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A Windows Vista experience

Updated Thursday, 8th February 2007

Upgrading to Windows Vista may take longer than the one hour that Microsoft claim.

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The first steps on the road to a Vista upgrade were fine – Microsoft’s Vista Upgrade Advisor gave my XP Media Center PC a clean bill of health. And so it should - the hardware that lets me watch and record Freeview TV, listen to music and store thousands of digital photos, while not state-of-the-art, is only 18 months old. Driven by a fast Pentium 4 processor, with lots of memory,  a cavernous hard disk, a 24-bit audio system and a  DVB Freeview tuner from a highly reputable  manufacturer – this hardware should provide good service for a couple of years or so.

My PC’s operating system software – Windows XP Media Center – is another story. The Media Centre component of the OS (Operating System) – the bit that lets me schedule and record Freeview TV and organise my CD collection and digital images - is rather clunky.  Part of the promise of Vista is that it gives an ‘improved media center experience’. Also, the Vista promise of better security is a another real attraction. As a security measure, before I logon to my online banking service or before I use my credit card online, I run the SpyBot and Ad-Aware software to remove unwelcome and unwanted malware from my PC – taking four or five minutes each time. If Vista’s Defender security software can save me time – that’s another reason to upgrade.

A Micorsoft vista: The company's campus in Washington State [Image: Micrsooft] Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Microsoft
A Microsoft vista: The company's campus in Washington State

After being given this clean bill of health, I was convinced that an upgrade to Vista Home Premium Edition was the right decision. So I placed the installation disk in the PC’s DVD drive and sat back to watch the action.  Microsoft’s claim is that it takes an hour to install Vista. Actually on the first time I was able to do a complete installation, it took 93 minutes. 

On my first attempt, signs of trouble did not take long to appear. Early on, as a prelude to the Vista installation, the host PC’s hardware is checked out – and guess what – this time my DVB TV Tuner was deemed not to be compatible. Later I checked the tuner manufacturer’s web site and found that they had not produced Vista versions of the driver software for this particular model. This failure to provide Vista compatible software drivers is not a Microsoft problem – but they left it a bit late in the day to tell me about it! 

Vista compatible DVB TV tuners are easy to find and replace – so I turned off the PC, removed the offending item and re-started the installation process. This time it ground to a halt when my 24-bit audio card failed.  Actually, the Vista installation process is quite clever, it had found new compatible software drivers for the card – but after they were installed, the card refused to start. So – the PC was shut down again, the audio card removed and the installation procedure started for the third time. This time, with the PC’s original audio system in place, the installation procedure ran to completion. Bliss – even though it had taken almost three hours to get there. 

They say that bliss is an ephemeral emotion – and in this case – ‘they’ are right. After installation, the PC is re-booted to configure its new Vista system. It was here that Vista decided that it now could not get my DVD drive to work. I politely pointed out – actually it was not so polite – that it had been using the bloody thing quite happily for the last three hours – but to no avail!   

A solution? When I regain my courage I will dig out my XP Media Center disks and reinstall the old XP Operating System – a job that will probably mean starting from scratch take a day or so to get up and running again. 

A conclusion? While the upgrade option may look a cost effective solution, it is a fragile process that may prove very costly in both time and money.

A lesson? Don’t believe everything that Microsoft  tells you – particularly their Vista upgrade advisor!

Further reading

  • Network effects – new technology doesn't succed or fail on its own merits
  • Microsoft's New VistaMoney Programme gets exclusive access to Microsoft for the launch of its biggest ever product




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