Category Archives: Vista Journal

How to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 8

We continue to look at upgrading from previous versions of Windows to Windows 8. Windows Vista came to market in January of 2007 after 5 years of development. It was Microsoft’s most ambitious release at the time. Windows Vista had its share of execution failures, originally intended as a Second Edition of Windows XP planned for 2004, the upgrade code named Longhorn most of its development life promised to revolutionize computing. Those plans however were held back by its becoming a moving target and added heft throughout development. Windows Vista focused on so many things that in some respects, it lost focused.

I personally ran Windows Vista from the first build released in August 2005 right up to the RTM released in January 2007. Part of Vista’s problem was perception. Vista ran beautifully on capable hardware that was configured with enough RAM and acceptable processor speed. When build 5308 was released in February 2006, it was obvious 512 MBs of RAM would not be sufficient to run it, so I took advantage of the depreciating RAM prices and installed a 2 GB kit. I never looked back.

Windows Vista’s other problem was compatibility out of the box. A lot of this was as a result of how the hardware and software industry embraced Vista. The factor that also led to that was Vista’s increasing moving target schedule. A lot of IHV’s and ISV’s didn’t start preparing updates to their products until Microsoft actually sent Windows Vista to manufacturing. This pretty much left Vista with limited support at launch. Eventually products were ready for the operating system at least a couple months after its release. Driver and software support greatly improved within the first 6 months. The initial experience by many though left a lasting impression that exist to this day.

Other factors were Vista’s configuration on new machines. I noted that I had to  upgrade my installed RAM to sufficiently run the OS. Many OEM’s out the gate were selling systems with 512 MBs of RAM which was just not appropriate to run the operating system.

So, we covered a bit of history surrounding Vista. Now lets look at upgrading from it. Vista still exist on quite a few systems, but its dwindling fast, from a peak of 20% in 2009 to 6% in 2012.

System Requirements

Before you can upgrade to Windows 8, you need to meet the minimum system requirements. If you meet the following, you should be in good shape.

Whether you have a logo PC or you’ve built your own PC, the recommendations for the Windows 8 include:

  • 1 GHz or faster processor
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

One new element to Windows 8 is the requirement that Metro style applications have a minimum of 1024×768 screen resolution, and 1366×768 for the snap feature. If you attempt to launch a Metro style app with less than this resolution (e.g. 800×600, 1024×600) you will receive an error message.

Can you really upgrade?

In truth, Windows 8 does not support a direct upgrade from Windows Vista. This means you will have do a custom install, which means, any applications or drivers you currently have installed will have to be reinstalled. You might likely need updated drivers for some hardware. Windows 8’s built in upgrade compatibility wizard should help you determine what is compatible and needs to be removed before proceeding with the upgrade. Migrating from Vista to Windows 8 will preserve your personal files and settings though.

Notes:

  • Gather all important application discs and hardware driver discs you might need to be reinstalled.
  • Check the manufacturer and software developers website for updates available and to find out about the status of compatibility with Windows 8. It is possible that if the software is compatible with Windows Vista it will likely work with Windows 8 since they share the same driver model.
  • If you are using software such as iTunes or Adobe programs, remember to deauthorize and deactivate them before running setup.

Backup your Data:

When making significant changes to your computer such as an upgrade, it is always recommended you backup your system prior to installing a new version of Windows. Windows Vista depending on the edition you are running includes some form of backup. If you are running editions such as Windows Vista Business, Enterprise or Ultimate editions, you can use the built in Complete PC Backup of your Vista installation. This can be very handy in case your Windows 8 installation fails. For instructions about how to use Complete PC Backup, see the following article here. Of course, you will need an external hard disk for this task.

If you are running editions such as Windows Vista Starter, Home Basic or Home Premium, the only backup option available the standard backup and restore which archives your Account folders with some settings. If you need an option similar to Complete PC Backup, you will need a third party too.

Check out the following article by Microsoft MVP JW Stuart about how to backup a Windows installation here using Acronis True Image here

Another solution you can use for backing up Windows Vista is Easeus To Do Backup, JW Stuart also has an article about it here

Other steps you can use to ensure your data is safe before upgrading is creating a Windows Easy Transfer backup. Learn more here This option is quite limited and should only be used if do not plan on returning to Windows Vista since Easy Transfer backups can only be restored in Windows 8 or Windows 7.

What you can do before attempting the upgrade?

