I finally got my hands on a copy of Windows Vista Beta 2 and
wouldn’t you know it, the motherboard in my test system bit the dust. My goal
in testing Vista was to use the same system throughout the entire beta program
in order to see how my hardware would fare with each successive release of
Windows Vista. So I ordered a new, comparable motherboard that carried the same
onboard ATI RadeonXpress
200 graphics system with 128 MB of shared memory and accepted my AMD Athlon 64 3400+ CPU. However, I did decide to add another
512MB chip to bump my RAM up to 1GB.

While I waited for the package to arrive, I read the Beta 2
Technical Reviewer’s Guide from cover to cover. While it is, as expected,
sprinkled with marketing material, it is also packed with pertinent information,
lots of screen shots, and because it’s a full color, glossy paper publication, was
fun to read.

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Once my motherboard and RAM arrived, I reassembled my
system, inserted the Beta 2 DVD and began the installation procedure. It, too,
was a fun and painless experience. I will chronicle my Beta 2 installation experiences
for this edition of the Windows Vista Report.

Getting started

As you probably know by now, Windows Vista’s installation
media is DVD, presumably due to the fact that the number and size of the
installation files exceeded the 600MB to 800MB range of the standard CD. In any
case, I booted the system from the DVD and Setup took over and displayed a
relatively fast moving progress bar accompanied by a short message stating that
Windows is loading files.

After a few minutes, the Windows Vista blue/green aura
background appeared and everything went quiet–no DVD activity, not hard disk
activity, nothing. Not sure if the installation had locked up or what was going
on, I decided to sit back and see what would happen. After what seemed like an
eternity, but was actually no more than 3 or 4 minutes, a dialog box appeared
and prompted me to choose language settings. As such, during what appeared a
frozen screen, Setup was actually busily preparing for the next step.
(Hopefully, Microsoft will add some sort of progress indicator at this stage in
a future release.)

The actual installation

Once I accepted the default English settings, I arrived at the
Install Windows dialog box and noticed two new links titled What
to know before installing Windows and System recovery options. The latter
appears to be restoration tool of some sort, but I decided not to investigate
it any further. Following the former link revealed a very detailed help screen,
which included all sorts of installation tips and tricks. (It is a very nice adaptation
of the old Readme file that I encourage all of you to
keep in mind and take advantage of when you get and install your copy of
Windows Vista.)

Clicking the Install Now button once again displayed the
Windows Vista blue/green aura background, but this time accompanied by a Please
wait message and an hourglass pointer. So I knew that something was happening
in the background.

Within a minute or so, Setup moved into the Collecting
information phase and I was prompted to input my product key for activation,
accept the license agreement, and choose an installation type. Of course, the
upgrade option is disabled and the clean install option is selected by default.

At this point, Setup moved into the Installing Windows phase
and informed me that was all the information that it needed from me in order to
proceed and that my computer would reboot several times. So I sat back and
watched the percentage-based progress counters move forward in each of the five
stages of the Installing Windows phase: Copying Windows files, Expanding files,
Installing features, Installing updates, and
Completing installation.

Finishing up

After about an hour and a half, the Installing Windows phase
was complete and a wizard titled Set Up Windows
appeared. As I walked through the wizard, I was prompted to select my country
and keyboard layout, a username and password, a computer name, a desktop
background, how I wanted to configure automatic updates, and finally to set the
date and time zone. The wizard then informed me You’re
ready to start.

When I clicked the little start button, I was greeted by a
logon screen. Once I logged on, I was notified that Windows Vista had found my
network and was asked to identify it as either a private or public network.

As soon as that step was complete, I saw the Welcome Center,
which provides you with basic information about your system as well as a group
of icons that allow you to access/initiate common operations that you might
want to perform after installing a new operating system. For example, you can
set up devices, add new users, register Windows, or transfer files, just to
name a few. Clicking a More Details button in the upper portion of the Welcome
Center window will take you to the Performance Rating tool, where you can find
out how your system measures up to Windows Vista.

Checking out the Performance rating

In previous editions of the Windows Vista Report, I explored
the Windows System Performance Rating tool and reported my findings as well as
the ratings from a few other beta testers. So I couldn’t wait to see what my
system’s Performance Rating was in Beta 2–especially since Setup recognized
and installed WDDM drivers for the onboard ATI RadeonXpress 200 graphics system, combined with the fact
that I had added another 512MB of RAM to the system.

However, I discovered that while the category ratings had
changed a bit, my overall rating is still a 2. Not bad considering the scale
runs from 1 to 5 and this system is not top of the line anymore, but I was
hoping for a 3.


As I begin to experiment with Windows Vista Beta 2 over the
next couple of months, I’ll be reporting more details on all of the new and
improved features in this edition of the operating system. As always, if you
have comments or information to share about your Windows Vista Beta 2
installation experiences or your Windows System
Performance Rating, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let
us hear.