Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vista Upgrade - Still at it

Not as smooth as it should have been!

May I complain for a moment? I'm an IT manager, an IT professional. I've been a developer, an early adopter, a geek since 1983. Granted, not all that time has involved a lot of attention to operating system upgrades and deployment. But I'm no slouch either.

So, why the heck did upgrading from Windows XP Pro to Vista Ultimate cause me so many headaches?

Two reasons are stupid mistakes.

  1. When upgrading and using the Windows Files and Setting Transfer wizard, always use the version of the operating system to which you are upgrading (I used the Windows XP Pro version instead).

  2. When doing data backups, especially for a planned upgrade, always use at least two devices (I used one and then dropped the external hard drive; it is now at a hard drive data recovery shop being evaluated).

Yes, even a genius like me can still make stupid mistakes. Just ask my euchre partner.

I should have considered the migration from one operating system to another to be a special case. Members of our Microsoft certifications study group, for instance, mentioned how most of their experiences with FAST have been from one computer to another using the same operating system. But when migrating from one operating system to another, the general rule should be to initiative the transfer using the tools from the newer operating system. My mistake was thinking that I could use the FAST tool from XP. But, again in retrospect, I should probably have used the User State Migration Tool from Windows Vista, instead of the Files and Settings Transfer wizard, even though the MCDST textbook for supporting Windows XP desktops suggests otherwise (70-271, pp.2-21, 2-22 - although the context is always Windows XP Professional only in the instructions).

I thought I had enough backups. About 3 weeks earlier, I can copied My Documents and an archive folder to one external hard drive. Then, as I prepared for a weekend's work of upgrading, I used another external drive with their backup software to take three kinds of backup - a simple file copy, a synchronized folders version, and a typical backup to disk. But as I prepared to go a study group, the external hard drive fell out of my backpack onto the steel stairs behind me. Guess what? Neither I nor two different computer consultants were able to access the drive. Now files that I have used for the past 10 years or more are sitting on a single device at a Toronto-based hard drive data recovery specialist where they are evaluating how much money and time will be involved in retrieving those files.

So you could argue that I'm the author of my own misfortune. You could, but you won't, right?

Still, with the backups that I did have, I ran into problems that required further research, quite a bit of tweaking of both the server on our domain and my notebook's operating system. The biggest problem is roaming profiles with Windows Vista.

Vista has changed - one might even say simplified - the file structure of user profiles. But in doing so, if you use roaming profiles in your domain, you will very likely encounter the dreaded "Your user profile was not loaded correctly. You have been logged on with a temporary profile." error message. When you do a search, you'll inevitably get a lot of misleading suggestions about folder permissions problems on your server or membership problems in the Guests group either on your local machine or the domain. Those discussions won't help you.

Instead, go directly to the Managing Roaming User Data Deployment Guide MS Word document for Windows Vista, download it, and read through the 39-page set of instructions (pick it up here). It took me almost an entire afternoon to implement a portion of the recommendations, but at least I now have my roaming profile working again.

It shouldn't be this hard. I am curious what might have happened had I used the Windows Vista User State Migration tool. Would I still have had the roaming profile problem? Probably, but at least I wouldn't be chewing my nails wondering whether I'll ever have my files back. They would have been transferred to some kind of profile on my upgraded Vista machine. What was a 2-day job has become a 2-week job.

Time for another coffee...wait...wait...

The estimate for the data recovery has just arrived...

Instead of coffee, I think I need a scotch...or two!!!!


Duf said...

I went to Vista myself, it has to be one of the worse OS that Microsoft has put out. After a few weeks of not getting work done I finally downloaded and am now using PCLinuxOS.

I have used Microsoft since Windows 3 and and on up to and including Vista, but after trying Linux on my desktop and felt it would do what I need to do I also switched my laptop to the same Linux Operating system. Have not looked back since.

Sean Kearney said...

Good luck on the data recovery, hopefully it went to CBL.

I did the upgrade to Vista Premium about 3 months ago. It actually went without any major hitches, except for a sound card driver.

But I did encounter the profile problem with a client who went from windows XP to Windows Vista Business. In our case, we use the roaming profiles as a psuedo desktop backup for people who DON'T listen to instructions... Discovered that Vista want to create it's own profile I think it ended up as PROFILENAME.V2 or something along those lines.