How to Install Windows Vista

How to Install Windows VistaHow to Vista Install Windows Vista

A few minutes of planning your Vista install will save you an hour of rework, for example how big a partition will you need for Vista?  Guy suggests at least 50Gb for the operating system’s partition.

Topics for Installing Windows Vista


1) When planning your strategy, consider a fresh install of Vista rather upgrading an XP operating system.  With disks being cheap, it may be feasible to buy a new hard drive especially for Vista.

2) If you are still at the planning stage, review the 6 Vista versions before you purchase your Vista DVD.

3) Obtain the correct Vista DVD, make sure that you examine the label to see if it’s the 32-bit or 64-bit version.  I trust that your computer does have a DVD drive and not just a CD.

4) Find the product key sticker.

 Vista Product Key StickerIt’s often on a label taped to the inside of the Perspex case, the one that holds the Vista DVD, sometimes the 25 digit product key is on the back of the DVD case.  If you have a new PC it may be somewhere on the system case.

5) Before you start the actual Vista installation, check that the proposed computer meets the minimum specification.  In the case of an upgrade from XP, you can place the Vista DVD in the caddy and from the install menu, click ‘Check compatibility online’. 

Alternatively, you could download the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft’s site.  Once you have run the Advisor and read its report, you may need to upgrade your hardware.

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Computer Specification for Windows Vista

A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC includes at least:

1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor.
1 GB of system memory. Flash Memory is best.
Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (single monitor at resolutions 2,304,000 pixels)  Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel.
40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space.
DVD-ROM Drive (not just a CD).
Audio output capability.
Internet access capability.

Naturally, it is better to make any hardware upgrades before you start the Windows Vista install.

The Actual Windows Vista Installation

If you buy a new machine then it probably has Vista pre-installed.  However, if you have to install a fresh copy of Windows Vista, or upgrade an XP machine, Microsoft has made the operation even simpler than an XP install. 

Once Vista boots from the DVD disk, it asks for the Locale, I selected United Kingdom.  The first few menus are straightforward, the only slight hiccup is obtaining the correct product Key, which was on a label inside the Perspex holder.  It seem that there is just one DVD (or Image) for all editions, Ultimate, Home Premium and the other 4 editions.  What makes the difference is the product key that you type.  To summarise, Vista Ultimate has a different product key from Vista Home basic, even though both could be installed using the same DVD / Image.

Next I clicked on Microsoft’s licence agreement, the install continued expanding cabinets, copying files and installing Vista’s default features, I came back 30 minutes later and found that the Windows Install had completed successfully.  I was pleasantly surprised that the Vista install did not halt after 10 minutes to ask for network information – an improvement on an XP install.

Post Installation Tasks

Unlike XP, Vista does not create a default account called Administrator, this was to be the first of many new security features of Vista.  Consequently, I needed to supply both a username and password before I logged on.  Vista also asks for the current use of the machine so that it can optimises the network settings for home, work or a public location.  Vista Home Premium appeared to automatically detect the network and give itself, not an APIPA, but a suitable IP address for the subnet where I installed e.g.  This was not magic, it picked up the IP address from and XP machine with Internet Sharing.  The Business Edition obtained an IP address smoothly from a traditional Windows DHCP server.

Vista Activation Tip:

If you are installing Vista just to test the features, or out of curiosity, un-check the Activate Online box.  My point is that you can legitimately conserve your activation lives.  The situation with my genuine MSDN Vista product key is that it can be used up to 10 times. (However other product keys may have different activation properties.)  What I suggest is you start with a non-activated installation, then after say a week, either choose to activate your licence online, or re-install with a bigger partition and activate that installation. 

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New Vista Shortcut Keys.

Windows Key and G, T, U, X. 

Old favourites of mine still work: Windows Key and: E, D, R, Pause / Break

Troubleshooting a Vista Installation

Dirty DVD Disk.  If you get a file copying problem during installation it may be dust or dirt on the DVD.  I use a clean hanky or a shirt tail, but you’re supposed to use a clean cloth.  Scratches are more difficult, however you may find that Microsoft will replace the disk for free, after all it’s the product key that counts.

Firewall Problem.  I am assuming that your hardware is up to specification, but you still have a problem with your Vista installation.  One problem that I encountered was when I tried to join a domain only for the firewall on the server to block the vital ports.  I should have research which ports to open, but I just disabled the firewall for enough time for the Vista machine to join the Active Directory Domain.

Proxy Server Activation Problem.  If you try to activate the Windows Vista only to get error code 0x8004FE33, then I would phone the automated phone system as directed by the Windows Activation Wizard.  The cause of this error is a proxy server which is configured to use only basic authentication, thus you could try disabling basic authentication on the proxy server.

Software Incompatibility.  Other problems could be caused by application incompatibilities, in which case seek out the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0.

Disable Virus Checkers.  If you are upgrading from XP to Vista, then it’s a good idea to run it the virus checker, then disable it; increasingly I find that such utilities cause installations to fail.

If all else fails call in the experts installos: Install Any Operating System – Everything you need to know to install Windows, Mac or Linux and the software to make them functional.

Summary – How to Install Windows Vista.

Think like a general planning a battle.  Assemble your troops, the computer, the DVD and the product keys, decide on the partition size, the keyboard layout and the name of the first account.  After your planning, the actual Windows Vista install will proceed smoothly.

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