Tag Archives: Windows Vista

Vista PC Build – The Results

NSK2480 case Well, I put all the parts together and have Vista running on the PC. There’s plenty of info about putting a PC together already on the net so I’m not going to get into the details.

The case had plenty of room so getting the motherboard and drives in wasn’t a problem. The cover is held on by one thumbscrew but it fits securely and is easy to remove. The only hitch I had was the lack of an available SATA power connector for the DVD reader so I had to order a molex to sata power cable.

I used the Intel supplied cooler and sure enough, as others have described it seems pretty cheap. I’ll monitor the temperature to see how it does. So far heat isn’t an issue. The PC has been running for over 24 hours (although not doing much more than idling) and the cpu temperature is 13°C which is well under the 73.2°C maximum for the E2180 cpu. In fact, my biggest complaint so far is that with the computer sitting to the left of my desk the fans are blowing cold air towards me. If things stay cool I may pull the power on the fans or replace them with the panels supplied with the case.

The PC is quiet as promised. Because the PC sits at desk level and the fans blow towards me I do hear the sound of them running a bit. It’s more the sound of the air moving than hearing a motor run.

Even though I’d read that Windows Vista couldn’t be installed from a SATA drive (in some cases) I had to give it a try. Out of the box it wouldn’t boot the DVD. Rather than fiddle with the BIOS I just hooked up a spare IDE drive. Eventually I’ll return to the problem and tinker with the BIOS.

The actual Vista install went off without a hitch. I didn’t time it since I went away for the bulk of the install where it was extracting a copying files. But when I returned expecting it to be done it was. It was less than 30 minutes. Whether it was 10 or 20 minutes less I couldn’t say.

The Vista install didn’t have drivers for the on-board video so it used the standard VGA drivers until I installed the drivers from Zotac once the installation was finished.

The Acer monitor that I have has three video in ports, a HDMI, VGA and a DVI port. The DVI port is connected to my iMac as a second monitor. I decided to try connecting the new PC up via an HDMI port since the motherboard had an onboard HDMI port. This is where I had the first real problem. The video quality stinks and is distorted. It’s bad even when the BIOS screens are displayed so it’s unlikely that Vista is the problem. Even so, I played around with BIOS and driver settings for awhile without success. Unfortunately I don’t have a second HDMI cable or output device to narrow down the problem.

The HDMI port problem isn’t a huge issue, although it would be nice to know if it’s a hardware problem while the hardware is still under warranty. I don’t plan on having a monitor attached to the Vista machine on a regular basis and if I do need one I can use the VGA cable.

I’m using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop for Mac to connect into the Vista machine. Since they’re on the same switch performance should be good. No complaints yet but I haven’t stressed the system at all.

I had a second Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB hard drive so I decided to install it and try out the RAID on the motherboard. Using the “Windows Experience” number after a fresh Vista install there wasn’t a performance difference between the motherboard raid and a single hard drive. Both returned a score of 5.9. When configured for RAID I had to load the RAID drivers (from the motherboard driver CD) in order for Vista to see the drives and install. The driver auto detect didn’t work and I had to browse to the Vista 64 drivers but once they were loaded everything was fine. Since I want the hard drive for my Windows Home Server I ended up removing the second drive.

Speaking of the Windows Experience score, here’s the score once the install was finished and the latest drivers were in place. It’s not surprising that the on-board video is the limiting component.

ExperienceScore

The results from CPU-Z are shown in the following screenshots. Click the thumbnail to see them full size.

CPU-Z cpu  CPU-Z cache  CPU-Z mainboard CPU-Z memory  CPU-Z spd slot 1 CPU-Z spd slot3

So, it’s been running for about two days without incident (such as bursting into flames). Time to start installing some software.

