Whilst normal people do fun stuff at the weekend, I decided to have a go at upgrading my laptop to Vista. The laptop is 10 months old and officially capable of running Vista in basic mode (i.e. no funky Aero interface).

Now, before those who are knowledgeable in the art of Vista start either laughing hysterically or groaning, there were specific reasons for attempting an upgrade rather than a clean install. I didn’t want to lose the software that came pre-installed with the laptop – a Sony Vaio TX

So, I proceeded with the upgrade. Four and a half hours later (yes, that’s 4+ hours), I had Windows Vista up and running. First impressions – apart from some annoyances, I like it. The UI is much much nicer than Windows XP, even without Aero. I played with an early prototype of the Sidebar when it was still an internal MS Research project, and its nice to see it finally publicly available. The annoyances? Some simple things feel harder to do on Vista than they did on Windows XP.

For example, I travel a lot and regularly dock/undock my laptop, including attaching an external monitor. On Windows XP, extending across a second monitor is done so often, I barely notice the mouse clicks. Right-click anywhere on screen, select Properties, click on the Settings tab and adjust the monitor. On Windows Vista, the process has changed. You can still right-click anywhere on the screen, but there is no Properties option. Instead, you have to select Personalise, then select Display from a new menu that appears, and adjust the monitor. The number of clicks are exactly the same, but the process felt much longer because it isn’t a habit yet… and it feels frustrating because I was quite happy with the old way and the new one offers no improvement…

Example no. 2 – My laptop gets subjected to a fair amount of software abuse. If I’m not running more applications than the memory wants to cope with, I’m running beta software that can give the laptop a bit of a headache. When it comes to shutting down, the most common selection is Hibernate mode – faster than booting from cold and better on battery life than using Standby. Standby is used when I’m just shutting the laptop lid to get up and move somewhere. Shutdown or Restart are used when the laptop has a headache or amnesia. In Windows XP, that involves clicking the Start button, selecting Turn Off Computer, and then selecting the desired shutdown option. On Windows Vista, the process has changed. You still click the button formally known as Start, but then you either click the icon resembling power, which puts the laptop in sleep mode (akin to Standby), or you have to click a tiny little arrow that opens a menu with the remaining options if you want to select Hibernate or others. Again, technically the same number of clicks as before, and feels equally frustrating for all the same reasons…

But on to the killer question. How many days does it take to get Windows Vista to produce the dreaded Blue Screen of Death….

21 hours! 🙂

I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw one. The little Vaio has certainly never had one… I vaguely recall my demo laptop going through a blue phase a couple of years back, but the clue is in the title – demos are supposed to push boundaries 🙂

To be fair, it was the installation of a third-party driver that caused the crash. And the driver is still in beta.

Unfortunately, whilst the upgrade succeeded in that Windows Vista successfully booted and ran all Microsoft applications that were previously installed, the same could not be said for any of the audio/visual hardware controls that are built into the laptop (guess what the driver was for…)

…out came the recovery disks that Sony advises you to create when you first receive your laptop. 52 minutes later and all was well again – one laptop running Windows XP with all its (the laptop’s) bells and whistles intact.

I’ll attempt an upgrade to Vista again in the future. But only if/when all the useful bits of the laptop have Vista updates available.

So back in the land of Windows XP, I surveyed my software options and decided on plan B – upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007 instead… and that will be the subject of a separate blog post 😉

[Update: 5th August 2007] So I finally revisited Vista and had another go at upgrading the Vaio. By this time, Sony had released updated drivers tho’ it took some fiddling with the install order to get the DVD drive eject button to finally work. I haven’t dared attempt the graphics card driver update yet as it also requires an update to the BIOS which feels a bit permanenet. So no Aero glass user interface but the laptop is working and hasn’t blue-screened yet… performance-wise, it feels similar to XP – occasionally a bit faster, but also quite often a bit slower. I have loved the sidebar since the days it was an internal research project at Microsoft and that is the main reason I wanted Vista (tried Google’s equivalent but it seemed to have a memory leak). I’m also using the tags and ratings properties within the OS to classify my knowledge base.


Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. A couple of things I found with Vista on a laptop.1. Most times once you have been through a dock/undock cycle you never need touch the display settings again2. Keep shortcuts to the Display Settings control tab and Windows Mobility Centre on your desktop. The mobility centre is handy for configuring your laptop on the move for a presentation say, everything in one place3. Trust Standby, at first I kept wanting to hibernate because that was the only safe option in XP, but standby works in Vista dropping into Hibernate after a certain period on its own and being quick to recover for short moves – much better once you get used to it

  2. Ah, interesting… I didn't give it long enough to see if the docking cycle settles downAnd thanks for the reminder on how Standby works… that ringed some bells that I had forgotten about. A fellow Vaio user also advised that you need to change a Bios setting to stop the lights flashing that suggest you are still in Standby mode when you are in Hibernate, and apparently there is a new audio driver direct from Realtek that doesn't cause blue screens.Many thanks for the tips, much appreciated! I think I may try a second attempt at Vista in the near future…

  3. There is a reason why you haven't seen a blue screen on Win XP. It is disable by default.Try Start > Control Panels > System > Advanced > Start Up & Recovery.You'll notice a "System Failure" area, with a little box that says "Automatically Restart". If you uncheck that (Checked by DEFAULT), win XP will blue screen again!Not quite a fair comparison!

  4. Blimey! Now I never knew that. Thanks for the tip….now you've got me remembering all the times I've killed processes to end stuck apps, hmmm…

  5. That automatic restart on XP is AFTER the blue screen. After XP writes the debug information to the minidump file it will automatically restart. Look in your Windows folder, if there is a directory called minidump with files in it, then the system has blue screened at some point and the file time stamp will tell you when. If the directory doesn't exist, you haven't blue screened or you have altered the aforementioned Startup and Recovery settings to not write debug information. Vista does the same thing by the way and has the same little box to deselect so it doesn't automatically restart.

  6. mate, forget 21 hours…it took me 4 hours to get my blue screen of death on my brand new laptop which came installed with vista

  7. It took me less than 1. After re-installing, I shut-down "improperly" and caused a registry error requiring me to reinstall the OS. I went with Linux and now I'm stuck with a broken GRUB trying to get Vista working again. XP was so much easier.

  8. blue screen, try deleting zonealarm, it worked for me,

  9. I beat you! I got a BSOD on Vista after about 3 hours of installing 'updates'. I'm installing SP1 now. Wish me luck.

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  11. i upgraded from xp to vista ultimate and it took me a whooping 4 hours….but thats not my issue….one hour into using my new vista editioin i get a blue screen…what he hell????

  12. I got the blue screen in less then a hour all it took was for to want my Firefox and my Yahoo 9.0 Beta ( got it for Vista) and crash. Is this a Vista issue, a laptop issue, or is it just me fudging up something?Message me at Gothic Sorrows at AOLNo spaces. Thanks.

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