In search of the 15-minute Vista setup

In search of the 15-minute Vista setup

Summary: In its road shows last year and earlier this year, Microsoft promised that you'd be able to install Windows Vista in as little as 15 minutes. But current beta builds aren't even close to that milestone. Where are the bottlenecks in the Vista setup process?

TOPICS: Windows

Yesterday, Microsoft released an updated build of Windows Vista, exclusively for technical beta testers. I’ve had the chance to install it on a half-dozen machines in the past 24 hours, and it’s given me a chance to look carefully at the new Windows setup process.

Presumably, the final setup process that Windows customers will see when Vista gets released will be a little smoother and a little faster than this beta. But recent builds have been complete enough to give a decent snapshot of what’s in store.

A clean installation from DVD using current builds takes about 30–45 minutes, depending on the oomph of the system on which it’s being installed. But an upgrade takes much longer – typically at least 90 minutes and sometimes several hours. Why so slow?

The answer lies in the new “staged install” process that Vista uses. Instead of copying files directly over an existing Windows installation, the new setup routine first copies files and settings from the old install, using a process that's similar to the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard in Windows XP. It then lays down a new base copy of Windows, adds drivers for any hardware devices that aren’t part of the base install, and finally migrates the settings and files into the new install. That multi-step process is probably safer and more likely to result in a stable instllation, but the extra steps at beginning and end mean that upgrades take a long time.

Clean installs, on the other hand, should go much more quickly. But the current builds don’t offer anything close to the 15-minute setup times that Microsoft promised in its road shows last year and earlier this year. Can Microsoft’s developers really cut setup time in half? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Topic: Windows

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  • We shall see...

    I have my doubts about a 15 minute Vista setup. At the same time, I have my doubts we will see Vista released in the next 12 months.
  • Does it natively support SATA v2.0 yet? (NT)

    • Native SATA2 support...

      I think it largely depends on the hardware you're using. I've seen issues where some people are having issues with it, while others like myself are not. Me thinks it's a question of the chipset on the motherboard.
      • You scour the internet...

        It's a huge problem with the Silcon Sil3112 chipset.
        • it must be the chipset, then

          I have Vista beta 2 installed on an Intel 945 board with all SATA devices -- Plextor DVD burner, multiple Seagate drives. It works just fine; the install was clean, no extra drivers to install.
          diane wilson
        • Driver availability

          [i]It's a huge problem with the Silcon Sil3112 chipset.[/i]

          I can send you a copy of my Silicon Image driver -- it works great, or you can get your own from [url=]this site[/url].
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • I sincerely doubt a link to a Linux driver ...

            ... is going to solve this person's Vista install problem. As usual linux enthusiasts are neither helpfull or funny!
        • Use the XP driver until one comes available ...

          ... for Vista.
      • "methinks" is one word

        not two
  • Hardware will make up the difference

    Some of the latest computers I've installed XP on took only 10 minutes. In 01, they took 45 minutes.
    • Vista was quick for me

      I installed Beta 2 on a bare 80 Gig Western Digital drive and it took about 15 minutes. I was quite surprised since it is about 3.5 Gigs in size.
  • Nobody cares about blank disk setup

    The "15 minute" mark that matters is setup from an existing OEM installation.

    The second, and somewhat less important, setup is from a restore image.

    There aren't enough people on Earth who install MSWindows to a virgin system to make it worth any effort for Microsoft.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • I'd do that

      I'd probably install Vista that way. I generally flatten out a box every year or so anyway from all the garbage that I put on a machine over time anyway. It's just a good way to keep the registry and drivers and other crapola down to a minimum. Plus its loads of fun too.
    • Virgins

      I always sacrifice a virgin hard drive if I need to do a Windows installation. It isn't worth my time to deal with all the problems that carry over from an old installation. Hard drives are cheap enough that the old hard drive becomes a legacy databank after transferring over any files that I want on the new system.

      Now, if you don't happen to have the original install disks for your software anymore, then that is another problem in itself . . .
    • How long have you been a windows user

      The annual reformat and install is common and just about required with any internet connected PC.
  • Give it a break already

    When auto manufacturers are making an environmentally friendly car that they believe will be out in 2 years...then run into hurdles, headaches and problems...why would you trash on them for not meeting a deadline? Let them fix the problems in the beginning, delay the start a few times and come out with an awesome product.

    I'm happy with Windows XP Pro. It does what I need it to at work, home and all the computers I've seen. When Vista comes out, we'll wait as we need to upgrade workstations and pick up a few copies.

    I'm sure it will be a rock solid OS.

    Please don't rush Microsoft into forcing this product out the door. Yes they said it would be ready by now, but they ran into some testing problems and want to make it right.

    They are not like Apple sending out 5 versions of their OS in just a few years.

    There is a quality control issue here. They don't want to get zinged on lack of security or not making sure 4 million (exg.) drivers work on their OS.

    Not many manufacturers have to deal with supporting 90%+ of the computers in the world. Every person making a piece of hardware expects it to work with MS, I know Apple and Linux aren't in the same boat so please cut MS some slack (or build your own OS and prepare to take the heat).
    • quality?

      Why even bring Apple into the conversation?
      Every revision Apple had on OS 10 has been a major improvement
      with even better apps.
      In fact why do you think Vista's been so long coming? Each time
      Apple came up with something like GarageBand or iPhoto Mr. Softy
      ran back to the drawing board. This has been going on since Apple
      introduced the icon to the desktop.
      broadway al
      • Can you understand 3%?

        3% of three world uses Apple. Their huge number of non-tech customers may let them get by with the "major improvment this revision" rubbish. The rest of us can see them as necessary bug fixes - patches and upgrades. As for their Xerox copy OS, their extreme makover Unix and their rebadged MP3 player (which is the main thing keeping them afloat), I'm impressed by their marketing and graphic design departments, but not by their equipment (overpriced Intel) or lately their quality control.
    • 314 I agree.

      I'm willing to wait longer for a new version on Windows. Xp does the job great. I testing the Vista beta out myself and I like. It runs smooth on my Amd 3800X2. Kill the bugs and take your time MS. I support Windows and Mac OS... and when there is an update somethings get broken. But on the Windows systems maybe the Sp2 update affected some people but that was just the firewall. Disable that and use a real firewall and it's back to buiness.
    • Nice ... where did you find the PR brochure your copied from?

      you need a big cargo ship to carry all this crapload ... geezzz