Fixing Windows Vista, one machine at a time

The latest installment of my saga with a Sony Vaio is up at ZDNet now:

Fixing Windows Vista, one machine at a time

If I had bought a machine that worked as poorly as this Sony Vaio, I would have returned it right away, but I’m glad I was able to fix it. And I really hope more OEMs will realize how much crapware sucks. In the case of this Sony Vaio, the biggest irony was the startup message saying "ThirdPartyAppMgr has stopped working." When you can’t even get your crapware installed correctly, it’s time to rethink your process:


One Windows Vista feature that I like a lot is the setup process, which is far more customer-friendly than ever before. With XP, you need to have a product key to complete setup. Without a key, setup just stops. If you have an XP system from an OEM that doesn’t supply Windows reinstallation media but instead uses a recovery partition, you’re completely screwed, because the product key on the side of your case will only work with media built for your system.

By contrast, with Vista you can borrow retail or OEM installation media for any system, do a clean install without a product key, and then take up to 30 days to activate over the phone using the product key on the side of the case. It’s still not the most elegant solution, but it’s a vast improvement over the XP way.

11 thoughts on “Fixing Windows Vista, one machine at a time

  1. Ed,

    It doesn’t matter if it is in fact Sony or Microsoft that is to blame. To your avg customer, they’re going to return the computer and just get a Mac, go back to XP, or for the more tech-savvy…switch to Ubuntu.

    There was an article on Microsoft’s KB about this particular item, but I don’t think it’s related to Vista.

  2. I posted on this at my site, but the bottom line is that Microsoft absolutely must put a stop to craplets, bad security suites and junky third party utilities.

  3. Mark, that’s an interesting find. I believe you would need to be using royalty OEM media for this to work. IOW, I doubt it would work with a retail copy. But I’ll give it a try next chance I get.

  4. My experience with Dell’s XPS M1530:

    When I get a pre-loaded laptop, the first thing I do is run the setup utility and configure the computer. I let it sit for a few hours to warm up, then I reboot into the recovery partition and restore factory image: I am testing the image at this point to see if it is a good or bad image.

    After I go through setup again, I start using the laptop and note entries in the Event Viewer. In this particular case with my M1530, there was disk corruption every other day. It eventually was reporting every day, and that is when I called Dell. I found out it was the Intel Matrix Storage Manager driver – a driver used on RAID systems. For what purpose was it used on a single hard drive laptop I still haven’t figured out (Ed, any thoughts?).

    At this point, I decided to do a clean install, and I have never had any problems other than some minor reporting issues (its labeled as an error but it really isn’t). My computer is running with Vista Home Premium and it has been a real blessing.

    From this point forward, any clients of mine who purchase computers, I’ll be performing clean installs with the option of installing software they want.

    As for me and my house, we use Dell computers. 😉

  5. Dino, the Intel Matrix Storage Manager is actually useful for non-RAID systems. I have it installed on every Dell system here. I’ll dig up the documentation on it if I can find it. Sounds like you might just have needed an upgrade. Intel has had several.

  6. Here’s some reading on Matrix Storage Manager, formerly known as Intel Application Accelerator.

    It apparently has some performance benefits for single-drive and non-RAID systems in that it enables Native Command Queuing. I recall that on a couple of Dell systems here the BIOS specifically recommends enabling RAID mode for performance reasons. I can’t easily get to those BIOS settings to refreshmy memory, though.

  7. Thanks Ed – I’ll install the latest version.

    What about the Intel Turbo Memory? That was also installed on the image.

  8. Re: having to sit by and helplessly watch the OEM customization install a bunch of craplets — Microsoft should put a screen in place before the customization, allowing the user to stop it in its tracks.

    This is exactly what Windows Mobile (Pocket PC Edition only) does. When doing a hard reset, you can hit the reset button just prior to the carrier customization phase, and you wind up with a fresh Windows Mobile install, with no crap on it. Actually, in the phone world, OEMs customizations are decent — it’s the carrier customizations that are crap.

    I know Microsoft can’t dictate to the OEMs what craplets they’re allowed to install, due to the antitrust settlement. But surely, it can’t be a violation if it’s a choice for the user (and if the timeout default is to install the OEM crap). Even if it’s a violation, Microsoft should consider doing it anyway. Then we can have a noisy antitrust lawsuit — an excellent source of free publicity.

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