You can do some pre-requisite tasks to ensure a smooth migration from Windows Vista to Windows 8. If you are using a name branded computer such as a Dell or HP, go to the manufacturers website for the model computer you are using and download the latest available drivers for that computer. Store them on a disc or USB thumb drive. Important drivers you should try to obtain include Network and Video Drivers. Its possible that they might just have Windows Vista or Windows 7 drivers, those will work with Windows 8.

Other things you can do:

  1. Uninstall any security software before attempting to upgrade.
  2. Disable any encryption software you might have installed such as BitLocker Drive Encryption, Folder Encryption.
  3. Disable/uninstall disk utility software such as DVD/CD burning utilities or third party defragment programs such as Perfect Disk.
  4. Make sure your computer is updated (devices and applications).
  5. Disconnect any external devices before installing.
  6. Check your hard disk for any errors:
    – Click Start
    – Type: CMD
    – Right click CMD then click Run as administrator
    At the Command Prompt, type: chkdsk /r /f
    Exit the command prompt.
    When you restart your system, your computer will be scanned for errors and attempts will be made to correct them.
  7. Another thing you can do is disable Start items:
  • Click Start
  • Type: MSCONFIG.
  • Hit Enter on your keyboard
  • On the General tab, click Selective Startup.
  • Under Selective Startup, click to clear the Load Startup Items check box.
  • Click the Services tab, click to select the Hide All Microsoft Services check box, and then click Disable All.
  • Click OK.
  • When you are prompted, click Restart.
  • After the computer starts, check whether the problem is resolved.

32 or 64 bit

My recommendations depend on what you have installed. If you currently have 32 bit Windows Vista installed, use 32 bit Windows 8. If you have 64 bit Vista, use 64 bit Windows 8. This is to ensure a smooth migration, especially where driver compatibility is concerned. Another factor is RAM. If you have max 3 to 4 GBs of RAM, then 32 bit should be sufficient for your needs. If you happen to have 4 to 8 GBs or more RAM, then 64 bit would be suitable.

Windows 64 bit comes in handy when you need to address at least 4 GBs or more of RAM. Windows 32 bit can utilize up to 3.2 GBs of RAM. Because the memory address space is much larger for 64 bit Windows, that means, you need twice as much memory than 32 bit Windows to accomplish some of the same task, but you are able to do so much more, you can have more applications open, do things like run an Antivirus scan in the background without it affecting your system performance. Windows 64 bit is more secure too, malicious code cannot easily infiltrate it, drivers are more reliable since they must be signed before they can work with 64 bit Windows.

As for compatibility, you will need 64 bit device drivers for any hardware devices you might have. Also, there is no 16 bit subsystem in Windows 64 bit, which means, your applications must be 32 bit only, not 16 bit installer or uninstallers.

Starting setup

To start the installation, first boot to the Windows Vista desktop. If you are installing Windows 8 from a physical DVD these instructions will apply to you. Insert the Windows 8 disc. When the AutoPlay window appears, click ‘Run setup.exe’. Click Continue when prompted by User Account control.

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Setup will then begin.

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Wait while setup prepares to install Windows 8.

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If prompted to get updates, I recommend you do so. If you are not connected to the Internet, select ‘No, thanks’.

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Enter your product key. If you purchased Windows 8 from the Microsoft Store and you are using the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, the key will be embedded. If you download a .ISO file or purchased Windows 8 on DVD, check your email when you registered to purchase the upgrade or check your Windows 8 product packaging for the product key. After Entering the product key, click Next to continue with setup.

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Read and Accept the End User License Agreement.

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Now this is an important part of setup. If you have any personal files on your computer, those will be preserved when you select ‘Keep personal files only’ along with your Windows Settings. You have the option of only preserving personal files only. As noted earlier, you will need to reinstall programs and drivers for your hardware devices. If you choose Nothing, Windows 8 will place your files in a folder called Windows.old. After making your decision, click Next.

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Wait while Windows 8 does some last checks.

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Depending on your configuration, Windows 8 setup might ask you to uninstall a program or driver then restart your system before it can proceed with the upgrade. Don’t worry though, Windows 8 will resume setup automatically. In my case, Windows 8 setup needed a restart before it could continue.

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After restarting, Windows 8 setup, asked if I would like ‘Continue from where I left off’. I clicked Next and setup resumed.

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At the summary screen, review the changes that will be made to your computer. If you are not sure, click Back and make any appropriate changes. As noted, you will not be able to use your computer during this period. The time it takes complete the upgrade will be dependent on your system specifications such as processor speed, memory and your data set. Click the Install button to begin.

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Windows 8 setup will go into full screen mode and restart several times.

