I plan to attempt another in-place upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. This one is a real hard case. I have a Falcon Northwest water cooled gaming machine (the way they think of it; I thought of it as a great photo editing machine when I bought it about three years ago). It shipped with XP. I had some memory problems, which necessitated replacing all the DRAM. After the memory was stable the OS was still rocky. A couple of months after Vista was introduced, figuring I’d fix it or break it irretrievably, I did an in-place upgrade to Vista Ultimate. Neither happened, the OS was still kind of flaky. I used it for six or eight months, then set it aside in favor of a Dell XPS machine. I converted it to dual boot, leaving the old Vista and installing a clean copy of XP. I used it for two years, exclusively under XP, to drive scanners and spectrophotometers in the increasingly rare times that I needed to scan film or produce a color profile.
In preparation for the update, I brought up the Vista partition. Boy, was it a dog: slow, prone to drive one of the CPUs into 100 percent utilization seemingly at random, and quick to give me the green bar of death. Some of it was the canine quality of early-days Vista, but there were things that went well beyond that. I couldn’t even invoke Windows Update without having the program wander off into nowhere, spinning its little green hour glass replacement forever. When I tried to use the search window, the machine rolled over and put its rubber feet in the air. The OS had been messed up since the XP days, and the in-place upgrade to Vista hadn’t helped. That’s usually the way of in-place upgrades, and that’s why the cognoscenti do clean installs.
When I was patient enough to let windows update run at its own pace, it announced that I needed 106 fixes. I said yes. An hour and a couple of reboots later, it’d found six more fixes. I said yes again. After that it was happy, but I wasn’t. Service pack 1 hadn’t been installed. It’s the old windows update game: there’s something on your computer that’s incompatible with SP1; windows update knows what it is but it’s not going to tell you.
Been short on patience and long on nerve (it’s easy to get cavalier when you don’t need to use the computer for anything in particular), I downloaded the standalone SP1 from the Microsoft web site and forced the upgrade. When the machine came up, Vista complained that the Checkpoint TrueVector Internet Monitor was incompatible with this version of the operating system, and mentioned breezily and that it had disabled the offending driver. I would’ve ignored it except for the fact that I had no Internet access anymore.
I was confused. I recognized the TrueVector program as part of Zone Alarm. I had installed Zone Alarm after the conversion to Vista. But it turned out to be buggy, and I had removed it. That is, I thought I had. But here it was, turning up like a bad penny. I found a Zone Alarm folder in the system32 directory and removed it, to no noticeable effect.
I bought a new copy of Zone Alarm ($19.95 for three computers; such a deal) so that I could get the attention of the Zone Alarm support people. After a nice web chat, the tech sent me a link to a scorched earth uninstall program, which I downloaded to another computer, transferred with a thumb drive to the sick patient, and used successfully. With Zone Alarm out of the picture, Internet access returned.
SP1 improved the machine’s performance immensely. There still were few flakies. I went for broke and installed service pack 2, which seemed to fix most of them.
This is a remarkable development. The installation of two service packs to Vista has fixed most of what had been wrong with the operating system, even things that went back to the XP days. An in-place upgrade to Win 7 is next. Will it continue to make things better, or will I give up all the gains? It’s a tough test: there are a ton of applications on this computer. That coupled with its history of OS problems make for a challenge.