Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vista Experience

I recently participated in the Microsoft's Viral Marketing campaign: Power Together, which got me a free DVD of Vista Business Edition. Honestly, I wouldn't have bought Vista and installed it on my system as I was quite happy with XP but given that I got the free DVD made me feel a lot more tempted, so I finally decided to install Vista as a weekend project. Unfortunately, my laptop was bought about 1.5 years back and came shipped with a 40 GB hard-disk and a built in (*gasp*) 32 MB ATI Radeon Graphic card (along with a 1 GB RAM and 1.8 Intel Dothan M Processor), given that Vista requires at least 128 MB of dedicated VRAM for its Aero interface, I had no choice but to live without it. The other issue that my laptop had was; I have a tri-partitioned (actually 4) hard disk with a dual boot between XP and Linux, with a 27 GB (about 6 GB free space) NTFS partition, a 6 GB EX3 partition and a 3 GB Fat32 Dell System Restore partition. Since Vista requires a minimum of 40 GB hard disk and 15 GB of free space for installation, I figured out I can't install Vista without upgrading my hard disk.
I searched around the net for some decent and *cheap* hard disks and finally settled on a 40 GB, 5400 RPM Samsung, since the biggest pain with upgrading your hard disks is having to re-install every program again on the new hard disk (and in my case even Linux), I felt the easiest that I could do would be to ghost my existing hard disk onto the new one and then do a upgrade on XP to Vista (even though every one whom I talked to suggested that a clean install is recommended, I just didn't have that much patience). I searched for some ghosting/cloning tools, I even created a wiki for changing the hard disk and cloning (update: links removed to the wiki; unfortunately the free phpnet.us wiki that I was using seems to have been deleted & the links were redirecting to a parked page), so that I don't miss any of the steps involved (different story I still missed one of the steps, more on that later). With the new hard disk and a USB enclosure in my hand, I started with the cloning business using Partition Magic, and after about 3 hours of frustration, I gave up on Partition Magic which for some reason would crash while trying to copy my ex3 partition with a very helpful error message: "#21, Invalid Handle or out of handles" (which is kinda ironic given that I'd created the ex3 partition using the same tool)! So, I only could copy my NTFS partition and expand it to 44 GB. Then, I used GParted's live CD to copy over my other 2 partitions and that went like a charm. I also, deleted my Dell's hidden partition and created a fresh 4 GB Fat32 partition so that I can use that to access files from both Vista and Linux. After the cloning was over, I swapped my hard disks, just took me around 5 minutes and I booted up my system, which gave me a message saying no bootable devices found. I thought that maybe copying over the hard disk doesn't copy the MBR, so I inserted the GParted to see whether that detects my new hard disk and well, neither did it...I take out the hard disk again, check the screws and put it back in bay and power it on again and well still no luck! Just then a thought struck me as to how dumb I'd been, I didn't remove the connector from my older hard disk and put it on the newer one (even though I've that step bolded!), put the connector on the new hard disk and booted again and viola it booted right into XP (which makes me believe that Partition Magic does some kinda jugglery and writes to the MBR if you're trying to clone a bootable partition).

Next step: I uninstalled the applications on my XP that are not compatible with Vista (Norton AV, Private Folder), pop in the Vista Install DVD and couple of hassle-less hours and reboots later I have the shiny new Vista (well again, without the Aero) installed. So definitely a plus point to Vista for having a near flawless install, I'll sum up my experience with the new OS in some other post but at least till date I've found Vista to be more responsive and faster on my laptop than XP.

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