My Windows Vista Upgrade: Gone in 60 Seconds

Yesterday Wendy gave me the University’s Windows Vista Enterprise and Office 2007 discs.  I am a member of the University’s Software and Technology Standards group, working specifically on usability and academic issues, and while we’re not planning to upgrade either the operating system or the productivity suite next year, I want to begin understanding both as soon as possible.

I have an IBM R52 laptop for testing, and since yesterday was my last day before Winter Break, I brought it home to upgrade and test over the holiday.  The installation went smoothly, taking a couple of hours to upgrade the existing Windows XP system.  I’d received a warning about IBM’s mouse technology (built into the laptop) but I figured I could use a USB mouse if I really got into trouble.

Once the installation was done, I took a few minutes to see how familiar applications looked in the new operating system.  The look is different: many people have talked about how the operating system is more like a Mac, but I still felt a strong sense of Microsoft’s design.  The Control Panel opened up on first boot, and I found the navigation a bit odd: I would click on a category and the banner across the top of the window would change to explain what that part of the Control Panel would do.  I clicked the category again, and the banner reloaded.  It was only then that I realized that I had to go up to the banner and click on some words that were off to the right to actually access the desired part of the Control Panel.

Shortly after launching both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 1.5, a warning message popped up: Norton Anti-Virus wasn’t working.  The window explained that this was a known issue, and that I could click on a link to see if there was a resolution for the problem.  I clicked on the link, the window disappeared, and nothing happened.

I found and ran Windows Defender next, to be sure nothing bad had happened, but the Quick Scan was clean.  Five or more minutes later, a Window popped up explaining that yes, there was an issue between Vista and the last three versions of Symantec’s application.  They told me that the fix was to run a .sys file.  I searched, but did not find the file.  There was also a link to the Symantec site where I learned that the .sys file was associated with the Norton Automatic Updates feature.

So I opened Norton, only to find that the system would only update on a schedule.  Apparently the University’s image for Windows computers locks out the ability for anyone but the overall Administrator to perform a manual update of the application.

But the Symantec site had a work-around: they had a tool I could download that would fix the incompatibility.  I downloaded it, ran the install, and Vista shut down.

I rebooted and tried to run the system in Standard and Safe modes; I reinserted the Vista Enterprise CD and told it to Repair my computer; I told it to revert to the last good profile.  Nothing worked.  By following all of the instructions provided, I had managed to destroy everything.

This morning I am doing a straight install of Vista.  I won’t have any of the University’s image, but I will be able to test the usability of the OS and take a look at Office 2007.  When I get back to campus in January, I’ll ask Bobby at the Help Desk to put a real image of Vista and Office on my computer, but it’s disappointing that the help provided by Microsoft and Symantec messed everything up so badly that I have to start again.  I understand that Microsoft is trying to shut Symantec out of Windows security – only Microsoft’s security products have access to the kernel – but their grab for market share is getting in the way of their customer’s ability to use their products.
Of course crashes like this are why we test, and I’m sure if I had asked someone at the Help Desk first I might have avoided this issue but I am disappointed by the poor coordination and communication behind Vista, and I haven’t even done very much.    I hope that my next round of testing shows me some of what Microsoft has been promising us these last few years.

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