Waynes Old Computer Gets Vista

Opinion: Will a 2-year-old, but high-end, workstation run Microsoft's new operating system?

When Microsoft brings out a new operating system, its always nice to know that you can actually take advantage of it. Sure, youre used to whatever you currently have, which is most likely Windows XP, but you also know that sooner or later, something new will come along that requires the new OS.

So when Vista finally shipped, I decided that the time had come. Id upgrade one of the machines in the back room.

Surely, I thought, a dual-Xeon HP xw8000 workstation with a gigabyte of memory and fast hard disks could run nearly anything. Besides, this computer is new enough that its still under warranty, so if I really got into trouble, I knew that I could always call HPs tech support for help.

Turns out, I was wrong about a lot of things, including that. While I did manage to install Vista on the machine, you might want to think twice before trying the same thing in your business. Or your home, for that matter.

I knew that the upgrade would take a few steps, so I decided to keep a log of the process. Heres what happened:

Jan. 30, 4 p.m.: Vista was due, so the time had come to find out for sure if my HP workstation would run Vista. Id tried out the Microsoft Vista Advisor (available free from Microsofts Web site). I tried to run the copy of Advisor that Id downloaded a month before, but it demanded an update. So I updated the Vista Advisor, and tried again.

Like nearly everyone else on the planet, it appears, I would need a better video card. Id also need to uninstall something called "Nero" that I never used. And it mentioned that I might have problems with some other applications, notably Norton AntiVirus.

Advisor also provided a link to video cards that were certified to work, so I clicked on the NVidia site to see about a replacement for my NVidia Quadro that wouldnt work with Vista. The NVidia site was so overwhelmed, it wouldnt work at all.

Jan. 31, 9 a.m.: I tried to investigate video cards again, and this time the NVidia site worked, so I downloaded the list of cards that would work. Then I called HP to find out which one I should use in my xw8000.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the release of Vista.

The tech support lady was very pleasant, and totally clueless. Her sole answer was that she supported Windows, not hardware. She didnt know how to find a hardware person, and clearly wasnt particularly interested.

The computers manual, fortunately, provided a list of supported video cards, and a few of them were on the list provided by NVidia. But the xw8000 uses AGP cards, so I had to find something in that version. Back to the NVidia site. Its down. To the HP site. The AGP version of the cards arent available. I tried the HP site for refurbished computers and accessories. No luck there, either.

1 p.m.: I took a long lunch break and visited CompUSA and Microcenter to see if they had the cards I needed. They didnt. Apparently Vista has been very good for the video card business. For the most part, the shelves were bare of Vista-compatible video hardware.

8 p.m.: Eventually, I struck paydirt with Google, Shopzilla, and a little company named CompuVest that apparently buys up discontinued, but new, parts. They had one of the cards I needed, an NVidia FX 3000 AGP. Even better, it was about 75 percent less than HP sold if for, assuming theyd had it. I ordered the card.

Feb. 1, noon: It occurred to me that I should also order Vista. So I took care of that over lunch.

Next Page: The video card arrives.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...