XP to Vista? No, if it ain't broken, don't upgrade it

XP to Vista? No, if it ain't broken, don't upgrade it

Summary: A campus-wide Vista upgrade to all PC's has left students angry, annoyed and unable to log on in a reasonable timeframe. Why couldn't they have just left XP running? Considerations


The question I posed a few months ago was whether Windows Vista would live to die another day? It seems no, no it shall not. Today, through first hand experience on two occasions, it died entirely of its own accord.

My place of work and education, the University of Kent, went through a major upgrade over the summer which prompted me to write about this in the first place. Quoting from the original article, they announced:

"It is intended to roll Vista out on our student desktops during the summer see the Information Services’ paper to be presented to the University’s Computer User’s Panel next week."

Although it seems that the upgrade has been performed well and everything went smoothly after speaking to IT staff earlier on, the subsequent student and staff reaction to the operating system has been mostly critical.

I logged into a Vista-running public PC for the first time today. Well, I say "logged in" to the point where I entered my username and password but got no further as the remaining 12 minutes was waiting on the folder redirection policy. I gave up in the end and went to my lecture.

My lecture revealed another flaw in the upgrade. My lecturer logged on at the beginning of the lecture. But not only should he have attempted logging into his machine before the lecture had started but doing so would have had very little difference. The projector was on and I could see the same thing going through the motions as before. I clocked it opening up his desktop no less than two minutes before the end of the hour lecture.

Our "message of the day" page which provides the latest, breaking news on the state of the all-important and hugely popular range of IT services on campus showed:

Now don't get me wrong. There is no doubt in my personal and professional opinion that Windows is still the best operating system to be running on a mass scale in a corporate or university environment. But in this case the supply cannot necessarily meet the demand. Allow me to digress.

There are a number of reasons as to why this sticky logging in issue occurred. One of the main ones that I see is today was the start of the academic year, with last week being freshers week. Students were eager to get started with work and by logging in all around the same time period the network was flooding.

But even when the machines were running XP along with the same Windows Server 2008 back-end infrastructure, there were no issues. The mass Vista upgrade is the only change in the equation.

Also, as I experienced when I first logged in when I started at the university, it takes a while to load everything up for the first time on a new computer. With the roaming profiles that the network uses, initially it will take a few minutes to gather your data and settings together and from thereon in, things will pick up in speed.

Not in this case. Once I retried logging in and successfully accessed my desktop (which took 34 minutes), I logged off, had a cup of tea and a smoke then tried on a different machine in another part of the campus. This time it took 12 minutes to logon and access my desktop. The irony of it was that I was using a "quick access service" machine and that my allotted 10 minutes would have expired already.

Even after using the "new" operating system it is clear that the hardware cannot fully support it. Three-quarters of the 2GB memory installed in the machine (or any of the machines, they are all the same hardware specifications) was used up just after gaining desktop access.

The problems have been numerous and countless and as my colleague put earlier on, a representative of the students in the education sector, he was, "f***ing livid".

Perhaps the most annoying part of this story is that the one and only reason for the upgrade was that the support for Windows XP would be ending soon and this fitted in with the university's timeline to upgrade. Windows XP had been used on all public PC's since two years of it initially launching in 2001; way before my time there began.

Because of the software support lifecycle, according to my colleague Mary Jo Foley, switching to Windows Vista or 7 will save them costs because free support is available for those operating systems and won't be phased out for a number of years, as explained here.

Even though Windows 7 is a glass of cold water to someone in Hell in comparison to Vista, regardless of this, Vista will be used in our university for at least the next four years, according to internal sources.

In my opinion, if something isn't broken then think very carefully whether you truly need to meddle with it. Once something is done, it is often difficult to truly undo and in situations such as these when dealing with thousands of computers on campus, one change can cause havoc on an unrecognisable scale.

I'm aware that this is a wide scale issue in a small environment; a storm in a teacup if you will. Vista has been nothing short of a pain in the arse since the word go here at the university. Even though many students have used Vista for years now, many of those I spoke to today did not like the fact they had to use it at "work" as well as home.

Frankly they should have kept it how it was for at least another year. It seems those in middle-management may have been pushed before they jumped.

Are you a student who has been forced into an upgrade which you can't stand? Or are you an IT professional who has rolled out an upgrade which has caused more trouble than it seems worth? Comments make the blog monster om nom nom nom.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • Vista = less hassles than XP

    I currently have a mixed network to support here, with Vista on newer machines and XP on older machines. To be honest, the Vista machines load their profiles quickly (under 10 seconds on average) and are responsive.

    It is the XP machines which are a complete pain and always breaking.

    That said, I've never gotten on with XP, having switched to Linux when it came out and switching back when Vista SP1 came along.

    I currently have 2.64GB used on my machine - with 1GB used by an XP virtual machine, plus Outlook, Excel, TweetDeck, Firefox, Explorer, RDP, NAVision and a plethora of task tray crud...
    • Message has been deleted.

      • Did you come up with that line all by yourself?

        Vista wasn't a mistake by any stretch. It's a great OS that was not well received. It paved the way for Windows 7-- which will undoubtedly be the most successful Windows to date.

