Struggling With the Vistaster Disaster

Since ASUS refused to refund the cost of Windows on the N10J that I recently purchased (not surprising), I figured that I am stuck with it, I might as well at least see how both Vistaster and XP Professional work on it. I'm now into my second day of fighting with this monstrosity, and I still don't understand anything about it.

Since ASUS refused to refund the cost of Windows on the N10J that I recently purchased (not surprising), I figured that I am stuck with it, I might as well at least see how both Vistaster and XP Professional work on it. I'm now into my second day of fighting with this monstrosity, and I still don't understand anything about it. Seriously.

Before I go on, let me say that this is UNIQUELY a Windows disaster. I can install any one of a variety of Linux distributions on the N10J at any time that I want, and be done in well under an hour. I've probably spent in excess of 12 hours over the last two days trying to get EITHER Vistaster OR XP Professional to reinstall, with extremely limited success.

The N10J had come with the disk set up in three partitions, the first was a 10 GB RECOVERY partition, the second was a 130 GB Vistaster partition, and the third was a 100 GB Data partition. I had deleted the data partition, created a 4 GB Primary for Linux Swap, and then an Extended partition for the rest, with Logical partitions within it for the various Linux distributions I loaded. That all worked just fine, and it was multi-booting Vistaster and the Linuxes perfectly.

Then, as a test before doing something on a friends' computer, I had used gparted to reduce the size of the Vistaster partition. That also worked just fine. But that left a large, unused hole on the disk, so I decided to just reload everything and get it the way that I wanted it. I guess that was a big mistake...

First, I wiped all of the partitions except RESTORE, then tried to boot and restore from there. It booted, but the restore failed, saying that it couldn't find some file on C:... Well, DUH, why would it be trying to look there, when that is what I was restoring? Beats me.

Then I used the XP Restore DVD to load XP, and chose the "restore to entire disk" option (the others were "restore to first parition" and "restore to two partitions"). For some reason it didn't restore the boot loader, so when it was all done it was still trying to boot with GRUB, which of course didn't work because the Linux partitions were gone. No sweat, I set up a Linux partition and loaded Ubuntu quickly, which saw the XP partition and put it in the boot menu... I told it to boot that, and it failed. Some sort of boot loader failure message. Sigh.

So I then tried to restore from the Vistaster DVD, this time to the "first partition". Once again it seemed to work, but didn't restore the boot loaded, so it tried to boot GRUB again. I did the same again, but told it to restore to the entire disk. This time it actually did work, and it booted Vistaster. But there is a long, involved process of loading the proper drivers and then configuring the "Out of Box Experience", which I absolutely can't understand the sequence or timing of. It involved something like five or six reboots, and at the end of it all the screen is still on configured properly. Further investigation showed that despite all the thrashing and rebooting, the nVidia display driver wasn't loaded, and it refused to set the display for more than 800x600 resolution.

One more run with the Vistaster DVD, this time restore to two partitions. This one seemed to work, even the screen was correct, and the nVidia driver was loaded. But the disk partitioning was odd, to say the least, with 1 GB totally unused at the beginning (perhaps this is the Vista loader?). I tried to rearrange that with gparted, and the whole thing became unbootable again. Sigh.

I went through what I thought was the exact same procedure with the Vistaster DVD... but this time the display was wrong again! Why the heck can two seemingly identical restores produce different results???

So, I am still struggling with it. The Vistaster restore is running, again, as I type this. Eventually I will give up and just load the N10J with nothing but Linux, and I'll be happy.

I recall writing a recent blog post about loading Ubuntu for a friend, and someone posted a comment saying that the problem with Linux was that you always had to have an "expert" load it. Well, to that I now say "BAH! HUMBUG!". Loading Windows on this N10J is a thousand times more difficult, complicated and unpredictable than loading Linux on it, or any of the other computers I have around here for that matter.

jw 29/7/2009

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