After deciding to forego the update install for Windows Vista (see the previous blog post), I opted for the clean install. This could be considered the second option. Windows Vista installs itself but keeps a copy of the old Windows XP on hand in a file marked Windows.old or something along those lines. Vista uses the old OS files to help it configure certain drivers and to port over Internet Explorer favorites and other information peculiar to the user and the PC.
While this method worked much better and would likely be a good choice for many users at the consumer level who would like to retain that user-specific information, I would still recommend biting the bullet and doing a complete wipe of the hard drive before installing. The main reason I make this recommendation is that Vista will try to use old XP drivers if it can't find a Vista-approved one. This can cause some conflicts and peculiar behavior that will have to be diagnosed and corrected.
Eventually it got to the point where tracking down problems and figuring out what to do next was more trouble then it was worth. Not to mention the fact that I had two operating systems on my portable PC leaving me a relatively small amount of remaining hard disk space. So after an afternoon of frustrating starts and fits, I did the full hard drive nuke —- formatting and partitioning and then installing.
This installation method went smoothly except for one insurmountable problem with my Compaq laptop. The driver for the Broadcom 802.11b/g wireless card that happens to reside standard in my laptop is designed for Windows XP. In fact, it has a frustrating habit of crashing Windows Vista. Apparently, from what I have read on other blogs and on MSDN, the old driver is having a memory conflict with some other driver. The practical result is that your wireless card works as long as it never actually connects to a network. As soon as it does, the next time you boot the machine you will get a user account error. To fix it, at least from my experience, you have to do a system restore to a previous point.
Broadcom is promising new drivers in January, but until then I am stuck with using Ethernet cable, which essentially takes the lap out of laptop. Keep this in mind if you use any Broadcom wireless NICs —- it is a universal problem.
I tried using Broadcom driver versions 2, 3, 4, and 5. I tried the reference drivers found on Broadcom's site, the drivers found on Compaq's site and even tried the drivers found on HP's site. All to no avail.
Drivers seem to be the most pressing problem for Windows Vista right now. If you are lucky enough to have equipment and peripherals that have updated drivers or old drivers that don't cause problems you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. But for those of us with problem drivers, this is just not acceptable. Vista has been coming for five years —- make the darn drivers for it already.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.