Migrating to Windows Vista

31st Jan 2007 | 00:00

Migrating to Windows Vista

The PC Plus team shares its installation thoughts

Of all the big features in Windows Vista, backward compatibility is simultaneously the least sexy, and the most important. You don't want to have to replace all of your old drivers and software just to get them looking good in their new Aero Glass home, and it'll take some time before even recent releases are updated. Older ones may never be.

Here, the PC Plus magazine writers take a look at how they found the migration from Windows XP to the pre-launch versions of Vista - not in terms of what's new and improved, but rather how the future plays alongside the computers of today.

Martin Cooper says:
Generally, I've been pretty impressed with how the various versions of Vista I've tested work. Both Beta 2 and RC1 installed without a hitch and looked beautiful. I particularly enjoyed running the Office 12 Beta and imagining how my PC would look in six or eight months' time. The difficulties I've experienced can be mostly attributed, I think, to unfinished drivers.

I tried running two monitors - one analog and the other DVI - and managing them was very difficult. Oddly, too, I found that Beta 2 didn't like working as a dual boot partner to SUSE Linux. I had installed Vista on a clean machine, it worked and then I let Linux do its stuff. The result was a knackered installation of Vista. I suspect this may be down to problems with the Grub boot loader, though I've not dug into the problem yet.

And then there's wireless networking. I have what you could euphuistically call a mature PC built of big-name components. My wireless network card, for example, is an 802.11g device made by Netgear. Sadly, Vista doesn't detect it.

Dan Grabham says:
Vista hates RealPlayer. So do I. But I need it, so I installed it. Vista immediately flagged up its incompatibility and died. Other than that, I've had surprisingly few third-party application problems.

Vista didn't recognise my nForce4 chipset under RC1, but this was fixed under RC2. It did mean I had to install an extra Ethernet card just to get network access for a time, though. As for other hardware, RC2 does run remarkably well on my ageing 9800 Pro card, but the old Athlon 64 3200 doesn't like it as much as I expected.

Neil Mohr says:
I've installed Vista RC1 and RC2 on eight or so systems. You might think I would want to impale myself on splintered Vista install discs... but I quite like the installation process. It's fast, and drivers can be finally installed from a USB flash drive. The main install headache was missing Mass Storage Drivers causing BSODs, which is fine when you know the reason, but surely avoidable by now.

Gary Marshall says:
My experience has been rather dull, I'm afraid: no performance problems, no major incompatibilities and only one driver issue when my GeForce card wouldn't display Aero Glass. A quick trip to Nvidia's site fixed that, and the only remaining niggle is grumpy SMB networking with a Mac. But that might be the Mac's fault.

Joe Cassells says:
It's nice to see Windows Defender installed by default and a long overdue malware section in the Security Center. I've used AVG's free antivirus for some time and been really impressed with it.

When I first started with Vista, there wasn't a compatible version of the program and I even tried to install AVG 7.1 in the hope it would work, but alas it didn't. Thankfully it was only a matter of days after RC1 was released that Grisoft brought out AVG 7.5 and I could install a free antivirus.

Tim Anderson says:
I've used Vista on two machines, one a home-brew desktop with an Intel motherboard, the other a brand new Toshiba Portege M400 laptop, described by Toshiba as 'Windows Vista capable'.

Installing on the desktop was by far the easiest, helped by a Nvidia GeForce 6600 graphics card, which copes well with Vista's Aero graphics. There is also an Adaptec 2940 SCSI card, which has no official Vista driver, but installing an older driver got it working. The one failure is a Umax Astra 5400 USB Scanner, for which I cannot find any viable driver.

Getting the Toshiba up and running was more of a challenge. Setup doesn't recognise the SATA driver, so sees no hard drive. The workaround is to turn on the laptop's RAID feature and use a driver on a USB stick. Setup then completed, but left many devices inoperative.

An arduous process of downloading beta drivers from Toshiba's site fixed most of the problems, though the fingerprint reader crashed and the trackpad utility raised two security dialogs on every boot.

Troubleshooting

Of course, as with every Microsoft OS, there are going to be teething problems for a while. For the next few weeks 'Vista-kicking' will be the web's most popular pasttime.

If you encounter problems, it's a good idea to right-click a program icon to bring up its properties and have Windows run it in XP compatibility mode, and as an administrator. This move to a full user-management model is one of the biggest changes for software to deal with, because Windows restricts where it's allowed to save programs to.

In the meantime, remember to keep checking your hardware provider for the latest Vista capable drivers, and look for updates on the major programs you use, even if it doesn't initially look like they're having problems getting comfortable in their new home. In some cases, you may have to pay to upgrade to the latest version of the software, in others, it'll be a simple patch upgrade. Either way, be on your guard, but don't be paranoid about problems when upgrading to Microsoft's latest OS.

This article first appeared in PC Plus issue 251.

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