I had nothing but problems for the very start trying to upgrade rather than nuke the hard drive and start from scratch in a clean install. First off, getting from one application to another was a painstaking experience marked by minutes of inactivity. Except for the incessant glowing of the laptops hard disk in operation indicator light I would have sworn the operating system had locked up. I knew Vista would not be lightening fast on this relatively low powered laptop, but it shouldn't be this slow.
Still, while it was slow, if was going from application to application, so I stuck with it. Then I tried to load the CNET version of Nortel's VPN software. Right in the middle of the install a complete and utter failure of the operating system. The laptop reboots and for some reason it can no longer find the user profile services file. For some mysterious reason, the part of the operating system that actually allows you to log on was missing. I'd type in my user name and password and Vista would inform me that I could not log on, but thank you for playing.
I spent the rest of the morning running system restore and startup repair, but I could never actually get to the Vista desktop. The only thing that prevented me from having a mental breakdown was that I could get Vista to run in Safe Mode. From there I took some time in the afternoon to backup important data so I could do the clean install, which I did this morning.
I am relieved to report that the clean install is running fairly smoothly although there are several driver problems. Nothing major, but still somewhat annoying. Microsoft is going to have to gather all the drivers it can find and make them available to installation process if they want the retail version of Vista to be widely accepted. I don't believe consumers are going to sit still for driver hell.
The other thing Microsoft simply must do is improve the upgrade feature of the install or scrap it. This has become a week long project. I was just fortunate that the only thing of value on my laptop in terms of data was my iTunes music files which I was able to back up to CD-ROM. If there were actually important files on this laptop I would be in a panic – assuming of course that I had not backed up the files.
So my advice to anyone contemplating a move to Vista is to backup all of your files and then use the clean install. The upgrade just isn't worth the trouble.
Now that I have a clean Vista install, it is time to put the operating to the test. I'm installed iTunes and I am copying the music files over, which seems to be working nicely. We'll see how everything else goes.
Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.