Try before you buy…..

As part of the Vista Beta Test program I have been running Vista on an AMD based PC for the last few months. Maybe Vista didn’t always behave perfectly but it always installed without any problems. I was at the point of installing RC1 when my son came to me and said, “Dad I have a really, really old PC and I am going back to school……”. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what that meant! So I stripped down the PC to meet his needs with the intention of building another PC for myself. I thought to myself, “This is a great opportunity to upgrade to dual core since the prices have dropped dramatically”. So I proceeded to purchase the same ASUS mother board (or so I thought - more on that in a moment), a dual core AMD processor, the same DVD burner and the same case. The other components, ie. memory, graphics card and HD, were taken from the other PC. I have built similar PC’s many times and everything went together as expected. BTW the PC isn’t just speced for Vista alone, eg. 2GB of RAM. I also plan to try virtualization.

I went to install RC1 and the PC constantly rebooted ad nauseum! Since the install DVD had been burned from an iso image on my other PC, I tried using that DVD burner. No luck! I ran a memory test; passed with flying colours. I have ‘debugged’ a few PC’s but this was totally baffling me so I took the PC to the store where I bought the parts. I have bought there for many years and they were very cooperative even though they don’t officially support Vista yet. They gave the PC every test that they could think of. It passed every time but it still wouldn’t install Vista. Incidentally XP Pro and Server 2003 installed with no problem suggesting that the PC was sound. Now the store was just as confounded as I was. They had never experienced this constant rebooting phenomenon when trying to install an OS. So I took the PC home and it sat in the box but I was turning things over in the back of my mind.

Eureka! When I bought the mobo (ASUS A8N-VM CSM/NBP) I remembered that they didn’t have the EXACT same model as I had used before in stock. The board has exactly the same specs (with one minor exception – see below), same layout, same chip set (important!), same connections, same price, etc. except the board that ends in NBP has GeForce 6150B onboard graphics versus GeForce 6150 for the original board. This simply suggested a minor revision to the on-board GPU. The store told me that they were the same (their honest belief). The original board was an ASUS A8N-VM CSM. Note the absence of the NBP. If you go the ASUS website the ASUS A8N-VM CSM mobo is no longer shown in their current list of socket 939 boards. Instead it shows the ASUS A8N-VM CSM/NBP board.

Thus far I haven’t been able to find out exactly what the NBP means even via the ASUS website. The only clue was that this must be a newer board since it was only on the first release of the BIOS. Of course, you can get BIOS upgrades for the older board and apparently there are still lots available for purchase according to my supplier. So the mobo in my PC has now been replaced with the original model. Guess what! Vista now installs just fine. Go figure. It took about 10 days of testing, replacing every single component in the PC by the store and no little frustration. Interestingly my instinct all along was that the mobo was the problem but I couldn’t figure out why. At first the store thought that I was just a little short of the full amount, if you know what I mean! Now they are forewarned about what they may have to watch out for.

So if you are thinking of buying some new non-branded PC’s (to get the exact components that you want at a reasonable cost) from your favourite supplier with a view to installing Vista in the future, my advice is make sure that your specs work now with RC1 or later before you put down your money. If your supplier is reluctant to play ball using the argument that Vista is still a Beta, think about finding a supplier who will cooperate. There are many mobo’s out there with new ones appearing all of the time. The chances that they have all been tested with Vista or will have been by RTM are fairly slim. Don’t rely on BIOS upgrades to bail you out. You might just be out of luck!

Say after me, “PC’s are great when they work, PC’s are great when they work, PC’s are great when they work……..”


Graham J.

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