I’m settled in to the new PC now, and will bit by bit post my notes on how it went. In a nutshell, instead of taking an evening to migrate, it took two evenings and a full day in between. But it’s not all Vista’s fault. I also changed e-mail programs and upgraded to a major new version of the Apache web server. It’s only about 90% Vista’s fault.
If you’re thinking about moving to Windows Vista, my advice is simple. You’re going to do it sooner or later (unless you hold on to your current computer long enough for Vista to be replaced by its successor). But you probably want to do it later. There are still a lot of software and hardware support issues, so give the third-party vendors at least a couple more quarters to get new releases out. Mind you, everything I’ve tried to use has worked… eventually. But I had to try several times for most of the software I installed, and needed to figure out some workarounds for a few packages.
So, should you migrate your current PC to Vista? I wouldn’t. Installing on an existing system is likely to be an enormous pain, and Vista may not work well unless you’ve got very current hardware. So I’d recommend leaving current PCs alone, and moving to Vista when you next get a new PC. There may come a time when Vista has some compelling feature that you can’t get on XP; if so, you can evaluate your options then. But for now there’s nothing I can see in Vista to justify the effort of replacing XP with it.
What if you’re buying a new PC? Should you get Vista on it or Windows XP? I’d say it depends on who is going to use the PC and for what. If it’s for a non-technical user (who you may have to support) I’d stick with Windows XP, even for a new machine. It’s stable, is well supported by third-party hardware and software vendors, and the user is unlikely to ever need anything more than XP.
For a technical user you should probably make the jump and get Vista on a new PC, especially for personal use. As I said earlier, the move is going to happen sooner or later, and if you’re going to keep the PC for three years or more you’ll eventually wish you had Vista. And upgrading is going to be less pleasant than dealing with Vista now. At least all your new PC’s hardware and bundled software should be well supported by Vista.
There are two exceptions I can think of. If you’re a home user with very specific needs (such as intensive gaming) Vista may not be compatible enough with what you’re doing. And if you’re a medium to large business you might as well wait another quarter or so, since you probably don’t upgrade PCs in place so much as wipe them off and reconfigure them, so you can deal with Vista later as easily as you could now. And you can put off worrying about its early glitches that way.