Back to 32bit Vista

For the past 4 months or so, I'd been running the 64 bit edition of Windows Vista on my laptop, but that came to an end on Saturday night.

I got a new hard drive last week, and the instant I got home from teaching an Excel course in Kelowna this past weekend, I yanked out my old 100GB drive, slipped in a new 300GB drive, and kicked off an install of Vista again. This time, though, I elected to go with the 32 bit version, rather than the 64 bit.

In truth, it kind of makes me sad to abandon the 64 bit version. Honestly, it's not like the 64 bit Vista earned me much except pain, but it would have let me install some of the newer server OS's in VM's had I chose to go there. I'm always amazed at how few vendors still seem to have support for x64 to date. There is no question that it is the future, but compared with the adoption of the 32bit versions, x64 seems very slow. The platform has existed for over 5 years now, iirc, and all the new 2008 server versions run exclusively on 64 bit versions. So why are so many printer drivers and the like still missing? I can appreciate the vendors do have to recode things, and they'd rather build new features than just recode existing ones, but let's face it, the time is going to come where they'll have to bite the bullet anyway.

I actually had a few reasons for shifting back:

  1. One of my critical apps wouldn't run on 64 bit. I'd solved this issue by running a Windows XP virtual machine daily at work.
  2. The VM took extra time to start up and shut down every day
  3. Performance within the VM was a challenge. The search feature was broken, and performance over the network was slow

So there you have it, I started over.

A couple of interesting things that happened this time:

  • I bought a USB hard drive enclosure for my old drive. This had a couple of benefits
    • I didn't have to make a backup of my data before I started. I could attach to the old drive later
    • I had (and still do) a fall back place if I decide to change my mind. (I'll just put the old drive back in.)
    • Once I do decide I'm committed to the new build, I can wipe the old drive, and I have an external drive to use
  • I installed BitLocker drive encryption

Obviously, I'm using Vista Ultimate, as it's the only version with BitLocker. I've read a few articles about BitLocker over the past few months, and have long been thinking that I should be using it. As the IT guy, my data should be well protected should me laptop ever be stolen. So I decided to give it a go.

To be quite blunt, installing BitLocker can be a frustrating experience if you don't do it right. Here's what I did:

  • Partitioned the drive through the Vista installer to have a 1.5GB partition and a 298.5 GB partition
  • Installed Windows on the larger partition
  • Patched the OS, installed my Office Apps, patched them, installed VMWare and a few other programs
  • Attempted to turn on BitLocker.

It was at this point that I realized that I never set the 1.5GB partition to active. So I formatted it and set it live, but too late, from what I could see. It seems like, unless the drives are set right BEFORE Windows is installed, you're dead. So then:

  • I downloaded the following article:
  • Reformatted the drive, blowing away all the partitions
  • Followed the instructions in Sections 1 & 2 to each and every point
    • Note: my TPM was already initialized
    • Note: I saved the encryption key to a USB key

This time it actually worked.

So all that was left was to install all my apps and transfer my data over… A day later, and I think I'm ready to work again.

I did check the Vista search and man… it works like lightening now. Beautiful that.

One question I do have to ask though… why do you need administrative rights on your PC to install a printer? Isn't that something that really should be up to a user to do without involving the IT department?

There is something that I need to work out though, with Excel. I use a few network based add-ins. So now, when I'm at home, I get an error about the add-in being unavailable.

No surprise there, really, but I think I'm going to need to do something about this. I'll probably have to write up an add-in loader that checks if the add-ins are present before loading them. I supposed that if I were inclined, I could probably make it save a local copy and update it from the network each time it was able… Anyone have a tool that already does this?