Installing the Windows Vista December CTP (build 5270)

For a few days now, I’ve been struggling to get the December community technical preview (CTP) of Windows Vista installed on my notebook PC. I downloaded the DVD .ISO from Microsoft (twice, just to be sure my copy wasn’t in some way corrupt) and it booted fine, but setup.exe kept crashing – sometimes just before product key entry, sometimes just after (in any case it wouldn’t accept even a valid product key), with a variety of memory errors which reminded me of the old Windows 3.x unexpected application errors (UAEs).

I tried the raw disk workaround in the release notes (it’s great being able to access tools like diskpart during an installation) but it made no difference to my setup crashes so I submitted a bug report, but so far have heard nothing back. I couldn’t believe that I was alone with this problem and googling wasn’t doing much for me until I found HazardHawk’s reply to a post on Planet AMD 64:

“Build 5270 will not install if you download it and burn the ISO to disk no matter what program you use and the only way I have managed to get it running was to reinstall XP … from scratch, then install daemon tools and load the ISO to a virtual DVD”.

I’m using the 32-bit release (no 64-bit hardware here yet) and I didn’t use Daemon Tools, but I did use the Microsoft Virtual CD Control Panel to mount the ISO (it doesn’t matter that it’s a DVD ISO and the application is a virtual CD driver), after which I was able to run the installer from within Windows XP by just launching setup.exe.

The option to upgrade from Windows XP Professional was disabled, but that didn’t stop me from installing on the same disk partition – the Windows Vista installer moved my existing \Windows folder to \Windows.old. Like the previous builds I’ve tried (5219 and 5231), installation took a long time (just under 2 hours on my PC, which admittedly only has a 1.4GHz Pentium 4 M processor and 256MB of RAM), in this case even producing an interesting “installation is taking longer than expected, but should be finishing soon” message (after about an hour).

I have to agree with HazardHawk that not needing the DVD once the initial reboot has taken place is useful (this setup approach wouldn’t have worked otherwise) but Stretchboy’s following comment about using Nero to burn the ISO to DVD didn’t work for me (that’s what I’d been doing originally).

Now that I have the December CTP installed (which appears to be a huge improvement over earlier builds), I can go back to testing Windows Vista in earnest – I never felt comfortable with using earlier builds for anything other than transient data and it’s difficult to be an effective beta tester if you’re not using a system on a daily basis.

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