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After your computer restarts, Windows 8 will continue setup. Windows setup will go through several screens indicating Tasks it needs to complete:

  • Windows setup will say its ‘Preparing’
  • Getting your devices ready.
  • Getting system ready

Then restart and setup will continue.

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Windows 8 will now indicate it is ‘Moving your settings’

Out of Box Experience.

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You will now arrive at the Out of Box Experience where you will setup and personalize your Windows experience.

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The first option presented is the Color Picker, here you can choose a color that represents you. You have up to 25 to choose from. If you can’t decide now, you can always do it later. Click Next

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The settings screen screen allows you to customize whether you want to have Microsoft send information about Windows to Microsoft to ensure it runs smoothly. Click Use Express settings. If you rather not, you can click Customize.

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Confirm password which you had used to log into your Windows Vista account. Click Next

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You have the option of setting up a Microsoft Account which allows you sync your Windows Settings across multiple Windows 8 devices. You can sync some passwords, themes and application settings. If you don’t want to do that right now, click Skip. You can always switch to a Microsoft Account later. Windows 8 will instead use your existing account as a Local account.

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  • Wait while Windows 8 finalizes your settings.

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Wait while Windows 8 does some final configuration.

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You have successfully migrated from Windows Vista to Windows 8. To check if your files are there, launch the Windows Desktop App.

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Launch File Explorer on the Windows Taskbar and open documents and you should see all your files previously in Windows Vista.

You can proceed to reinstall your applications and install your drivers.

For more information about how to install applications Windows 8, see the following article:

How to install apps in Windows 8 | Teching It Easy: with Windows

 

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Filed under 8 Journal, Vista Journal, Windows 8, Windows Vista

Checking out Windows Vista SP2

Microsoft recently made available the second Service Pack for its flagship desktop operating system Windows Vista. I recently restored my Windows Vista SP1 Complete PC Backup image and decided to update it to SP2 and find out what’s new. With the release of Windows NT SP3, Microsoft had defined service packs as a collection of updates for a Windows operating system that were rolled into one file post RTM that made it easier for IT Professionals to update their systems without having to download all the updates individually on each system. With the release of Windows Vista, the definition of Service Pack was updated with a different meaning:

A software update that combines new security and performance enhancements with existing updates. Unlike update rollups, service packs can contain new features or design changes for a product.

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit with Service Pack 2 installed.

Before updating to Windows Vista SP2, I had to install a pre-requisite file KB955430. The purpose of this file is to assist with the performance of the Service Pack 2 installation which can take some time. After installing the update you can proceed with the installation of the Service Pack itself. My install was done through the Standalone installer for Windows Vista SP1 64-bit. Because some persons might have band width issues, Microsoft provides a (Five language package) full copy of the Service Pack, which weighs in at about 577 MB’s for 64 bit and 348 MB’s for 32 bit. If you are on a fast connection and regularly receive Windows Updates, you probably have the KB955430 file already installed and Vista SP2 will be presented you as a 56 MB update.

Installing the pre-requisite update

Note: You must have Service Pack 1 for Vista already installed before updating to SP2. The reason for this change in servicing relates to size constraints that would make it impractical to combine both SP1 and SP2, making it a chore to download. Vista SP2 contains post SP1 updates (meaning all Windows Updates that have been released after SP1).

Installing Service Pack 2

Always remember to create a system restore point before installing critical software such as SP2 that will make significant changes to the operating system. According to the Service Pack wizard, installation will take an hour or more. Your computer will restart several times during the installation. I must say, it’s an uneventful experience that does not require much of your time and you can leave your PC while it updates. The installation took approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes for me.

Whats new in Vista SP2?

  • Spysweeper and ZoneAlarm, now work with POP3 e-mail accounts

Hardware ecosystem support and enhancements

  • SP2 adds support for the 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) from VIA Technologies, which adds the ID and vendor strings for the new VIA 64-bit CPU.
  • SP2 integrates the Windows Vista Feature Pack for Wireless, which contains support for Bluetooth v2.1 and Windows Connect Now (WCN) Wi-Fi Configuration. Bluetooth v2.1 is the most recent specification for Bluetooth wireless technology.
  • SP2 improves performance for Wi-Fi connections after resuming from sleep mode.
  • SP2 includes updates to the RSS feeds sidebar for improved performance and responsiveness.
  • SP2 includes ability to record data to Blu-Ray Disc media.

