, last night I went through the upgrade process to Vista Business. It checking for compatibility it found a couple of applications it had issues with, but it seems it wasn’t happy just telling me that they might not work, but they had to be removed before I could go on.

This required exiting setup and uninstalling both Nero and the freshly released Windows PowerShell so that I could continue. Once the offending applications were removed, I started the process again (including the 15 minute compatibility check). From here on, the process went well, although surprisingly slow. From start to first boot into Vista was a bit over three hours.

Once Vista was finally running I had my first taste of Vista, as I had not installed the betas, this was the first time I had used it. The first few minutes were full of disappointing surprises, such as the two INI files adorning my desktop, or the new ‘home’ folder full of permission errors and various configuration files. It’ll take me a fair bit of time to clean my hard drive up from that, it’s really quite a mess. On the upside, pretty much all of my software worked fine, except for the various drivers and utilities to adjust things just as power profiles and wireless network settings, but Vista includes enough to cover the functionality of everything that stopped working.

Impression: Overall positive, it’s a nice operating system, but I’m disappointed in how long it’ll take to get things cleaned up, get the permissions corrected and back to a similar setup to what I had before.

Desktop

My desktop is a bit more beefy, but still nothing special, it looks something like this: 3.0GHz Pentium 4, 1.0GB of RAM, 80GB system hard-drive (plus a separate data drive), nVidia GeForce MX4000 128MB (PCI) and a ATI Radeon 7000 64MB (AGP). This box was also running XP Pro and had been in need of rebuilding for a couple of months at least.

This was a fresh install, and surprisingly quick. I made it to the first boot into Vista in around an hour, a third of the time required for the upgrade. This one went a fair bit smoother than the upgrade process and seems to be a fairly pleasant one. Once the system was up and running, I found the file system to be a fair bit cleaner than the upgrade produced.

Among the first things I checked was the ‘Experience Index’ to see where my computer ranks, and what the odds would be of getting Aero working. With a grand score of 1.0, I knew that wouldn’t happen. So, I check and sure enough my hunch was right, it was my graphics cards that were to blame. Me being the geek I am, I had to have Aero, so a 10PM run to the local Best Buy, and picked out a ATI Radeon X1600 Pro. I figured this card would have plenty of power for Aero.

Thankfully, Windows was able to identify a driver so I didn’t have to do any searching. All I had to do was reboot, and there was Aero, in all its glory. If you’ve not seen Aero yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. This new shell is great, very different, but really nice.

Impression:  Quite positive, much better than the upgrade. System is stable and almost all of my normal software is working. If you’re going to install Vista, make sure your box has some beef, and start fresh. I’d advise against doing the upgrade, while it does work, it leaves a bit of a mess.