Earlier this week I was reminded that there is pain in being a beta tester. Some of that is peculiar to working at Microsoft. It seemed simple: I thought I'd try to upgrade my hard disk and my version of Vista, in one go.This laptop arrived fitted with a 60 GB drive, split into 2 equal partitions. With it came a 100GB drive in a caddy. I wanted to switch to using the 100GB drive, because 30GB was looking a bit cramped - my previous machine had more than 30GB of photos on it.
My home back system is a bare drive with a USB-IDE adaptor; my plan was use completePC backup onto that and restore to the 100GB drive. Having done that I could upgrade from May's Beta 2 build (5384), to the June version (5456). On Sunday afternoon it seemed so easy.
You don't have to install Vista only to overwrite it with a completePC restore - restore runs in the recovery environment (RE). You boot from the Setup disk and go into system recovery. You can also install RE onto the PC so you can press F8 at boot time and load it from Vista's boot menu
I'd installed from the network, I didn't have a DVD - to get one I connected to the office stared downloading the ISO image from the "IT Supported" share, and went to bed.
Now here's great news for anyone who's going to have to manage installations of Vista, you can customize the installation disk. I discovered on Monday that Microsoft IT's "Supported" image also installs a standard set of applications, the recovery environment has gone ! Just to be sure I installed Vista from the disk I'd made to see if the boot menu had the recovery environment option. It hadn't.
Not wanting to come into the office just to get a DVD. I thought I'd use MSDN to get a copy, only to be hit with a 36 hour delay because of a subscription problem. While I was waiting I thought I'd try upgrading to the 5456 build to see if that gave me a Recovery boot option; it didn't nor could I discover how to add it. 5456 also decided it would do a clean installation not an upgrade, too. This was looking like a software reinstallation.
By Tuesday evening I was able to get beta2 from MSDN; my broadband connection slowed practically to a halt: so I hope we make an ISO freely available for the recovery environment, I had to download gigabytes of Vista which I didn't need. Having got it, it didn't take many minutes to do the complete PC restore. The restore process creates the same partitions as the original system. This is a pretty smart thing to do, but it wasn't what I wanted. So I had to rearrange the partitions with diskpart. I had another try at installing 5456 and this time it offered me the option to upgrade; all my software and documents were preserved. The process - and I can't tell if it was the restore, or the upgrade - left me needing to rebuild my outlook OST file, the thumbnail caches for pictures, the media player library, and the RSS enclosure folders.
This build is faster, fit and finish is better, although the text in some labels has become corrupted. As I've said already some things I hoped to see fixed aren't, and there are a couple of irritations IE isn't the full Beta 3 of IE7. Still it's the right size of step if we're going to ship Vista on the revised schedule.