Microsoft hates you

Well, it’s official. Proof, if ever proof were needed, that Microsoft really hates you. Or, at least, cares so little for you that it’s willing to not only severly limit what you’re able to do, but that it also wants to waste your time.

Ars Technica reports that the Upgrade edition of Vista, on sale from Tuesday, will only allow upgrades from already installed editions of Windows.

(This contrasts with all previous versions of Windows, where you could simply insert the CD from a previous edition of Windows to allow the upgrade to install)

This makes restoring a working system after some form of failure a much longer process – since two OS need to be installed rather than one.

I’ve seen no evidence so far that Vista has resolved the infamous Microsoft six-month event horizon – whereby any Windows install which is more than six months old, regardless of whether it has been used or not, slows to a crawl until reinstalled (the really need to do away with the registry to fix this one – what was so wrong with application-specific .ini files?). Will Vista allow a from-scratch reinstall without having to reinstall a previous release?

In any case, the absolutely ridiculous situation is made more absurd when you look at the Vista upgrade matrix, and see that when licensees of Windows 2000 perform any upgrade, or licensees of Windows XP Pro upgrade to anything other than Vista Business or Vista Ultimate then Vista will first totally wipe their existing installation!

So, for example, if I suddenly became overcome by the impulse to upgrade to Vista from the edition of Windows XP Pro that came with my last laptop then to upgrade I’d be okay in the first instance: Windows XP Pro is already installed, so I can perform a straight upgrade.

However, assume that a Creative driver or some other act of God destroys the Vista installation beyond the point of repair. If I’m lucky, Vista will realise that it was previously installed, and all will be well. However, if Vista can’t detect it’s current installation (which sounds simple enough – but no NT-based release of Windows I’ve ever used – from NT4 through Windows XP Pro, has ever been able to find the active installation on the first partition of the first hard-disc from a recovery disk) then I first have to reinstall Windows XP Pro in order to get Vista back again. However, being a Sony laptop with OEM system disks, the only way to reinstall Windows XP Pro is to re-partition and re-format the machine’s hard disc… and woe betide anyone who has a machine that doesn’t come with “recovery media”.

If the only was to reinstall a Vista installation is to lose the entire contents of my hard disc (which is mostly taken up by Gentoo Linux – Windows only occupies 15Gb of an 80Gb disc), wait whilst the Sony tools slowly restore an image of Windows XP Pro including many gigabytes of useless Sony cruft (Sony Connect, anyone?), only to have Vista then erase it all again in order to re-upgrade to whatever edition I bought. The only thing worse than this would be if Vista didn’t wipe the existing installation – in which case I’d still have all of the Sony junk stuck on the system!

In short, this looks to me like pure marketing: The basic upgrades make Vista appear to have a low price, whilst the actual usable editions (e.g. full releases of Home Premium and above) are much more expensive.

(And note that the OEM versions are designed to be linked to a single motherboard, since they’re only supposed to be available with new systems – and so the activation on them is much more strict. Unless you’re sure that you will not be making any major hardware changes during the lifetime of Vista, avoid the OEM versions)

On the plus side, all of this might aid Mac and Linux adoption 😀