Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA)
Are your computers ready for Vista? Note the plural, computers, this Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) Wizard reaches out to all the computers on your network, and then reports back on their fitness to run Vista. Please note that WVHA is a different, and a more comprehensive tool than the Vista Upgrade Advisor (WVUA).
Topics for the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment Wizard
Even though I am (allegedly) a computer expert, I have rough and ready ideas about software installs. For any software to get the Guy seal of approval, it must virtually install itself, it certainly should not require Guy to read the instructions. I don’t mind clicking on ‘Next’, or typing the occasional word, but anything requiring brain-ache or a degree in mind reading, fails the Guy install test.
Guy’s verdict: The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment utility, earned Guy’s seal of approval – just.
Here are details of my three install experiments; I started by downloading the WVHA package from Microsoft’s site, then:
Plan A: I Installed the WVHA tool on a Vista machine. It failed, but it had a valid excuse, the firewall ports would not allow DNS or WMI requests.
Plan B (Best): I installed the same Vista Hardware Assessment tool on a Domain Controller. This produced a marvellous Word report on all the XP machines and even analysed the hardware on machines where Vista was already installed. However, it did not find the very Windows Server 2003 machine on which I installed the Vista Hardware Advisor. To be fair to the wizard, when I checked the companion Excel spreadsheet, I found comprehensive data on this Windows Server 2003 machine.
Plan C: I tried again on the Vista machine, but this time I lied, and told the WVHA wizard that this machine was not a member of a domain. The install did what I wanted, produced a report for that single machine.
Conclusion: The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment Wizard does an excellent job, even in the hands of the installer from hell.
Extra Information about the WVHA utility
The Wizard employs WMI to interrogate the operating systems. WVHA concentrates on three areas, hardware inventory, device compatibility and readiness to run Vista. It queries the hundreds of Win32 objects and thus uncovers all manner of information about hardware devices and software versions. The advantage of the SQL database is that the Wizard can lookup the results against a knowledgebase. I assumed that this is how it deduces which Vista edition to recommend for a given memory, CPU and graphics configuration.
If you have an Active Directory domain, then the Vista Hardware Assessment Wizard uses that database to locate the computers so that it can run its numerous tests. As my Plan C showed, you can also run the Wizard on an individual machine; there is also the ability to interrogate machines in a workgroup. An evil thought crossed my mind, I wanted to find an old machine with moody software, just to see what recommendations the Wizard would make to bring the machine to Vista readiness.
Please note that this Wizard probably won’t be able to test Home Editions of XP (or Vista) because they don’t have WMI installed. Also be warned, as shown by my Plan A, you need to open up a number of TCP Ports for WMI and DNS to find computers on the network, for example, open ports, 135, 137, 138, 139 and 445. Hmmm, may as well temporarily disable the firewall!
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Beware, Windows Vista Capable Experience sounds impressive, but it does not mean that you will get the Aero Graphics experience. To be sure that a computer can take advantage of the new Aero Glass effects, you need to see the word ‘Premium’ in the hardware assessment.
I am sorry to labour the point, but Windows Vista Premium Ready Experience sounds the same as Windows Vista Capable Experience, yet, there is a world of difference between Capable and Premium. The most significant difference is that ‘Premium’ means can support Aero Graphics, whereas ‘Capable’ means merely qualified to deliver Vista security.
The best feature of the Vista Hardware Assessment report is the way that it spells out precisely what you must do to bring your computers up to Vista standard, for example, change the graphics card, increase RAM or buy a bigger hard disk. When you drill down to the detail, the report even tells you which drivers are included on the Vista DVD, and which you need to obtain from the manufacturer’s site.
One pleasant surprise is that the Vista Hardware Assessment also reports on the software that is installed. None of my machines had any incompatible software. I felt like going out and looking for some incompatible games, just to see how the Wizard reported software that would not run on Vista.
You could argue that the Assessment Wizard is worth running just to get a detailed inventory of the hardware components and device drivers for each machine on your network. That view may be overplaying the usefulness of this WVHA tool, but nevertheless, the sheer detail of the Wizards output means that there is some fascinating snippet for everyone.
In summary, remember that Windows Vista Hardware Assessment Wizard produces a Word report and also an Excel spreadsheet; one final point, the spreadsheet has at least 5 worksheets, therefore, check the tabs at the bottom.
Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT)
Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets. IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:
For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges.
For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker
I would like to thank Paul DeBrino for suggesting that I review the Vista Hardware Assessment Wizard, and for supplying the above link to version 2. When I look back through the Ezines, those with suggestions by Paul DeBrino (and written by Guy Thomas), consistently have more hits than those that are purely the idea of Guy Thomas. My point, if you see Paul DeBrino in the credits then you know that this is a hot topic. As an aside, please send me your suggestions for tools, utilities and best practice tips.
Will and Guy Humor
This week Will is hospital undergoing a tricky leg operation. My thoughts are with him. As ever, laughter is the best medicine and here is Will’s latest discovery: Funny Fishing Video
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