Thursday, September 11, 2008

XP to Vista: the Upgrade saga

I have had a free copy of Windows Vista Upgrade (Home Premium Ed.) laying around since February, 2007. I had hesitated because I didn't need it. There was nothing I desired that wasn't already possible with my XP Media Center Edition 2005 (save for DirectX 10, those stupid desktop gadgets and a reorganized Control Panel). I knew Vista because my previous job had our think tank beta-test it for a month in January, 2007. Fast-forward to now, and need to format my hard drive. It has had much wear and tear, and the list of installs/uninstalls is epic. And I had a plan: multiboot XP and Vista. But, it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought...

XP Format
First, I insert my XP disc and restart. I use the old bluescreen DOS interface (it reminds me of WordPerfect in junior high) to format and do a clean install. I partitioned my hard drive into two parts: 200 GB for XP, and 30 GB for Vista. My idea was to continue using XP, but just use Vista for web surfing and little things. I knew one day I would have to take the Vista plunge, so this was a transition test. Everything went well with the XP install (on Drive C:).

Vista Format
Next, I inserted the Vista disc and restarted. I booted from the CD and expected "good old DOS blue screen", but to my surprise Microsoft overhauled the interface, and the mouse works... Maybe this Windows has something more to offer. So I use the new GUI to select D: drive, and click "Install Now". I walk away after 5 minutes and come back in about 15. I realize the hard drive and CD-ROM aren't doing anything, so I place the mouse cursor on the progress bar (use the mouse pointer to measure if there is any progress made over time). I come back 45 min later, and realize the install hadn't moved. I hit the X button to cancel install, and this doesn't help. I have to hold down the power button and start over. I decide to boot into XP and look at some Microsoft articles...

Vista Format (II)
So, I theorize that my install failed because I'm using a Dell Upgrade of Vista, instead of a retail copy. I decide to insert the disc while XP is running, and install Vista onto D: from there. This method works, and makes progress until it freezes at "Extracting files: 27%..." I watch the 27% for about 30 minutes like an ass, and realize I have to manually power off and try again. I start another theory about my wireless internet fucking things up, because it keeps searching for an access point (and I didn't take the time to disable it). I disable the wireless card and try again. At 27%, I almost shit my pants when it hit 28%. It finally finishes and I think I am out of the woods...

Internet Setup
I am using a Netgear router and a Linksys G card to get my internet fix. The connection worked masterfully for a good 3 months, but I had major, major troubles with both XP and Vista. Before you jump to conclusions, it was human error that made me have a headache for 8 hours. The setup was fine--I just forgot the 3% of the Encryption Key (which I thought I knew by heart).

Current status
Everything is great now. I am still multibooting and mostly using XP (for surfing, downloads and gaming). Vista looks OK, but I don't know how much restriction there will be when I need to do something tricky. It should be noted that boot time for both OS's is almost exactly the same. I think 3 GB of RAM blurs the line.

Tips
If you are reading this because of Windows formatting problems, here is some advice:
1. Always install the older version of Windows first.
2. Unplug all USB shit and disable your wireless connection. You may want to remove any PCI cards (modem, etc) to prevent Device Manager from going apeshit and detecting new hardware.
3. Make a Restore Point almost immediately.
4. Install Service Packs before anything else. (Note: Vista SP1 takes an hour!)
5. Make sure the dual-boot timer is >5 seconds, so you can select which OS you want to run at system startup.

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