Vista install nightmare

One would think that if he had successfully used the beta and release candidate versions of a new OS on a given set of hardware, he would not have a problem installing the stable, retail release version of the OS. But this is Microsoft.

RC1 expires next week, so I went and bought a copy of Windows Vista Home Premium months ago. On Sunday afternoon, I moved all of our backup files to the second drive that I use for data, then I ran Vista install. Of course, RC1 was Vista Ultimate; this is Vista Home Premium, so no upgrade is possible. I did, however, try to run a clean install from within RC1. That’s supposedly required, since I bought an upgrade version.

That install crashed almost immediately. So I booted from the install DVD, formatted the primary hard drive, and reinstalled. It worked up until it tried to reboot for the first time after copying and expanding the OS files. Then it BSOD’ed and restarted. That went on for three nights.

In the meantime, I bought a new motherboard, thinking that this was a conflict with my firmware. I pretty much had to stick with NVidia though, because I have a pretty new AMD Socket AM2 CPU and I didn’t want to pay to replace that, too. But I switched from a Asus M2NPV-VM to an MSI K9N4-SLI. I wanted Biostar, but Micro Center apparently doesn’t carry them. Anyway, none of this worked. The thing kept rebooting, no matter what I disabled in the bios; no matter which components I physically unplugged; no matter how many times I reinstalled.

When I started in Safe Mode, the last file to load was always crcdisk.sys. (It turns out that this file just happens to be the last file in the list to load, ever… and once it shows up the list it’s already loaded successfully. I tried the solution suggested on the web to rename any mention of pcmcia.sys — that didn’t do anything.)

By reading a few things on the web, I guessed that the problem might be my use of an IDE hard drive for the installation. My primary drive is IDE; secondary is SATA. So I unplugged the IDE drive and tried to install on the SATA drive, but no matter how many SATA drivers I loaded, the damn drive would not show up in the list of drives to choose from for installation. It was just missing from the list. But when I clicked “install driver” from that “where do you want to install Windows?” screen, then clicked “browse” to find a driver, my SATA drive showed up and I could browse it!!!

So on Tuesday night I gave in and called Microsoft installation support. I’ve never done that before. I figured I had two defined problems: first, the reboot after loading crcdisk.sys; second, the disappearance of my SATA drive from the installation disk list. Spent a couple hours on the line with a tech who had never heard of crcdisk.sys until that night, but there had apparently been a rash of these calls that night, so they were all learning about it. They had no solution to the SATA problem, except that I might need to install more SATA drivers. He did say, though, that if the drive was formatted wrong, it would still show up in the list, it just would require a format before installation started.

That’s not true, as I found out. The IDE drive, as it was formatted for Beta2 and RC1, had an unpartitioned space at the end of it. I had seen a hint on the web that suggested that that space might be causing the problem, so I tried FDISK. Apparently, there is no longer an fdisk.exe — when did that go away? It’s been replaced by diskpart.exe, which is more powerful but less easy to use. I deleted the partition on the IDE drive, then created a new one. The new one defaulted to a Dynamic drive, and I rebooted and started install. But now the IDE drive disappeared from the list of drives to which I could install this damn thing!

So I figured it’s the Dynamic disk thing. Sure enough, it is. I’ve read since then that Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium do NOT support dynamic drives. WTF!?!? Why drop a feature like that? If that was published as a difference between the multitude of Vista versions, I didn’t see it. It’s even more stupid because parts of the install (the ones that also apply to Ultimate and Business) clearly recognize the drive and let you browse it. But once you select Vista Home Premium, no dynamic drive access.

So I changed the IDE partition to Basic. Sure enough, repartitioning from a Basic partition with that extra space at the end to a Basic partition encompassing the entire drive fixed the install and stopped the BSOD lockups/reboots. And changing the SATA drive to Basic (after I copied everything to the IDE drive to back it up, using the DVD’s repair command prompt and XCOPY) made that drive show up in Windows.

Now I just have to reinstall this thing over this copy that I’m using to write this. Microsoft was dumb enough to take away the ability to do an upgrade by inserting an install disk from an earlier version of Windows (using 3.11 to install XP was great). But then they left the door open to install an upgrade without even having an earlier install disk! You just have to install it twice.

UPDATE: Another way to avert the potential loss of data from any dynamic drives you might have was suggested here. Just install Vista Ultimate from the installation DVD (if you don’t enter your cd key, you can pick any version of Vista to install and run for up to 30 days). Run Ultimate long enough to transfer your data elsewhere and change the drive to Basic, then reinstall whatever other version of Vista you have. Again, how stupid that M$ would deliberately cut a feature like Dynamic drives out of the lower-priced versions of Vista just to add value to the ungodly expensive versions. And XP Home supported Dynamic drives!

One thought on “Vista install nightmare

  1. I have no idea what that whole thing meant, but cody is having problems with his too. He bought a new computer just so he could use the 64 bit version of Vista. Then he found out that the 64 bit version is not sold in stores, so he had to buy it online. and now it still wont work. he’s tried a million things, still working on it…

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