Weve seen a bevy of Vista builds lately, and each has made some improvement over the other. But, now that the day of reckoning for Vista is drawing near, eWEEK Labs wanted to put the operating system to a real-world test—that is, what will it be like to upgrade a Windows XP machine to Vista?
eWEEK Labs has spent much of the last week testing Vista builds 5568 and 5600. Both are marked "RC1," but 5600 is the official RC1 build that Microsoft made available on Sept. 1 to nearly 6 million testers.
Our tests show that neither build is much changed, at least superficially, from the 5536 release we wrote about during the week of Aug. 28.
To gauge the impact of a Vista migration on existing applications, we upgraded a Windows XP system to Vista build 5568, a release that Microsoft characterized as "very close" to Build 5600, the official Vista RC1 release.
We tested using a Lenovo Thinkpad T41 with 1.5GB of RAM, a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor and an ATI Radeon 7500 video card. Each laptop was loaded with one of Ziff Davis Medias standard Windows XP images.
While our upgrade experience was fairly good, we recommend that administrators opt instead for a clean install, teamed perhaps with Vistas Windows Easy Transfer utility for carrying over files and settings from the previous install.
Not only is a clean install much faster than an upgrade, our tests show, but the significant changes in how Windows Vista handles software installation bring the possibility of compatibility issues that might not be immediately apparent.
We began the upgrade process by running Microsofts Upgrade Advisor tool, which informed us of which hardware and software components might not work following an upgrade. Somewhat ominously, the advisor reported that wed have to replace the following controllers: LPC (Low Pin Count) interface, processor to I/O and processor to AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port).
Of course, we couldnt replace all of these controllers without tossing the whole notebook, so we just charged ahead. The Vista upgrade process churned for a few hours before announcing that the upgrade had failed, and that wed be delivered back to our previous Windows XP installation.
On the bright side, Windows XP worked just fine after the rollback was complete.
Undaunted, we headed to Lenovos Web site in search of a BIOS upgrade, which we found and applied to both of our test machines. We re-ran the Windows Upgrade Advisor, but the BIOS upgrade didnt get rid of the controller replacement warnings.
We restarted the upgrade again, anyway, and, after another couple hours, Vista was up and running.
Upon logging on to our newly upgraded system, some of our applications didnt work. The dysfunctional applications were the usual suspects after an OS upgrade (the kind that deal with lower-level OS issues): the WLAN client (in our case, Juniper Networks Odyssey WLAN client, the service for which Vista told us it could not load); the VPN client (Cisco Systems VPN Client, with which we couldnt initiate a VPN connection); and anti-virus (Symantecs Antivirus 10, which appeared normally in our tray but did so with auto-protection switched off).
We did find a beta version of Ciscos VPN Client for Vista, which worked fine for us.