Operating system experience updates

  • SP2 includes Windows Search 4.0, which builds on Microsoft’s search technology with improved indexing and search relevance. It also helps find and preview documents, e-mail (including signed e-mail messages), music files, photos, and other items on the computer. The search engine in Windows Search 4.0 is a Microsoft Windows service that is also used by programs such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007. Autotuning Diagnostics in SP2 now interprets current network conditions when implementing Windows scaling. This feature includes full netsh support.
  • SP2 improves Windows Media Center (WMC) in the area of content protection for TV.
  • SP2 removes the limit of 10 half open outbound TCP connections. By default, SP2 has no limit on the number of half open outbound TCP connections.

SP2 also includes a Service Pack Clean-up tool (Compcln.exe) which helps recover the hard disk space by permanently deleting previous versions of files (RTM and SP1) that are being serviced by SP2. The Service Pack Clean up tool can also be run offline while creating slipstream images to reduce the size of the image.

Windows Vista SP2 is a significant update that further improves the end user experiences and technologies built into the OS, while also showing Microsoft’s commitment to always improve Windows.

Resources:

Download Windows Vista SP2 32 bit HERE
Download Windows Vista SP2 64 bit HERE
Update for Windows Vista for x64-based Systems (KB955430)
Update for Windows Vista (KB955430)

Related:

My Early Preview of Windows Vista SP1 BETA

Resources:

Previously released compatibility updates
Hotfixes and Security Updates in Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2
Up Next: Windows Vista SP2
Windows Vista Year in Review
Information about Windows Vista Service Pack 1

 

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What’s up with the Weather Gadget in Vista, 7 and Live Spaces?

I have noticed this for a good while now, but sort of ignored it since I also get weather updates through my Windows Live Weather Gadget on my Windows Live Space and through Yahoo! Mail box Home page. But what is bothering me is the non-functioning weather Gadget included in both Vista and 7. At first I thought it had become corrupted, so I tried it in another account, same results. I have come to find out that my Vista system is not the only one affected, it happens on my family and friends systems running Vista. The error message I keep getting is ‘Service is not available in your region.

 

No support for local towns and cities anymore?

What’s interesting is, when I enter locations that I am sure would be available such as ‘Redmond, WA’, I get the ‘cannot connect to service’ error too. The weather applet on Windows Live Home page works just fine and I am sure the data is coming from the same source: Foreca. I wish services like this could be more federated, I am signed into my Live Space with the same account as my Live Home Page. I hope Gadgets are more synergistic in Windows 7 where information delivered to user is relevant to their region.

 

The Weather Applet on my Windows Live Home Page and the Live Gadget on my Live Space.

Another issue I am experiencing is the Windows Live Weather Gadget. Prior to the recent Windows Live Spaces update, it worked just fine for my region ‘Mandeville, JAM’, now it only defaults to ‘Seattle, WA’. I have modified settings, at first it added my parish as a second weather gadget. Since I don’t live in Seattle or have any need to see the weather forecast for that region, I close it out and and click ‘Save’. When I am taken back to my home page it defaults back to ‘Seattle, WA’. What gives? I have tried adding my area as a second Gadget, but it ends up only displaying ‘’Seattle, WA’. 

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Silverlight still does not support 64-bit IE?

I was trying to view a video on Channel9, when I clicked the video I wanted to review, it requested that I install Silversight. I thought, strange, I am sure I installed Silverlight a long time ago on this system. Anyway, I went ahead and clicked install, then a error page came up, take a look:

But, then I wondered, when did my browser become 64 bit by default. I did a little investigation and discovered that, when you launch IE 7 on Vista 64-bit through the ‘Run’ Command using ‘about:blank’ it defaults to Internet Explorer 64-bit. To confirm this, I tried again, with a URL, and checked the Help About dialog and surely enough, it was 32-bit IE.

But, regardless, its strange Microsoft is not up on the 64-Bit bandwagon, in critical areas as this. With this being a fresh technology, I would have hoped that 64-bit development would have been there in mind at the start. Oh, well, I am not being hampered, but it just clues me in that 64-Bit development at Microsoft might be hassle.

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Windows Vista Year in Review

November 17th 2007will mark one year since I have been using Microsoft’s latest client desktop operating system – Windows Vista. Vista has been a momentous release for me, I will admit, there were bumps along the way and there is still a lot more to prove. But the conclusion for me is clear; Windows Vista is a significant release that delivers a first class user experience in comparison to its predecessor and market alternatives. ActiveWin’s year in review is meant to take a look at how the operating system has performed for me since its debut, I hope you will read it and also share your feedback.

