The Great Vista/Mac Showdown: Mac migration a breeze, Vista's migration is a headache

The Great Vista/Mac Showdown: Mac migration a breeze, Vista's migration is a headache

Summary: In the first head-to-head comparison of trying to accomplish a task with Mac OS and Vista in this series, the new Windows operating system fell flat on its face. Migrating from an XP installation was halted by repeated failures of the Windows Easy Transfer application when used with a network connection and a so-called Easy Transfer Cable ($49 from Belkin, which was useless).

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TOPICS: Windows
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The migration showdown underwayIn the first head-to-head comparison of trying to accomplish a task with Mac OS and Vista in this series, the new Windows operating system fell flat on its face. Migrating from an XP installation was halted by repeated failures of the Windows Easy Transfer application when used with a network connection and a so-called Easy Transfer Cable ($49 from Belkin, which was useless). I finally gave up and used Lenovo's System Migration Assistant.

It took almost a full day to successfully move 5.6GB of user settings and documents to a Vista system. The Mac, by contrast, took less than an hour for migration of 60+GB worth of user settings, documents, and, unlike the Windows utility, the moving of applications from an existing Mac OS X install to a new one. The Mac is ready to go, except for the need to reinstall two Missing Sync for Windows Mobile application components, a couple of repairs to Parallels, the virtual machine enabling software from Parallels Desktop Software, and entering serial numbers when I launch applications for the first time on the new system—it has saved me hours of feeding discs into the system. Vista remains largely unready to use, because I still have to install all my application software on the new system.

Given that Windows systems depend so heavily on application software to add functionality, it is a mystery to me why migration of applications would not be a keystone of acceptable user experience for the Vista Windows Easy Transfer application. Ah! But the problem is that Microsoft doesn't really want you to move your applications. Instead, it wants you to buy new ones from Microsoft, so none of the tools in the OS make it easy to move an existing installation (you can move application settings, but not the applications themselves). Really bad user experience.

I've assembled the two transfer processes into a pair of image gallery time lines, so you can compare the number of steps.

Since I am comparing the Mac and Vista experience, I won't show you a gallery of the steps taken with the Lenovo System Migration Assistant that actually worked on Vista. It saved me a lot of time compared to the drawn out and unsuccessful Windows Easy Transfer process.

What have I learned from this? Windows Easy Migration is a new tool that needs work. Maybe it will work more reliably when Vista SP 1 is released later this year. For now, it is worthless. It may very well work for many people, but it didn't work for me, over a wired network, a wireless network or through the Easy Transfer Cable that cost $49 at Office Depot. I would not recommend buying the cable, because the migration tool got further before hanging over the IP network connections I tried before using the cable.

The Easy Transfer Cable did not function at all, even after going through driver installations, restarting and turning off every conceivable form of firewall and network access control on both the XP and Vista systems. 

Making the whole experience even more painful was how poorly the application conveyed its progress or lack thereof. There was no estimated time provided for the transfer against which I could measure whether it was working correctly. After having had the first transfer over a network fail, I left a second attempt running overnight. In the morning, the progress bar showed only a slight change, but the transfer still seemed to be running, albeit only "preparing the files" for migration—without any indication of an error or that the application had hanged.

As I said, the Mac OS is ready to go. I could start using it right now for work and all I need to do to get an application I ran on the old system to run  in the new one is enter the serial number or license.

Lenovo's Migration Assistant was the only positive on the Windows side. It moved the settings and documents from the old system to the Vista system in less than an hour using a direct Ethernet connection. This demonstrates how, because of the integration of software and hardware on the Windows side of this comparison, it is essential that users rely not just on Windows Vista for the tools that give them the most from their hardware. That OEMs play an important role in the Windows experience cannot be over-emphasized. In this case, the Lenovo tool made what Vista promised actually work.

Vista loses this round. There's no reason this should be the case, but the fact that Windows discourages or disables the migration of applications would still set Vista way behind the Mac in terms of setup time even if the Windows Easy Transfer application had worked.

