Upgrading to Vista 64 bit

or… How I spent my weekend before the weekend before Christmas

This weekend, I decided that now would be the best time to upgrade to Vista 64 bit (from Vista 32 bit)  And, after more than 60 hours of trying, I finally decided that Vista 64 bit is not worth the effort yet.  The rest of this article outlines what I learned along the way, some things you should be sure to do PRIOR to trying an upgrade, and some pretty severe comments aimed at Microsoft for the poor upgrade experience.

So, first I ought to explain why I even bothered, even after reading several post saying that one might not want to use Vista 64 yet.

I recently purchased my wife a new computer for Christmas, which she found out about thanks to the friendly security check from Chase Bank.  You can read that story on her blog.  But, suffice it to say, she’s already got the computer an is using it.  This temporarily freed up an external hard drive she was using.

When I bought the computer, I specifically purchased a computer I could upgrade well beyond the 2 gig I purchased with it.  I currently have 4 gig of RAM and since I’m running Vista 32 bit, I can only see 3.5 gig.

I only purchase the computer a few months ago.  So, it currently as full as I know it will get.  So, I figured, since I have a free drive to back stuff up onto, and since I plan on doing this eventually anyhow, now’s as good a time as any.

Before I started, I checked to make sure that all of the drivers I plan to use are available in 64 bit.  Since I’m not doing anything really strange, they all are.

Now, for those of you that are uninitiated to the Vista 64 bit upgrade process.  There is no direct upgrade path from Vista 32 bit.  So, to do the upgrade, what you have to do is run Windows Easy Transfer, installed by default on Vista 62.  I told it to transfer everything from my current computer to my new computer via the external drive.

I also did a full system backup.  This was a very wise decision on my part and I strongly recommend that anyone attempting an upgrade to Vista 64 bit do this first.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.00.

Once the easy transfer and the backup were in place, I inserted the Vista 64 bit installation disk and told it to install.  It got all the way to the final step and then just sat there.  Being the trusting sole that I am, I waited.

. . .

and waited

. . .

and waited…

I think I waited 2 or 3 hours the first time before I searched the web and found out that the upgrade normally takes 1.5 hours or less.  Hmmmm.. something ain’t right.

After various tries.. loading the RAID drivers I shouldn’t need for example… I booted into safe mode and found that it hung on crcdisk.sys.  I searched the web for this (as you probably are now) and found that, among other things, this can be related to too much memory.

Yep, you read that right.  Too much memory.

So, I removed 2 gig and tried again.  And the install worked.  Great.  I’m on my way.  All I need to do now is flash my bios with an upgraded bios that can deal with the 4 gig of ram and I’ll have my 64 bit operating system that can see all 4 gig (and ultimately more).  Or, so I thought.

So, I went the the download site and downloaded the flash upgrade routine that specifically said it was for Vista 64 and ran it, only to get the message: “The program is unable to continue.  Internal system error:  There is a programming or internal problem.”  and if you run the iflash.exe directly, you get an error saying the program will only run on Win32.  Of course this all took me several hours to get to.  I’m giving you the short version.

So, Intel, why is it you don’t supply a flash upgrade that will run under Vista 64 for a bios that is on a mother board that the specs say take 8Gig of ram, (and the sales person told me would take 16 gig, if they ever make a 4 gig memory chip for this computer.)?  Huh?  Just why is that?

So, once I found out that I could not flash the memory, I took a quick look around to see if someone had a QUICK way to boot up in a 32 bit operating system that didn’t involve as much work as restoring my 32 bit operating system from the backup I made.  I’ll save you the effort, there isn’t one.  There is A way, but I don’t think it is any faster than just restoring, flashing, and upgrading again.

Meanwhile, I had installed several programs and decided that while they DO work, they don’t work as well as they did under Vista 32.  So, I installed a 32 bit setup disk and started the install.  Aborted the install (once it had started) and then started the install again and told it to restore off the back up I had made when I started this whole process.  If you don’t start the install and abort, the repair will think you are trying to restore the 64 bit OS that you have loaded on your computer and won’t let you restore.  So, you have to get enough of the OS loaded so that it thinks you are restoring a 32 bit OS.

So, my advise to anyone that thinks they may want to upgrade to Vista 64 bit is, don’t do it quite yet.  If you think you must, make sure you upgrade your bios first.

Now I have a few questions for Microsoft.

  • I can understand that you might have to do all the steps (backups, fresh install, easy transfer, etc) that I had to go through, but why do I personally have to do those steps?  You can’t write an upgrade process that will do that for me?
  • Why is it that all easy transfer does is transfer most of my data and registry settings?  Why can’t it transfer my software as well?  I was pretty bummed when I found that I was going to have to re-install everything.  Is it really too much to expect to end up exactly where I left off with the added benefit of being in 64 bit mode?
  • Why can’t the upgrade process monitor the load process and tell me I have a problem instead of showing me three animated dots that mean nothing?!  Sheesh!

All I can figure at this point is that there aren’t enough people using Vista 64 bit to make an EASY transfer to it worth Microsoft’s while?

So, when Microsoft finally figures out how to let us upgrade from Vista 32 to Vista 64, I’ll give this another try.  Or, maybe, if Apple comes up with enough real business programs, I’ll just move to a Mac and run Parallels.  Or, maybe any of several other virtual solutions that will let me run a base 64 bit OS with Windows inside.

Eventually, Microsoft will have to get this thing right because within the next three years we will all NEED a 64 bit operating system just to get our regular programming done.  At that point, I guess it will be in Microsoft’s best interest to make it easy for us to upgrade without jumping through all these hoops.

If I ever decide to do this again, I will probably go the virtual route.  That is, I’ll install some base OS (scaled down ‘Nix maybe?) or maybe Vista 64 again.  And then I’ll install Vista 32 inside of the base OS as a virtual machine and restore my current installation into the virtual PC.  This, in theory, will give me all the programs I currently have in a working state and will allow me to move them to Vista 64 as needed.  Next time, at the very least, this shouldn’t take 3 days before I decide to abort the operation.

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