Solving a baffling Vista setup error

Last week I spent a day or so getting a small-form-factor Dell Studio Hybrid set up as a dual-boot test bed. I’ll be switching between Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows 7 Ultimate for some upcoming digital media reports, including an update on how well Blu-ray and PCs work together.

As purchased, this system was configured with Windows Vista Home Basic and Service Pack 1. I had an unused upgrade copy of Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 hanging around the office, so I decided to use it to upgrade the Home Basic installation.

The upgrade process seemed to go OK. After a few hours of copying, installing, and migrating, it had nearly reached the 100% point. But then, it inexplicably displayed this error message:

Failed to upgrade one or more components. Windows will reboot and undo the upgrade.

And, true to its word, the system then proceeded to restart and roll itself back to the previous installation.

Basic troubleshooting dismissed all the obvious candidates:

  • I had previously run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor and knew that this system had no problematic devices.
  • I had not installed any antivirus software or third-party security programs that might be interfering with setup.
  • The installation media was not damaged or corrupted in any way.

A bit of searching turned up a few newsgroup postings from others who had experienced the same problem. It also turned up a long list of suggestions. Most were dead ends, but one actually worked.

In Control Panel, I clicked Programs, then clicked Turn Windows features on or off, under the Programs and Features heading. This dialog box opened up:


I then cleared the following options, which had been enabled as part of the original, default installation:

  • XPS Viewer, under the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 heading
  • Remote Differential Compression
  • Windows DFS Replication Service

After a restart, I tried the upgrade again, and this time it completed without incident. After verifying that everything was working properly, I went back into Control Panel, selected the three features I had previously removed, and restarted.

Is it necessary to disable all three of those features? I have no idea. I’m just happy that it worked. If you’ve run into this setup error, give this workaround a try and let me know whether it works for you.

Update: There’s a KB article that covers this situation: KB946078.

4 thoughts on “Solving a baffling Vista setup error

  1. Interesting situation there, Ed. It makes me suspect the original system had patches that were causing the issue. I believe the XPS viewer has had some patches applied since SP1. You would expect though when you allowed the Upgrade process to grab updates it would be fine with that. Or it could have been the reverse where you needed a patch before upgrade. Once again, you would expect the upgrade to grab the patch before installing.

    Reminds me a little of some issues we ran into with installing XP SP3 on some amd 64 systems. If we hadn’t gotten a processor update, SP3 would installl, then refuse any Windows Updates that we tried to install afterwards. Of course, after the processor update, obtained from the OEM, everything ran fine again.

  2. I note that the .NET Framework unattended updates for 3.0 on Windows XP fail on an XPS related error. Seems odd that Win7 would abort the entire upgrade on that error, but it is beta. The entire .NET installation process for 1.1, 2, and 3 needs a careful overhaul.

    1. Kent, this was a Vista upgrade that failed with this error, not Win7. Although I suspect Win7 would have had exactly the same problem.

  3. Hi Ed,

    I partitioned my XP Media Center Edition machine to set it up to dual boot between Windows 7 and XP. Everything went well, and Windows 7 runs surprisingly well on my 2005 vintage machine. However, a scan disk occurs after every restart if I pick XP from the O/S selection menu. Have you seen this on your dual boot system?

    I really enjoy your posts on this site and on ZDNet. I own both of your Inside Out titles for XP 2nd edition and Vista deluxe edition.

    Best regards,

    Woodinville, WA

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