September 20, 2006

Vista woes

Yes, I know, I’ve been silent for a while. It’s mostly because I’ve been struggling with my system. The cause? Windows Vista :p But let me begin at the beginning …

I’ve been a participant in the Microsoft Customer Preview Program (CPP) for Windows Vista. But though I did get a copy of Vista Beta 2, running it under VMWare wasn’t good enough due to the fact that the OS wasn’t getting a full workout that way – I just don’t use VMWare or dual-boot installations that much becuase I’m busily using my main Windows installation all the time :p So, when Vista RC1 was announced, I decided that I would put Vista through its paces and also try out the upgrade feature in Vista by upgrading my production machine to Vista RC1.

"Big mistake", I hear you saying. Well, yes and no 🙂 The actual upgrade (which I ran about 7-8 times at least) takes anywhere from one and a half hours to two hours. I had to run it multiple times because the upgrade would crap out at some point and roll back to the previous installation. And I have to say this about the rollback – it was flawless … I’m impressed 🙂 After figuring out all the little glitch points in the upgrade (for instance, when it reboots after launching the upgrade from XP, you I had to boot into Safe Mode if I didn’t want it crashing out), I finally got the upgrade to complete successfully.

Everything was good. Everything looked good. All my installed software appeared to work – even stuff that I couldn’t get installed from a clean installation of Vista when I was using beta 2. Then I found the problem – there has to be one, right? Windows Explorer just would not work. Sure, the Explorer instance acting as the shell worked fine but I couldn’t launch any other Explorer instances in Normal mode. So no Windows Update, no Network Settings, no Control Panel and basically, no changes to the system. The funny thing is that I could run Explorer fine if I booted into Safe Mode :p

I tried everything I could think of – I uninstalled any programs which installed shell-extensions and so might be interfering with Explorer, I used Autoruns and disabled any non-Windows DLLs which were being loaded by Explorer, I tried disabling the Aero interface and went to classic mode – no luck. The weirdest thing was that Explorer would not crash – it would simply pop up for a second and then close with no error message. I tried loading WinDBG and finding out what cause the crash but all I learnt was that it crashed from ntdll.dll (I think ….) I finally found out that if I clicked on something in the Explorer window when it flashed up for a second, that I could get it to pop up a C++ error dialog which didn’t say anything helpful. When I did that though, it did send an error report to Microsoft 🙂

I tried contacting a few Microsoft managers in the shell division but have yet to hear back from any of them :p I posted in the Microsoft newsgroups but didn’t get any feedback – not even somebody telling me how to log Explorer crashes to see what is causing them (and that’s something that I’d still like to find out – whether there is a commandline switch to enable logging for Windows Explorer). I finally chalked this up to a bug that nobody else has seen before and since it looks as if I won’t hear anything from MS (at least not soon), I decided to do a fresh install of Vista 🙂 I’m actually writing this from that fresh install but I’ll write all about that tomorrow …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:46 am  |  No Comments