Winner: Mac OS X. 

This is part of my continuing series comparing Vista and Mac OS X. Here are the earlier installments:

Topic: Windows

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  • Lies?

    If he'd had more software installed on that Mac it sounds like the migration wouldn't have gone so well. By the sound of it he lost all his 3rd party software. ...He simply only had a few pieces of 3rd party software installed. Isn't this the case?
    brien86
    • MIxed bag

      I've done the Apple Migration Assistant many times, and it usually works very well for moving over 3rd party applications. Not sure why he's having to re-enter serial numbers, that's not something I've encountered. I would say that the few programs he couldn't move over were the rare exceptions, rather than the rule.

      That said, from what I've read, there are some applications that are happier with a clean install on your new machine rather than being moved over.
      tic swayback
      • hmm

        All I did was an upgrade from Windows XP to Vista Business... no hiccups, and it was complete in about an hour.

        I'm not sure why others are having an issue.
        dwsmith
        • Well done

          You have a well-maintained, clean system. Others don't. I watched a computer tech go through the upgrade process while on Greenville, SC, television. The fellow has a reputation that he knows what he's doing. He upgraded on one of the tricked out Alien boxes.

          Three and one half hours later, the upgrade was still in progress, and we never did learn how long it actually took.

          I think I will wait for another year and upgrade with a new box and the yet-to-be written applications patches.
          professordnm
          • Rome wasn't built in a day...

            It even took Apple several tries before it finally got it right. From Puma (10.1), Jaguar (10.2), Panther (10.3), which was the really first stable, full-featured version of Mac OS X, and finally Tiger (10.4). I would say this first version of Vista is like Puma or Jaguar as far as stability and compatibility. I?m sure it will be ready for prime time in about two or three years. My advice to anyone considering Vista is to either stick with Windows 2000 or XP, or switch to an Apple Macintosh system.

            OS X is very mature and stable. If you like eye candy, get an Intel based Mac, install Boot Camp or Parallels. Run OS X as your main operating system, and run Windows XP for that Windows only game or application that?s not Mac compatible. Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) will be out this year with some features that are light years ahead of Vista. I?m really looking forward to the Time Machine and Spaces features that will be part of it.

            Even when Microsoft has the advantage of copying another company?s innovations and ideas like they did with Vista from Mac OS X, they still fumble and can?t seem to get it right. Zune is another good example. Compared to the iPod, it?s pretty lame. I?m amazed that a company with such resources and people can?t do better. Maybe it?s time for Bill Gates to retire. Maybe Microsoft is ripe for and in need of new leadership. They need someone with the same type of vision and creativity we see in Steve Jobs leadership.
            gtdworak
        • This wasn't an upgrade

          This was transferring data from a computer running XP to a NEW computer running
          Vista.
          frgough
    • Try Reading

      [i]It took almost a full day to successfully move 5.6GB of user settings and documents to a Vista system. The Mac, by contrast, took less than an hour for migration of 60+GB worth of user settings, documents, and, unlike the Windows utility, the moving of applications from an existing Mac OS X install to a new one.[/i]

      If you had read you would notice that the windows machine had 5.6GB, and the Mac had 60+ GB.

      And technically it does not matter if it was 1 app, or 50. Vista's upgrade assistant does not transfer applications at all.
      Stuka
    • No, I have dozens of third-party apps on the system

      The Mac Pro system I was migrating from is my primary workstation, there
      were only three problems and all were identified in the article.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • General application installation guidelines and no central Registry...

        General application installation guidelines and no central Registry make software
        installation a lot easier in OS X and, therefore, a lot easier to manage a transfer to
        a new system. Most applications contain all the essential components inside
        "packages." There are also set locations in the OS for preferences and
        configuration files.

        This is one advantage that OS X (UNIX and Linux in general) has over Windows,
        and is probably the main reason why the migration went so smoothly.

