Thanks to my post yesterday on the reliability of Windows Vista, I awoke this morning to find my inbox awash with comments from readers (those of you who commented in the TalkBack will have to wait for my attention).
Filtering out all the "switch to Mac," and "switch to Linux" emails, and the inevitable batch of emails from people whose CAP LOCK keys are permanently stuck down with Laffy Taffy, it seems that opinion on Windows Vista is starkly divided. While some are overjoyed by the OS, others consider it to be the work of Satan. More than a year and a half on from the release of Vista, and Microsoft is far from having many a huge number existing Windows users that Vista is a worthwhile upgrade. It seems that Microsoft has a lot of work to do to convince the entrenched XP factions (some of which seem happy to carry on using XP until 2014) to move under the Vista flag (I think it's a lost cause, I think it's up to Windows 7 to convince the hardcore Vista haters to budge).
That said, I did get a couple of emails from people who had given Vista a try back during the early days of its release, didn't like what they saw and rolled back to XP, but who are now ready to give Vista another shot. However, having learned from their initial mistakes, this time round they want a safety net of sorts to make rolling back easier. Did I have any words of wisdom to help make the process a more pain-free one?
As a matter of fact, I do!
Learn from what went wrong last time!
What was it about Vista that you didn't like the first time around? Was this a specific issue with a piece of hardware of some software, or was it something about Vista itself that you just didn't like? If you had a specific problem then a new driver or software update might fix the problem. However, if it was something about Vista that you didn't like then you could be stuck with the same problem.
Use what you learned from your last encounter with Vista to prepare yourself for your next encounter.
Consider 1GB of RAM a starting point
Don't expect to have a happy Vista experience on 512MB of RAM. Yes, you can run Vista on half a gig, but it's not a pleasant experience. If you don't or can't get your system up to 1GB or RAM as a minimum, don't waste your time or money on Vista.
DON'T UPGRADE! Start from a clean slate!
I know that Vista gives you the option to upgrade from a previous OS under most normal circumstances, but this doesn't mean that you should attempt thins. In fact, I'm willing to go as far as to say that trying to upgrade from one version of Windows to another is probably one of the worst things that you can do. Not only are you bringing over all the decay and detritus from the old OS, but also lining yourself up for a whole host of problems arising from bad drivers to incompatible software.
If you're not ready to make a clean break, you're not ready to upgrade Windows.
Backup! Backup!! BACKUP!!!
Since you are going to be trashing your existing OS, make sure you have a fool-proof backup of system image that you can go back to in case of problems.
You can't rush this kinda of test
When I started moving over from XP to Vista (a process which began the day after Vista went RTM) I knew that I was embarking on a job that would take weeks, not days (in fact, the whole process of moving to Vista took a few months). While installing an OS might take you less than an hour, tracking down driver updates and new applications (not to mention installing applications, setting up the system and customizing) can be a time-consuming process.
Consider the benefits...
Here's something that I urge you do before pulling the trigger on any major upgrade - consider the benefits. Upgrading an OS causes a lot of upheaval and if all you have is a vague goal guiding you then you're leaving yourself wide open to problems. Unless you have a shortlist of things that you hope to achieve from the upgrade then you are probably better off sticking with your current OS.
For example, goals such as "improved security" or "Aero" are vague and unspecific, while "DirectX 10 so I can play XYZ" or "improved browsing security thanks to protected mode in Internet Explorer 7" are far more specific.
Any tips? Feel free to share!