Windows Vista has experienced strong adoption throughout the year beating many analyst expectations, it is estimated that up to 90 million users have upgraded to the new release through new PC purchases and retail upgrades licenses. So it’s apparent that this release of Windows has been healthy for Microsoft and will continue to do well with the coming holiday season. Numerous sites have also blown up across the web with thousands of enthusiast catering to the new operating system and its various features.

I have been using both x86 and x64 Vista platforms, one device driver continues to hold me back from going 100% 64-bit. BVRP Mobile Phone Tools – please work on getting your device driver working properly on Vista x64, it’s been ‘one year’ come on! In regards to compatibility Vista had a rough start no doubt, the device drivers were available, but most were plagued with stability problems, this issue also applied to some software applications. But I can honestly say the problems have pretty much been ironed out and has helped to deliver a better experience for me and other users. Part of this excellence is attributed to the much improved Windows Update service in Vista. Microsoft has gone far and beyond to make users have the latest software and hard drivers by pushing them through the service.

The new Problem Reports and Solutions component is also a great feature that continually gives Microsoft structured feedback about issues your system might encounter running Windows Vista. Its one of the great ways to really diagnose and find solutions to common problems users are likely to have such as software compatibility and device driver issues.

Interface

Its no secret, Windows Vista’s Aero Theme is a major draw for new and existing users of Windows, it’s the most critical part of the user experience we as users interact with on Vista. AERO is just visually appealing, cool and really adds a professional quality and dimension to the PC. Some say AERO is a resource hog, its confusing, distracting, but I “must” disagree. AERO Glass really is beautiful and productive by really putting emphasis on an applications window main content, persons who say its distracting have never used Vista, AERO is also about bringing aesthetics to a vitally important part of the computer. It’s distracting at first yes because you are left wondering if this is Windows, you immediately admire the quality and focus on the changes brought to the desktop. I am running AERO Glass on an nVidia Geforce FX 5200 128 MBs of RAM AGP card and I get all the effects without any drawbacks in performance, so persons talking about AERO being a cheap thrill really need to sit down and take a serious look at the OS and actually use it before coming to a conclusion. Microsoft did a great job here.

In my Windows XP Professional x64 Edition year in review I proclaimed that Vista x64 would be the transition to 64-bit ubiquity, but I must be honest that it has not been entirely so. I previously noted compatibility problems with my cellular phone. The industry is still not behind the platform it seems, but there has been definitely a lot of progress. In comparison to Windows 2000, Vista x64 is probably one of the smoothest Windows migrations I have ever had. This is a testament to detail and effort Microsoft has put into making the experience as identical in everyway to its 32-bit counter part. It’s up to the industry to provide the other half of the bargain and some have definitely done so, nVidia and AMD ATI for example have regularly released updated device drivers for their graphics cards which have improved the stability and performance on Vista systems.

Users have not been bombarded with issues such as RAID/SATA issues which were very pronounced for the XP x64 release. Please note, I am not saying the issue does not exist, but it is not as rampant, numerous devices have worked for users since day one and a plethora of software programs have supported Vista since day one, these include Graphics Cards, AIO Printers, Scanners, Wireless and USB Devices. Microsoft has estimated that over 2 million devices are now supported for Windows Vista and the list continues to grow. New avenues have opened up for Windows customers such as the Windows Market Place where users can find over 90,000 products that are designed for the platform.

For me personally though, Vista is truly a personalized experience, I have discovered that I am doing more with my computer than I ever did before. During the BETA’s I acquired a Digital Camera and started taking lots of photos, Vista helped me out of the box to really enjoy this leisure task, managing, sorting, editing and viewing photos/videos is such a great time on the computer. Vista’s Photo Gallery has really changed the way I interact with my images, the built in tagging capabilities, the direct integration with applications such as Windows DVD Maker, Windows Movie Maker are allowing me to go beyond just using my computer as a tool and more as an opportunity to create memories I want to enjoy and share. It sounds cliché and more like a commercial and many would come to the argument that I could have done this on a Mac years ago. But I didn’t have to do a major reinvestment in hardware and software/migration. It only took an upgrade from Windows XP to really start doing amazing things with my computer.