        Occasionally, applications will store referenced materials in places such as the [i]
        Documents[/i] folder instead of the [i]user/library/preferences[/i] folder.
        Depending on the application, this can cause minor headaches as you've found
        out. But nothing too critical.
        olePigeon
    • Can you read?

      Didn't you read this article? He had 5.6 GB to transfer on Vista, and 60 GB to transfer
      on Mac. That's ten times as much on the Mac side, and it took a lot less effort!
      pthompsen1
  • Message has been deleted.

    brien86
    • Apple vs Lenovo vs Vista

      Really it's Apple vs Lenovo vs Vista, where Lenovo beats Vista and Apple gives them both a sound thrashing.
      StevoCJ
  • head-to-head comparison

    After all the research was in, and the more I studied all major the differences between the overall operational uses and the internet online security protection provide with both! Because, of this head-to-head comparison of the two most popular computer systems, the PC?s vs. Macs, I believe my next system will be a MAC!!

    I for one am getting very tired of major players in the internet pretending that something like the new Vista platform is the answer and that just using alternatives such as: upgrades and patches will make it so we can make sure our computer is running safe again today.

    If we don?t start NOW! Then nothing is ever going to change and it?s only going to make it easier for the common cyber criminal to commit crimes against us! And invade our personal security which, becomes harder and harder to protect your ID, day after day, and now it seems more and more like it?s a world wide conspiracy being perpetrated, against you and I ?US? the (Consumer), and when do nothing that?s when we all truly become Victims!

    Your Online Security Authority
    Bill Wardell
    http://www.onlinesecurityauthority.com/
    OSAuthority
    • (nt)quit spamming

      ...
      toadlife
      • Toadlife: Personal Foul.

        Just because someone has their website in their sig doesn't give you the right to blast them for spamming. 'Nuff said.
        Raymond Danner
    • Amen

      Right on, Bill. We have passed over the threshold of rhetorical Windows 'BS' and are now actually standing in it knee deep. For me, it looks like a MAC next box around.
      professordnm
  • Not Convincible

    It all depends on the skills of the person doing migration. Vista should be easy. I see the Mac marketing person did this and giving all credit to it.
    tech_savvy
    • mac xfr

      I've just recently added some macs to the mix of machines in my shop. The first migration was from a mini to a macbook. Having built PCs and installed OEM windows many times I was prepared to have the mac migration only move over personal files and folders, bookmarks, etc. I was shocked and pleased to find that it had moved over Office for Mac, too. That was nice! Firewire, which was OK with me, even though I have a heavyduty network in place.

      I'm not moving to Vista, but the last XP-XP migration I did wasn't any harder (I used the transfer wizard). The thing is, it moved over nothing beyond my own folders and settings. I had to reinstall 100% of my applications.

      So this old windows guy says that the OSX migration tools get you much much farther towards what you want than the XP ones do.
      alpha_server
    • Windows vs. Mac: Mac wins. Again.

      [i]It all depends on the skills of the person doing migration. Vista should be easy. I see the Mac marketing person did this and giving all credit to it.[/i]
      It shouldn't depend on the skill of the user. Most mere mortals (remember, many of us are IT pros here) would have no chance at all of a success, given the reported difficulties faced by this man.

      There is no reason (other than M$ BS) not to allow a transfer of applications from one Windows box to another. (And by "transfer", I mean actually moving the apps, not copying them to use on the new machine as well as the old) Unfortunately, as I can attest myself, it is close to impossible to do this task under Windows without 3rd party software, and with the vast pool of experience and money Microsoft has to play with, that is /inexcusable/.
      Raymond Danner
    • Mac marketing person?

      What the hell are you talking about? I'm not a marketer, have been a
      technology reporter for two decades and have worked on dozens of
      development projects across both platforms.

      Following the instructions provided, Vista Windows Easy Transfer doesn't
      work.
      Mitch Ratcliffe