bryan_gb: (helm)
´╗┐While my main PCs run Ubuntu Linux and one also hosts a Windows VM, I also have an old laptop running Windows Vista. Don’t laugh – that’s what it came with an OEM licence for, and there are times (such as when I’m doing a bit of phone hackery) when a Windows VM isn’t adequate and I need a real Windows machine. Plus, Vista’s modern enough for most software, yet not so modern that it gets in your way all the time like Win 7 does.

I also have a 240GB SSD spare from a decommissioned desktop PC, so since my Vista machine has collected a lot of crud and is a bit slow anyway (it can only use 3GB of its 4GB memory, as it’s not 64-bit capable) I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and give it a fresh install of Vista on an SSD.

Except that I couldn’t find the copy of Vista I downloaded from Microsoft’s DigitalRiver site the last time I needed one (of course OEM-licenced PCs rarely come with a DVD). So download it again, right? Except that M$ has now pulled all its Vista downloads and will only sell you a DVD, if you ask really nicely.

OK, there must be a (safe) download somewhere else, surely? A lot of the links I found actually pointed back to DigitalRiver, but eventually I found my way to which made me jump through a few hoops before letting me download a Vista ISO. Two possible snags – one, only the 64-bit link seemed to work, but at this point I’d forgotten the PC was 32-bit only(!), and second it was listed as Vista Home Ultimate, but the last time I did this, the ISO/DVD was generic and the licence key determined the actual version installed.

Next, I needed a utility to turn the ISO (CD/DVD file) into a bootable USB stick. Luckily, MS offers something snappily called the Windows7 USB/DVD download tool. Unluckily, it’s a bit crap – my first attempt generated a bootsect error, which apparently means the ISO doesn’t have all the right format data.

So now I needed a DVD burning tool to create a new version of the ISO with the right bits in. Everything I read suggested that ImgBurn was the best choice, so off I went to, only to discover that while the software’s pretty good, the site’s main aim seems to be to push out ads and crapware.

I understand that the hosting bills have to be paid and that, generally, TANSTAAFL, but too much of this stuff is bad-mannered and quite frankly shitty. You end up on pages with a bunch of what looks like ordinary text but which really links to adverts, or with two or three Download buttons, none of which actually get you what you want, instead infecting you with whatever crappy adware the hosting company has been paid to puff up this month. In my case it was a piece of scareware called PC Mechanic, whose only saving grace was that it uninstalled without much grief.

Anyway, eventually I got ImgBurn running and created a new ISO, only for the MS USB tool to crap out again, this time with a file error. Try a different USB stick – same problem. Right, a change of burner is needed! I found recommendations for a tool called Rufus and quite honestly, this thing is the bee’s knees. Its user interface is a tad oblique – in particular it is not obvious how you add an ISO, but the option is thereand it works! Give it a stick, an ISO and quite a few minutes (these are lengthy processes in any tool), and it’ll give you a bootable installer.

Of course this was when the PC reminded me about the 32/64-bit thing… But I tried again, and this time got the 32-bit version down. Burn it to USB with Rufus, plug in and repartition the SSD and off we go. Vista’s up and running, clean and fast. Hurrah! Except it won’t take my licence key – that’s for Vista Business, and apparently this ISO is Home-only. Argh!!

Still, the process is getting pretty smooth now, so I dig out a Windows 8.1 ISO from Windows Insider and Rufus that onto the stick and then the PC. Again, all fast and clean, but apparently the free Insider installs have since been downgraded to now-expired evaluation versions. Gee thanks, Microsoft. :( I’m still going though, so next I pull down the latest 32-bit Windows 10 ISO and Rufus that on. That install too is mostly clean, though not so fast, and the PC’s working OK with it. It won’t stay on W10 though, because that’ll only activate with a Win7/8/10 key, not a Vista key, and my W8 key has been expired.

So, I’m definitely not back at square one, but probably not much further than square three or four. The next thing is that a friend is digging out a real Vista Business DVD for me, which means I’ll have to dig out my USB DVD drive and hope it still works… LOL!


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