Vista’s built in search is such a critical part of the Windows Experience, its everywhere in the system and makes the triviality of accessing your files such a second nature thing to do. Users have talked about the new Explorer shell and some problems that I have found frustrating myself. The issue of customized Explorer shells not remembering their settings when applied regardless of the numerous methods and workarounds suggested. The new Command Bar is also an area I wish more focus was invested in terms of retaining some of the control users had in XP. Simply, it cannot be customized to add your own buttons such as Cut, Copy and Paste to speed up common task when working in folders. Still, its all good, features that I do find myself really mesmerized by include the Bread Crumb menus that let me easily back track and take quick short cuts through the folder hierarchy with great ease.

A lot users still fail to really see the benefits from a productivity point of view and receive Windows Vista with a mind set that is not necessarily open to change and more focused on stark differences between XP that lets face it are stark differences in how the user is in more control of what they can do with Windows Vista.

Performance

There have been small issues around performance Microsoft has plugged since its release, during the summer, the Company released performance updates and most recently updated them to improve the reliability and stability in areas such as Copy and Paste which many persons including myself noted as being horribly slow especially when copying large files. Persons still say Vista’s performance in general could be better, but I assume there are some illusions to this and there are some factors to be accounted for. My brother purchased a laptop notebook from Dell Inc. in June of 2006 with Windows XP Home hoping he would have a smooth upgrade to Windows Vista when it hit the market. The notebook was designated Windows Vista Capable, it came with an Intel Core Duo 1.6 GHz processor, 512 MBs of system memory. In February of this year, he upgraded to Vista Business but was immediately burnt by the slow performance he got from the system, upgrading was slow, using the OS was slow. Microsoft has long informed us that Vista works best with 1 GB of RAM. So, a lot of consumers have been misled I personally believe by the OEMs system specs and the Vista Ready logos. Its not entirely Microsoft’s fault here, since Microsoft can’t dictate what OEMs put in their machines and ship to customers. My brother upgraded his memory from 512 to a total of 1.2 GBs and the difference in performance was like night and day.

The matter of what is best in terms of system specs for Vista especially when it comes to RAM is still falling on deaf ears. My Sister-in-law purchased a Dell 1501 notebook with Vista Basic in March which I was surprised to know came with 512 MBs of RAM and a 2.0 GHz AMD Sempron processor. I am not surprised by the processor since it is of course a budget notebook. But why is Dell still pushing systems out the door with 512 MBs of RAM? It’s like Dell doesn’t even run some test on these systems to see how they perform before putting them in the hands of consumers. This past summer a friend purchased a Gateway ML3109 notebook which also came with 512 MBs of RAM and Vista Home Basic.

OEMs don’t realize the perception this creates for them and the OS, the brand is affected and consumers come to a conclusion the OS is not ready, it’s buggy and slow. I am running Vista Ultimate 32-bit on a Dell 8300 Dimension, 3.2 GHz P4, I purchased in March of 2004, and the machine has been updated since the betas with 2 GBs of RAM. Vista performs exceptionally well on it, it shows when a system is configured the right way how the experience can be a positive one for the end user. The same applies to my brother who is running Vista with 1.2 GBs of RAM and clearly satisfied with the OS for being what most would say is an early adopter.

Security

I can’t really come to a conclusion on Security in Windows Vista yet, but it’s been good, so far. The top name brand Security vendors have updated their popular Antivirus utilities with full support for both Vista x86 and x64 which is really good in my opinion. Microsoft themselves have also pushed out their Antivirus solution Windows Live OneCare, but I have avoided it based on some lack lustre reasons. I am using Symantec Norton Corporate Edition 10.2 on my desktop and Computer Associates for Vista x64.

The controversial UAC is still ‘annoying’ and I am not going to nice it up. Its necessary, but I wish it could be less needy in certain areas or a feature added to the UAC dialog to remember for certain locations of the system I access. I don’t want to sacrifice the integrity of the feature itself, but UAC is just a bit too much, its like this nagging little @#$! I just hate it sometimes <sigh>. So I hope Microsoft focuses on some intelligent way of making UAC understands what can infiltrate the system from what cannot – just be more user aware. Applications still remain another area where UAC is still a big of problem; I have seen only a few applications that have escaped the wrath of the UAC dialog – Microsoft Office is one of them, the worst application is Apple’s iTunes. It’s still early and I am sure developers are still adjusting to the new Least User Privilege architecture in the OS.

Backup in Vista is awesome, the Complete PC Backup type feature in particular is something I had to turn to from third party vendors in prior versions of Windows. I personally believe Microsoft should have made the feature available to all SKUs, since I believe everybody’s data is important no matter the platform they are using. What I like about Complete PC Backup in Vista is how simple and straightforward it is, just attach an external drive and I’m good to go. Some persons have reported errors with the feature itself such as (0x800000587) type errors when backing up or restoring the system. I personally have not experienced this, and I have not read any proper resolutions for the problem itself. I do know you can receive such an error on laptops if it’s not plugged into its AC adapter.

