Five things you should know before installing Vista Beta 2
By Gregg Keizer, TechWeb Operating Systems
9 June 2006 09:28 AEST
The rush to install the newest Windows Vista beta is on. But before you take the plunge, here's five things you'll want to think about first.
The news on Wednesday that Microsoft had finally posted a public beta for its long-awaited, often-delayed Windows Vista brought the usual rush by multitudes who couldn't wait.
Enough, apparently, that some users have reported overloaded sites that never begin the download. (As of mid-day Thursday, TechWeb was unable to reach the English-language, 32-bit download file.)
That inability to access Beta 2's multi-gigabyte download may be a blessing in disguise. Tucked into Microsoft's website are notes that may be deal-breakers for many.
Here are five. Read 'em before you download, or pay $US10 to order a DVD from Microsoft.
1.) You'd better have a DVD burner
The hours it'll take you to download Vista Beta 2 - 9 hours using a 1.5Mbps connection (such as DSL) by Microsoft's estimate - will be wasted if you don't have access to a DVD-RW drive. It's possible, of course, to download the file and burn it to DVD on one PC, then install it on another, although certainly a hassle.
Sans DVD-RW, your only other option is to order the DVD, which costs $US6 in the US with another $US4 for shipping and handling. Microsoft says the disc should arrive in two to four weeks.
2) It goes dead in 2007, so if Microsoft delays Vista again
Like most previews from the developer, Vista Beta 2 has a time limit, after which it - 'poof!' - stops working. The deadline: June 1 2007.
Although that may seem like more than enough time - over a year away - it's unclear what will happen to your PC if, say, Microsoft doesn't meet its previously-announced January 2007 release date for the consumer editions of the OS.
It's not as if Microsoft hasn't delayed Vista before.
3) You're stuck with Vista
There is no easy way to turn back the clock and return the PC now running Vista Beta 2 to the box's earlier operating system. You're stuck, sort of.
"Once you install Windows Vista Beta 2 you cannot roll back to the previous operating system installation - you will either have to acquire and install the final released edition of Windows Vista or reinstall a previous edition of Windows," says Microsoft.
It then gives some advice all should heed: "Before installing Windows Vista Beta 2 on any computer, please remember to back up all your files."
One way to avoid a total re-install of, say, Windows XP, would be to back up the PC to an external drive using a disk imaging program such as Symantec's Norton Ghost before trying Vista. With that done, you could ditch Beta 2 by simply reimaging the PC's hard disk from the external drive.
4) You're stuck with Vista, deux
Ominous words from Microsoft: "You may not be able to upgrade your installation of Windows Vista Beta 2 to the final, commercially available edition of Windows Vista."
Naturally, you'll need the final version of Vista - what, you thought Microsoft was giving this away? - but you may also have to do what's called a "clean" install. In other words, the installation of the final Vista may be possible only by wiping out all that's on the hard drive of the PC.
Note the "may" in the caution. We suggest you take that to mean "will."
5) There are lots of "gotchas"
Finally, because this is beta software - and that's easy to forget, what with the plethora of software that companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo soft-launch using previews these days - there is a long list of known problems. (No word on how many unknown problems.)
The Vista Beta 2 Release Notes may make your eyes glaze over, but they're well worth browsing, or at least printing out for later reference if necessary.
Among the strange, TechWeb counts the one that after an update from Windows XP to Vista, makes Outlook 2003 try to re-install whenever you click on the email client's interface.
No wonder Microsoft tries to wave off users.
"Before you decide to use Beta 2, you should feel comfortable with installing operating systems, updating drivers, and general PC troubleshooting," the company says on the Beta 2 download page. "Some risks of using beta operating systems include hardware and software incompatibility and system instability."