        The rag-on-Vista bit got old when Apple's commercials drove it into the ground, dug the FUD back up, and repeated ad nauseam.
        • Oh no...

          Vista is still a [b]great whipping boy,[/b] showing the recent to join the party that [b]Microsoft seldom learns from its mistakes, unless hammered without mercy.[/b]

          And, in the networks I have been involved in maintaining, the only problems that have been encountered by XP systems are failing hardware - once the hardware was replaced, the XP machines were much more easily used, and maintained.
          • exactly

        • In denial..

          Apple pointed out the mistake. However some people live in bubble and not in the real world.
          • Message has been deleted.

          • Message has been deleted.

            Wintel BSOD
          • Message has been deleted.

            Wintel BSOD
          • Bubble?

            I use OS X and Vista on a daily basis (and look after a fleet of XP machines).

            There isn't a big difference between OS X and Vista, to be honest. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I tend to use the one that I'm in the mood for, at home. That said, both are a huge improvement over XP...
    • Zack...

      ..did you really just blame configuration issues on an OS?


      Tell you what - why don't you report back in a month or so once it's bedded in (you would, of course, not have been at Uni when XP was bedding in and probably had the same issues) and tell us how it's going?

      I mean it's only fair, isn't it?
      Sleeper Service
      • The only bedding in that is required is some modest backwards compatability

        I loathe Vista upgrades. I am an IT supervisor for a company with 24K employees strewn across USA and Canada. Vista upgrades went so badly in our test labs with only 100 machines with Vista servers, that we scrapped the whole program when we realized that the upgrades could not be sequential. In order to provide the functionality we use in Active Directory, Outlook, etc All Microsoft Apps and Tools we would have to upgrade simultaneouslly across every system that had to be working. Then we could upgrade the edges that could be down a day or two. THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE.
        So we gave up, and are currently moving all Servers to Linux where we have determined we will not have this problem.
        • Let me see if I've got this straight:

          You cannot move to Vista because the move needs to be an all or nothing change (in part because of AD functionality) but it's OK to upgrade your servers to Linux which don't offer 100% backwards AD compatibility?

          I'm finding this difficult to believe. I always get a kick out of people/organizations which can't upgrade to a later version of Windows but have no problem completely switching to a completely different OS where backwards compatability is significantly worse. Such arguments make no sense.
          • There are some pretty good LDAPs out there...

            ...that offer better backwards integration with AD than Server 2008. While I understand your skepticism ye, this isn't the first time I've heard this story.
    • XP for now

      I'm the network admin at my work and XP is far
      less a pain in the ass than Vista. All it needs
      is the ability to sense the network/internet
      and installing printers from a main website.

      Once I found a disc that contained SP2 it was
      fine. But its true that different versions of
      XP are shooting yourself in the face.

      But if Windows was perfect, what would MS sell
      NEXT year, hmmm? When is Linnux going to put
      them out of our misery?

    • Vista >>>XP

      Running both (now down to only one XP machine, thankfully!), Vista is much better. Whenever one returns to an XP machine after Vista for a while, one is struck with how dated it is. Almost like going back wo Win 3.11. Vista works better, period.

      And Windows 7 is even a little better, especially for the consumers. An IT pro will easily recognize the Vista structure has been streamlined like XP streamlined Windows 2000 Pro. Both of the latter were NT5 at the core.

      This story mainly reflects a flawed roll out and is not a true picture of Vista vs. XP. I shed no tears at XP support demise. It is overdue.

      • Yet sadly...

        [i]"This story mainly reflects a flawed roll out and is not a true picture of Vista vs. XP."[/i]

        Yet sadly it is far from being unique.
    • Gee...

      Maybe because the older machines.. I don't know..
      have much more crap installed? Or maybe because
      they have much slower hardware? Probably both.
    • @Zack

      Two key points to be made (and I'm sure the fanbois will have their say as always, but their generally low IQ just makes it too frustrating to try and debate with!):

      Firstly, I have to wonder why your Uni made the move to Vista now, when Win7 (which is [i]proven[/i] to run much lighter) is only a month or two off. Personally I feel they would have been better off upgrading the [i]hardware[/i] now (even better to ensure EVERY machine x64 compatible), then rolled out Win7 x64 over the next major break. It would have made much more sense, both as it would have saved money over the long run, and ensured a longer cycle before the next upgrade roll-out.

      That being said, if you are encountering as many issues as you are, is likely there were a few [b]major[/b] stuff-ups in how the IT Dept went about things, for example:
      [*]Running UPGRADE installs over XP, rather than performing a clean install
      [*]NOT ensuring full hardware compatibility
      [*]Using XP techniques to roll out Group Policies and Roaming Profiles -> there were a number of changes made, and if the IT Dept not properly aware of all of them, highly likely something was screwed up
      [*]And I could list more possible mistakes

      We run Vista on ALL our PC's (with the exception of one lab already trialling Win7 RC1), and networking and roaming profiles all working very sweetly, so have strong suspicions that errors were made either at rollout or during the network/profile configurations stage. You simply shouldn't be seeing these issues if all was done correctly.
  • XP is not broke,

    Vista new improved or fixed anything.