Compatibility

A lot of applications were not working right for Vista back in January, some of my daily apps like Office 2007, Encarta 2007 worked out of the box, other critical applications like Corel Draw X3, Photoshop CS3, new versions QuickBooks 2007 and Peach Tree Accounting 2008 and Ahead Nero 8 were upgraded to work with Vista so I am very satisfied so far and have not experienced a strong case of compatibility issues although this resulted in either purchasing new versions of certain apps such as QuickBooks and Peach Tree or waiting on necessary patches to enable compatibility. A lot of application compatibility issues again go back to the new changes in the user privileges in the OS, prior to Vista applications were designed to run with full Administrator rights, but because Vista made changes to the user account settings most applications do not readily operate properly since they do not get to access the system in an open way as they did in XP and 2000. It’s a tricky situation for many users and the reality is many applications will either have to be updated, run in Compatibility or installed on a supported OS in Virtual PC 2007.

The Ultimate Cost

I mentioned some of the rich multimedia capabilities in Vista such as Photo Gallery which was recently upgraded to Windows Live Photo Gallery featuring strong integration with Microsoft’s Windows Live platform. This clearly proves that Microsoft is not standing still with Vista and is continually focusing on adding value through integration and new experiences allowing users to enjoy and share their memories in new ways. In November of 2006 Microsoft announced Windows Ultimate Extras, an exclusive set of services designed exclusively for Vista Ultimate customers. So far the initiative has been lack lustre, but I do appreciate some of cool features like Windows Dreamscene which brings your wallpapers life. A few other features have been added to the service such as the support for all World Wide Language Interfaces, Bitlocker Drive Preparation Tool and the Hold ‘Em poker game. But it’s most obvious there could be more, since the incentive the Ultimate SKU was continued value beyond the box. I do hope there is more in store, but so far I am a little disappointed and would have like to see a clear understanding of what Ultimate Extras are all about and what it means for me in the long term.

Going Forward

I can’t cover everything because it would never be finished; I hope to do a future follow up in the near future. Looking into Vista’s future one can only say it will only get better. Microsoft is currently working on the first Service Pack for the OS which is expected sometime in early 2008. I won’t say it has been all great since day one, but Vista found its footing from early on and the industry started to invest early on in the platforms unique features, I will honestly say that Vista will be a year of building on the momentum and more users will get to experience the OS on machines I believe are more Vista prepared. Vista offers a cohesive experience users will greatly appreciate from multimedia/consumer oriented task to focus on an engaging productive experience for businesses whether it’s seamlessly connecting to wireless networks, managing files, collaboration, searching and really doing more with your PC. I say if you have been on the fence about upgrading to Vista, there is just no more need to wait.

Resources:

ActiveWin.com: Windows Vista

ActiveWin.com: Windows Vista 32 & 64 Bit Review

Windows Vista Team Blog

Windows Vista Experience Blog

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Previously:

ActiveWin.com: Windows XP Professional x64 Edition: Year in Review

 

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My Early Preview of Windows Vista SP1 BETA

Microsoft has released a ‘test release’ of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to a group of its Technical Testers last week. Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista is a collection of updates and fixes that have been released for Windows Vista since it was Released to Manufacturering (RTM) in late 2006. Microsoft is also focusing on improving the general performance of the operating system in addition to supporting new technologies and standards. The final release is expected sometime in early 2008, but this is subject to change. Microsoft’s Pete McKiernan, a Senior Product Manager for Windows gives us an overview of the update here:

Windows Vista Service Pack 1, V.275 build 6001

One is an improvement to the BitLocker drive encryption system, available only in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista. Under SP1, BitLocker will be able to encrypt multiple drive volumes; all drive volumes, that is, except for USB drives.

Second feature touted by Microsoft is support for emerging hardware and standards. Windows Vista SP1 will support Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), Intel standard for the interface between software, the operating system and firmware, and Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT), a new Microsoft file system that may eliminate the need for defragmentation in the future.