Vista PC Build – Parts and Planning

ANTEC_NSK2480_q We won’t talk about how long it’s been since I built a computer, but let’s just say that the ATX form factor probably wasn’t even a twinkle in some engineer’s eye at the time. I’ve been eager to get back into it and also get a relatively low cost Windows computer that I could tinker with. Another thing I remember from those old days is value is more important than rock-bottom cost, cheaply made parts extract payment way beyond their price. So here are my requirements for this computer:

  • Quite – it will be located near my desk in my office so it must be quiet.
  • Power efficient – I’m not looking to build a low power PC, but keeping power usage (and therefore the electric bill) in line are important.
  • Easy to reconfigure – this is something I’m likely to revisit to try different hardware configurations or use for testing hardware. For example, flashing the BIOS in my Seagate drive requires a computer that only has the drive hooked up to it. This should easily accommodate that.
  • Run Vista 64-bit

So without further delay, here are the parts I picked. See the commentary below the parts list.

 

There are some additional parts that will be needed for the build itself although they won’t be used on this computer once the build is done. Some, like a monitor, may be needed in your case.

 

Qty

Part

Cost

1 Monitor, I used a Acer H213H bmid Black 21.5" 5ms HDMI Widescreen 16:9 Full HD 1080P LCD Monitor $190
1 IDE DVD Drive. Windows won’t install over a SATA DVD drive. I used a Sony Optiarc Black 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM IDE DVD-ROM which can also replace the SATA drive in the build. $18
1 Keyboard – LITE-ON SK-1688U/B Black 104 Normal Keys USB Wired Standard Keyboard $7
1 Mouse – Microsoft N71-00007S Black 3 Buttons 1 x Wheel USB Wired Optical Wheel Mouse $10
1 25” Cat 6 Network Cable
$3.59

 

Here’s the reasons I got the parts that I did…

Case – I wanted a well-built case that was easy to work with and was quiet. I didn’t want a tower. I was avoiding case/power supply combo at first because I didn’t want a potentially cheap power supply. In this case the power supply was a well regarded Antec Earthwatts EA380 380W power supply so I didn’t mind. The case is designed to be quiet and although pricey it’s not so bad considering that the power supply is included.

Motherboard – I wanted to go with an Intel chip. I simply sorted by price and went with the lowest priced motherboard that fit my needs. The motherboard comes with two SATA data cables, you’ll need to buy additional cables if you want to use the four SATA ports.

CPU – Again, I wanted Intel. I started with the lowest price dual-core CPUs and worked my way up until I got a CPU that I thought would give me snappy performance for my limited needs. The reviews I read regarded this CPU as having a good performance to price value. I’m going with the stock cooler even though Intel stock coolers are much derided. I will probably have to replace it but I want to use it awhile to see how it performs.

Hard Drive – I’m a fan of Western Digital drives, especially their green drives. I took it up a notch and went with a Caviar black for the performance.

RAM – I wanted 4GB of RAM and I’m a fan of the Crucial brand, never having had a problem with it. It’s also competitively priced without a significant premium for the brand.

Video – I’m going with on-board video for now even though I’m not a fan of it. I did buy a low cost video card but I’ll be needing it for the Windows Home Server build as that motherboard doesn’t have on-board video. Once the WHS build is done I’ll pop the card in to see if there’s a difference in performance.

Operating System – I debated between Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium and Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate. In Microsoft’s infinite idiocy they decided that remote access was a business feature and don’t include it in Home Premium. I decided to go with Vista Ultimate because I wanted the remote access (without having to go to a third party). Also, this gives me all the Vista features so if I want to try something I don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s included in my version.

SATA Power Cable – the case has two SATA power connectors, both on the same cable and designed to connect to the hard drives. I needed this connecter to modify a molex plug so that I could power the DVD reader.

DVD Reader – I went with a SATA connected DVD player because I wanted one in the house. As expected (based on my web reading) Vista wouldn’t install via SATA (the DVD wouldn’t boot). Playing with the BIOS might have resulted in the DVD becoming bootable but it was much easier to just hook up the spare IDE drive. It’s much easier to run the SATA data connector to the drive than it would have been to run the IDE ribbon cable so I like that and was worth the extra couple of bucks for the drive and power adapter.

Whenever possible I used OEM parts rather than retail. This means no packaging and in some cases no manuals or software although they are usually available on a website. It the case of Microsoft Vista it means Microsoft won’t provide phone support for the OS

That’s it for the parts. In the next installment I’ll let you know how the build went and how the PC integrates into the OSQuest data center.

