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Vista Anytime Upgrades

January 25, 2008

So I finally decided to upgrade the Windows Vista Home Premium install on my Alienware laptop to Vista Ultimate. Since the machine runs great, I figured I would just upgrade using a full-version copy of Vista Ultimate. I ran into a few problems before succeeding, and so I thought I would share some of my observations for those who might be making the same upgrade.

To start things off, I tried just drop the Vista DVD into the drive and upgrade the machine with no prep at all. That worked right up until the very end of the upgrade process, when I received a message that said, "Windows vista cannot continue the upgrade because it cannot configure a system component. Resolve this issue and reinstall windows vista." At this point, the reboot rolls back the machine to the state before the install started, so no problem there. But how to fix it?

I tried enabling the Administrator account on the machine, as somebody mentioned that might make a difference. Vista Home Premium doesn’t include all of the MMC plug-ins that you find in Ultimate and Enterprise, so you need to use a command line to do this. I found the command here at tweakvista.eu.

To enable the Administrator account, from a command prompt type: net user administrator /active:yes and you’ll magically enable this account.

Note: If you decide to do this, I strongly recommend that you immediately go to the User Accounts page in control panel and set up a strong password for the account.

In any case, trying the install from the administrator account failed with the same error message, so I needed to try something else. I wish I had only tried one thing at a time (so I would know now what solved the problem), but I tried two things and one of them must have enabled the install to finish. So here they are:

1. I unplugged all the peripherals from the machine. That was a keyboard, mouse, and a USB hub with about 10 weird things plugged into it, including an Xbox 360 controller, a smartcard reader, and a USB headset. After considering this, I’m almost positive that removing all these items is what allowed the install to finish, but I’ll mention the second thing I did for completeness.

2. At the point in the install when it asked if I wanted to go online to get updated install files, I selected No. I did this because I had read on a forum that it allowed a couple of users to complete the upgrade, but I’m not convinced that this made a difference. In any case, run Windows Update when you’re through and get the latest patches.

So after doing this, my upgrade went smoothly. I’m extremely happy with this upgrade to Vista Ultimate. It’s not a domain joined machine, but the upgrade gives me access to some of those useful admin utilities that I was missing in Home Premium.

One interesting side effect to note: I run at pretty high resolution on this machine, and so I had the font DPI jacked up to 120. The upgrade doesn’t seem to be aware of this and installed the 98 DPI fonts, making the text in some of the applications look fuzzy. To fix this, I think you would need to reset the DPI to 98, reboot and then reset the DPI to 120 in order to force Vista to install the higher res font. (I just changed back to 98 DPI and I’m pretty happy with that now.)

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