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). 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: