Your Guide to Decide: Windows 7 Beta

Farewell Vista, Hello XP

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Your Guide to Decide: Windows 7 Beta

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After exploring Windows Vista for about six months on my test-bed PC, I decided two months ago that, along with upgrading the motherboard and CPU in my main work machine, I'd "upgrade" to Microsoft's latest operating system.

Vista's new navigation features had slowly grown on me, though I hadn't tried to work daily with the OS. Vista's appearance has it all over standard XP, and there are tons of usability features that beckon--after you turn off the incredibly annoying User Account Control that constantly bugs you when you want to install programs or tweak things.

For example, I love being able to shut down with one click; I like the junk filtering in Windows Mail (Vista's upgraded version of Outlook Express); and I appreciate the way I can easily drag User folders (formerly My Documents) to a new location so I can consolidate them with other data that I regularly back up.

Annoyances Drive Me Backwards

Unfortunately, small time-wasting annoyances in Vista cropped up almost immediately. Auto-complete of e-mail addresses in Windows Mail works only with the 29 most recently used contacts (I have well over a thousand), and overall the program is slow. The Search Indexer had an irritating tendency to start when I watched an HD DVD, and despite of the absence of multimedia files in a folder, most folders showed useless columns for Artists, Tags, and Ratings. I must have wasted an hour changing them to Size and Date Modified headings--and then the folder would sometimes magically change from detail view to icon view. To be fair, that last part is a holdover bug from XP, but all I've described was just the tip of the iceberg.

As irksome as these things were, I considered them livable. It was only when I discovered that my sound card's drivers for ASIO (a high-performance audio standard for recording musical instruments and vocals) didn't work well under Vista that the balance tipped irretrievably towards "downgrading" to XP.

The beta ASIO drivers may have been spotty, it may have been a system configuration problem, it may have been me--Vista is actually reputed to be much better for Pro audio--but I decided that it was time to revert to good old stable XP with its mature driver support.

How About Dual Booting?

I considered leaving Vista installed, installing XP, and then dual-booting using a boot manager that hides the OS not in use. But the failure of Acronis's Boot Manager and of OSLBoot (included with the OEM version of Vista) frustrated me.

I then tried installing XP on another, visible partition and using the Vista boot manager, but with XP installed on the D: drive, I had problems with nVidia drivers. I finally succeeded with Avanquest's System Commander 9 boot manager, but by that time I'd concluded that I really didn't want Vista around anymore and decided to overwrite it. Here's how I did it. (You may also want to view our video, "How to Reinstall Windows XP"--but remember, its focus is on a clean reinstall of your existing XP rather than on reverting to XP from Vista.)

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