McKiernan categorized other expected changes within Windows Vista SP1 as:

  • Security enhancements: There is nothing here that the desktop consumer will notice. Under the hood, Microsoft will provide more opportunities for third-party security vendors to communicate their product status with the Windows Security Center. In x64-bit editions, third-party security vendors can work with the kernel patch protection, a source of controversy last summer. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) files will be signed. The Windows Pseudo-Random Number Generator will have Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC) added. And BitLocker will add multifactor authentication combining Trusted Platform Module (TPM) with a Startup key stored on a USB device, meaning that the startup key must match the hardware you are trying to use.
  • Reliability enhancements: Microsoft has been analyzing crashes of Windows Vista reported by users and will be making improvements. In particular, more compatibility with newer graphics cards and printers; greater reliability with extended displays on a laptop, various networking scenarios, in systems that were upgraded from Windows XP, and when Windows Vista enters sleep or resumes from sleep.
  • Performance enhancements: Microsoft says SP1 will offer performance boosts including the speed to copy and extract files, time to become active from Hibernate and Resume, CPU utilization within Internet Explorer 7 and CPU utilization in laptops, thereby reducing battery drain, and shortening the time when browsing network shares.

Learn more HERE

Sounds like a worthy update overall. Now on to my experiences with SP1. I installed it yesterday on a machine running Windows Vista Home Premium x86 RTM (no updates applied), no software installed. The time estimated by the software that it would take to install is around 30 minutes, but turned out to be 37 mins for me. Check out my hardware specs:

Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz

2.6 GBs of RAM

nVidia Geforce FX 5200 128 MB AGP

Initial phase of Windows Vista SP1 installation – its a pretty SP. 🙂

The installation was very streamlined and smooth until the rebooting started which happened around three times. During this portion of installation, SP1 lingered on, indicating that "a Service Pack for Windows is being installed", in addition other notifications that informed me that I should not unplug or restart my computer and the update will be applied automatically. Eventually, installation was completed and a dialog appeared on screen that informed that Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista was installed sucessfully.

 

Some scenes from the Windows Vista SP1 installation.

Is it?

Changes

Well, the first big change I noticed was, my theme was set to Windows AERO Basic, the default theme was originally Windows AERO Glass. I tried accessing Explorers such as Personalize and Control Panel, but was unable to. Personalize would not open and the Control Panel applets would not appear. Other parts of the system seemed to work fine. I don’t know what has happened here, but I sure will send off a bug report to find out. I did check the Problem Reports and Solutions history to see if there were any issue logged, there was one particular log for Windows Installer Module CPLs. Notable changes to the system include the removal of the Search link on the Start Menu panel and the new Defragment Tool which allows you specify which drives you would like to defrag – very handy and functional compared to whats in the RTM release.

So far, those are issues I am experiencing on Windows Vista SP1. Its early days yet and I am sure things will smooth over time such as the numerous reboots required to accomplish the installation. I will be testing out some software to see how well application compatibility performs. The SP1 file is a stand alone installer which weighs around 687 MBs, the x64 file is over 1 GB. The installation seem to have consumed around 2 GBs of disk space, but I am sure there is some debug code in there resulting in smaller release. Also, users will be able to acquire SP1 over Windows Update resulting a small file if they have continually updated their systems since RTM.

Users can also look forward to a merged kernel that will be shared with Microsofts next release of their Network Operating System – Windows Server 2008. This should streamline updates and maintainance of both client and server releases in addition to supporting new technologies and standards such as 802.11n based hardware for example and the new EFI standard which was previously mentioned. I am going to do another reinstall though, I suspect something could possibly have gone wrong with my install and I love AERO Glass. 😉 Stay tuned for more updates on SP1!

Andre

Resources:

The Windows Experience Blog: Experiencing Windows Vista Service Pack 1 beta

Windows Vista Blog: Windows Vista Service Pack 1 beta whitepaper

 

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Windows DreamScene Content Pack – New Dreams!

I just downloaded the Windows DreamScene Content Pack which includes an additional three DreamScene looped background desktop videos. I love the new Waterfall DreamScene which is my default, Brandon Leblanc over at the Windows Experience Blog shows how to install it. Yesterday I announced the final release of DreamScene which is an exclusive feature for Vista Ultimate customers through the Ultimate Extras Service.

Rocky Mountain Fall (looks like somewhere in Nebraska, lol!)

Windows Vista Orb branded DreamScene – The orb glows and shines 😉

This one is a bit difficult, its an abstract DreamScene with some weird marble kind of thingy’s

Related:

How to enable Windows DreamScene

A look at the Windows DreamScene Content Pack Favorites

Oh my Goodness – the new DreamScenes are HOT!

Resources:

Has Ultimate Extras failed?

The Windows Ultimate Extras Drought

DreamScene – The Issues So Far
Forza 2 DreamScene for Windows Vista

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