Optimizing A Windows Vista Virtual Machine

The Team Fusion blog has an article about optimizing Vista on VMware Fusion 2. Since it’s from the VMware folks it’s titled as VMware specific, but it’s appropriate for any Vista virtual machine.

Suggestions include:

  • Disable System Restore
  • Disable Screen Saver
  • Optimize Power Management for Virtual Machine
  • Disable Windows Sidebar
  • Disable Remote Management
  • Run Windows Disk Defragmentation Utilities
  • OPTIONAL: Change to Classic UI

Disabling system restore is something I hadn’t considered although I do severely limit the disk space it’s given. I like the option of bein able to roll back patches and update, although vm snaptshots and backups would work too.

My Windows Vista vm on my MacBook is running under VMware Fusion and has 728MB of memory allocated to it, with 2GB of RAM on the MacBook. Performance is acceptable but I’m a light Vista users on the MacBook.

On my iMac I’ve got 1GB out of 3GB allocated to Vista. While I tend to run a little more software I wouldn’t say I stress the system.

For Me: Windows XP Out, Windows Vista In

Actually, it’s not as dramatic as the headline suggests. I’m still primarily a Mac user and my only Windows usage is in a virtual machine. I do very little in Windows (outside of my day job). There’s a couple Windows apps I like – AnyDVD and Windows Live Writer – and I also use it when I need IE. While I did install Vista on my iMac awhile back I never bothered to move over to Vista and actually start using it. This past weekend I fired up Vista, applied SP1 along with a bunch of other updates, installed the apps, and began using it.

I almost feel sorry for Microsoft (hard to actually feel sorry for a company that makes that much money) and think there’s been a lot of anti-Vista piling on. For example, Infoworld declared "partial victory" in their petition to save Windows for things Microsoft has done for several years (allow OS downgrades) and for things they already said they’d do (use XP on "low power" PCs – the ones that can’t run Vista). Let’s face it, Windows XP was derided when it was originally released and took a service pack before it really began to make inroads.

So I figured I’d spend more time in Vista to see if all the hate was justified.

I had one interesting problem that turned up when I missed a setting in Parallels. I ran Windows XP virtual machine in "bridged" network mode so that the virtual machine received it’s own IP addressed. When I moved to Windows Vista the virtual machine had the default setting of "Shared Networking". I found that when the Vista VM was running I would eventually lose the network connection to my Windows Home Server from OS X. But Vista would still be able to connect to the server so there wasn’t any network or server problem. The problem went away when I switched to bridged network mode.

I figure Vista needs more memory so I’ve allocated 1GB to the VM where I ran XP with 768MB. I can’t really speak to speed comparisons since I also moved the VM to a faster hard drive. The software I use doesn’t stress the vm, Vista memory usage is about 50%. For what I do, no speed complaints so far.

So now that I have Vista let’s see if I learn to hate or love. (I suspect it’ll be neither.)

Windows Vista Home Premium

While Vista isn’t new on the Quest I did add a new flavor, Windows Vista Home Premium. At $100 less than Vista Ultimate it seems to be the version to get. There are only a things Ultimate provides over Home Premium including Windows Complete Backup & Restore, Windows Fax and Scan, and Bitlocker disk encryption. I don’t care about any of those but there is one thing that Windows Vista Home Premium won’t give me, and that’s Remote Access through Windows Home Server. I’m installing this in a virtual machine on my MacBook so remote access to it through WHS is not something I need in this particular case. I’m more likely to use this as the remote PC than want to remote into it.  Microsoft should add Remote Access support to Vista Home Premium since it seems to be targeted at the same people as Windows Home Server – those with lots of audio and video media.

Installation on VMware Fusion 1.1.1

I used the New Virtual Machine Wizard to create the VM. The wizard is very straight-forward so I won’t bother to include screen shots of every step. I selected the following options (listed in the order they’re asked for in the wizard):

  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows
  • Version: Windows Vista
  • Name and Location – Save As: Vista Home Premium
  • Name and Location – Where: A directory I have on an external USB drive for VMs
  • Disk Size: 30GB
    I kept the default settings where disk space is only allocated when needed, so 30GB is a ceiling.
  • Easy Install used
    I entered an ID and password to be created. Since I use Windows Home Server this is the same ID/password created on the home server and the other Windows VMs I use. I also enter the product key. I also keep the default of making my Mac home folder accessible from the VM as read-only.

