Windows Vista: not for the tame of spirit

My big personal tech project over the last couple of weeks has been migrating to Vista. Why, I hear you ask? The answer, I’m afraid, is essentially ‘for the hell or it’. A longer answer: my XP install had been clunkering along since I bought my current desktop PC in early 2005. As Windows is wont to do, it had begun to bloat to an unacceptable level and performance was, not to put too fine a point on it, crap. So; rather than reinstall the 5 year old Windows XP, or the 3 year old XP SP2, I opted to get that new hard drive I’d been needing (a 250GB WD drive with 16 meg cache), Windows Vista Home Premium OEM and some new RAM to manage the transition.

That’s already quite an involved process: I knew an upgrade to Vista wouldn’t be a good thing from a performance perspective so I opted for a fresh new install. When the parts arrived, I hit my first stumbling block – Dell only provided one SATA power cable. So I couldn’t get the new hard drive to work. Much fiddling and one cable purchase further, with everything plugged in, I installed Vista clean on my new hard drive. The Vista advisor had suggested that some of my hardware, including my network card, wouldn’t work, but (some fiddling later) I got it all up and running. Bizarrely, my Soundblaster Audigy 2 (from the most popular manufacturer of sound card hardware in the world?) required me to download beta drivers from the its website. Windows caught most other things.

Given the amount of hardware I have (I have things plugged into 22 USB sockets) it was quite impressive that it managed this. But still; non-trivial for a casual PC user.

Other things that went wrong / require(d) fiddling:

(1) My iPod required the Apple Ipod fix for Vista.
(2) My NAS drive isn’t supported as a NAS drive – will need to get a generic storage network adaptor rather than the proprietary Freecom one I used
(3) I’ll have to reinstall a stack of applications/freeware/etc., which I can’t quite bring myself to do with my PC working this well
(4) RAM demands are big
(5) The permissions thing (that spawned this Mac ad) is annoying as hell, although Lifehacker does have a workaround somewhere.

Things that work really well / much better than under XP:

(1) File system is improved
(2) Search is fantastic
(3) Aero is SO pretty / Flip3D is cute ;-)
(4) Task manager is much more useful
(4) Multimedia / pictures / music etc., are all improved, and Media Player/sharing integration is good

So; in essence, a lot of subtle polishing and some good performance tweaks, but its really not easy to migrate yourself over and probably not worth it for these changes. If you are buying a new PC, for most of your requirements, odds are that things will work and you will be better protected against spyware and potentially self-inflicted damage. Most people shouldn’t even try to upgrade, especially if you’re on a laptop and don’t have scope to upgrade your hardware as well.

Still, if you’re up for a challenge, Vista is damn pretty. And fun. For those curious, the current spec of my PC is a P4 3Ghz (single core), 3GB of RAM, an Nvidia 7950GT graphics card (sadly not DirectX10 compatible), and the aformentioned WD hard drive add up to a performance index of 4.2 (current max is 6, but I vaguely remember reading that its open ended). Simon, thanks for the encouragement – well worth the efforts.