Switching around OSes

Posted in General at 5:31 pm by jw

My laptop has been undergoing some pretty gruelling system changes lately.  I honestly gave Vista a good try this time with the PDC build and I could really start to see some usefulness growing out of it but things just bogged down as the different versions of the .NET runtimes started to play havoc with the installations I wanted to do – most notably the lastest builds of Visual Studio 2005.  So… off came Vista and on went Windows XP (again).  I just got XP up and going with the VS2005 builds when I realized I hadn’t tried out all the new stuff in Server 2003R2 (and had also neglected to blow away Vista’s program files directory), so XP came off and Server 2003R2 went on.

With all the reinstalling, I learned a few interesting things about how to do clean reinstallations without having to wipe the disk, so I thought I’d collect the few hints I remember for other people to learn from:

Installing Vista:

Creates a Windows.Old directory which contains all the stuff it would have overwritten had it been left in the original location.  Basically this is the old “Windows” directory, “Program Files” directory and “Documents and Settings” directory with a few others if you’ve got directories laying around with inappropriate names (Boot and Build were the two I had).

Overall, it’s pretty well behaved and there’s no real preparations you need to do to maintain old data.  The only thing to know is that “Documents and Settings” becomes “Users” so there’s no real conflict there anyway.

Installing XP or Server 2003:

The install process deletes your Windows directory.  There shouldn’t really be anything in there you want to keep anyway so it’s not a big problem.

“Program Files” and “Documents and Settings” are left in place so if you want a clean install you have to somehow rename them before you reinstall.  I ended up making a DOS boot disk with read/write NTFS drivers loaded so I could rename the directories before doing the installation.  (This was the step I forgot going from Vista to XP which left a bunch of Vista binaries in my Program Files directory).

I think the laptop is finally up and running well on RC0 of Server 2003R2 now, with all the pretty Unix utilities installed and running well (even the Bash shell).  Now if only I could find an X Server that wasn’t Cygwin (not that I have anything against Cygwin, but seems a waste to have TWO Unix emulation environments on one machine).  I tried working with the “free” X-Win32LX but found that installing it on my work desktop used up my “free” copy and now I can’t get another one for my laptop.  Useless idea of a “free” download in my opinion…

I’ve also given up Google’s Desktop Search for MSN’s Desktop Search as the Google search was being a pain and crashing or chewing 100% of my CPU and refusing to give it up in more than a few cases.  The MSN search seems a little more friendly, though it won’t install on x64 versions of Windows, which makes me sad.

Apps that have made me happy for natively supporting x64 shell integration on the other had have been WinRAR and Tortoise Subverion, both of which play happily with the 64 bit explorer shell.  Now if only my other favorite utilities would pull their fingers out and do the same thing.

One last thing – make sure you disable Symantec Antivirus if you want to do anything file system intensive.  Installing the Unix Compatibility stuff on my laptop was slowed down by a factor of approximately 10(!!) when SAV was running and checking all of the 10,000 files as it was installing.  I shudder to think how much it’s slowing my compiles and have to start to question whether this slowdown is actually more or less expensive than being hit by a virus.


  1. Tallas Said:

    September 29, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    The only thing to know is that “Documents and Settings” becomes “Users”


  2. dorick Said:

    October 5, 2005 at 11:42 am

    I like it when Microsoft gives up and conforms. I understand they are trying to reinvent the wheel but sometimes they try too hard not to conform.

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