I let the virtual machine start immediately and install from DVD. Twenty minutes later I’m presented with the logon screen. Once I logon the VMware Tools install kicks off automatically. When they’re done the virtual machine reboots.

Post Install Setup & Configuration

Once the VM reboots and I logon the first thing to do is fix the sound driver. As the Fusion Release Notes indicate the sound driver needs to be updated:

When you install Microsoft Vista 32-bit edition in a VMware Fusion virtual machine, there is no sound output. To correct this problem, run Windows Update to update the sound driver from within Vista.

To update the sound driver in a VMware Fusion virtual machine running Windows Vista 32-bit edition:
1. In the virtual machine, from the Windows start menu, right-click Computer and select Properties.
2. In the left pane, under Tasks, select Device Manager.
3. When prompted for your permission to continue, click Continue. Windows displays the Device Manager.
4. Right-click the Multimedia Sound Adapter with a warning symbol (indicating that there is no driver) and select Update Driver Software.
5. At the prompt How do you want to search for driver software?, select Search automatically for updated driver software. Windows finds and installs the appropriate driver for your virtual sound card.
6. When you are prompted to restart, click Restart Now.
Sound should now work in your Microsoft Vista 32-bit virtual machine.

So I update the driver, reboot and test the sound which works fine.

The VMware Easy Install creates it’s own PC name (which is random so meaningless) and uses “Workgroup” as the workgroup. I change the PC name to match my naming convention and change the Workgroup to my home workgroup. Which needs another reboot.

Then it’s time to run Windows Update to get all the security patches so I go into Windows Update and tell it to check for updates. The first update I get is an update to Windows Update itself. Once that’s installed I check for updates again and there’s 45 updates totaling 105.3MB. (It really is time for SP1) I install those updates and there’s another reboot. I then configure Windows Update to download updates when they’re available but not install them.

I try to connect to my Windows Home Server software share so I can install the connector software but I can’t. I’m told “File Sharing & Discovery” is off so I say to turn it one. Then I’m asked if I want to change my network type to “Private” which is recommended if I’m at home or work, rather than turning File Sharing on for a public network. I click the selection to make the switch. I still can’t connect to the Share.

The VM is configured to use NAT networking with the host. I shut down the VM, change this to bridged in the virtual machine network properties (so the VM gets it’s own IP address), and restart the VM. Now I can connect to the share and install the Windows Home Server connector software. I do a backup once the connector software is installed. Also, changing the network to Bridged cause Vista Home Premium to see this as a new network so I made it a Private Network by selecting “Home Network” when prompted.

I haven’t done the activation yet. I’ll wait the 3 days allowed in case I find I need to re-install the VM.

Additional Software

I already installed the WHS connector software. Now it’s time to install AntiVirus software. I already use free versions of Avast and AVG on other VMs so I wanted to try something different on this one. I decided to go with Avira AntiVirus PersonalEdition Classic which is free for personal (non-commercial) use.I picked it mainly because I never used it before and wanted to see what it was like. Their full version (the one you pay for) rates high for virus detection.

Lastly, I use Windows Live Writer for creating blog posts and I find a couple other Windows Live offerings intriguing although I haven’t actually used them. So I run the Windows Live Installer and select the following installs:

  • Windows Live Sign-In Assistant
  • Windows Live Mail
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Windows Live Writer

Once these installs finish my Windows Vista Home Premium virtual machine is complete.

Summary

The virtual machine currently takes 11.8GB on disk although that can grow to 30GB if I add software and data. The installation took me about 3 hours although I wasn’t sitting there immediately responding to every prompt. The install probably would have been faster if I installed from a DVD image rather that a physical DVD and the time to download that 105MB of updates will vary depending on the Internet connection.

The VMware Easy Setup feature simplifies the setup even if it doesn’t get things exactly the way I want them. Changing the PC name and workgroup is a simple task.