Though PC World's sample of three PCs was small, it yielded a surprising variety of installation experiences. I performed a clean install of both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions on an AMD 64 X2 machine, and found the two installations nearly identical. While formal testing will have to wait until final versions of Windows Vista are available, I was pleasantly surprised by the OS's snappiness. I opened, closed, minimized, maximized, resized, and dragged windows all over the screen with no visible jerkiness or hesitation. Internet Explorer served up YouTube videos over a cable modem connection without a hiccup, and Media Center played a Led Zeppelin DVD flawlessly.
The only major glitch I ran into related to hardware support: Both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions failed to identify the PC's Asus PCI wireless network adapter. A quick look on the Asus Web site revealed no Windows Vista driver for the card; until the company writes one, users of this card will have to settle for a wired ethernet network connection.
A clean install of the 32-bit Windows Vista RC2 on the Athlon XP 3200+ system was nearly as uneventful--almost everything worked just fine with the exception of the motherboard's on-board audio system. As with The other desktop PC, the machine's performance felt at least as crisp running Windows Vista as it did running Windows XP. It appears that fears of Vista's Aero interface being a dog are groundless, at least for day-to-day computing tasks.
But I ran into serious trouble attempting an in-place upgrade on the Toshiba Satellite M35 laptop. After a good 20 minutes of looking at the system, the installer declared that I must first uninstall Roxio's Easy CD Creator 6.1--and it then aborted. I removed the offending software, and tried again. This time the installation cranked away for more than an hour, before hanging completely.
Fortunately, when I hit the reset button, the boot menu gave me the choice to roll back the incomplete installation, and within a few minutes, I was happily booting into Windows XP once again.
A clean install proceeded normally on the same system, and I found that Windows Vista again performed similarly to Windows XP.