There will be a lot more to say about Windows Vista in the coming months, but for the moment let me discourage you from testing the recent “public beta” released by Microsoft.

Paul Thurrott is a Microsoft fan and long-time tech columnist. His web site is a good place to get extensive reviews and opinions about Microsoft technology. Here’s his comments about Beta 2 from today’s newsletter:

“Well, Microsoft has made Windows Vista Beta 2 available to the public. I think that’s a mistake, because Beta 2 is buggy, unreliable, and unstable, and I’ve been having crazy performance issues with it on multiple systems. . .

“First, understand the stages of beta testing. After the initial excitement comes the waiting, as it takes far longer to install Vista than you thought it would. Then, the first boot, and the excitement returns. Then, you install applications and go through a rollercoaster experience of highs and lows as applications either do or do not install properly. Then, reality sets in: The more applications you install on Vista, the bigger your chances of problems. And don’t get me started on sound card drivers. Hey, what’s a blue screen among friends?

“Know that you’re going to need a DVD burner to create the Vista DVD from the downloadable ISO. If you’re foolhardy enough to download the x64 version, you’ll need a dual-layer DVD burner with dual-layer media. You’ve been warned.

“The version you’re testing is Ultimate Edition. That means it has every single feature you can get in Vista, including a few that’ll be cut from the final version. Actually, some features are missing too, such as Virtual PC Express. The point is, the version you’re testing now includes features you won’t see in the version you’ll probably be running a year from now, because Microsoft will price Ultimate Edition like it’s a door prize at a Republican fundraiser. Don’t get TOO used to it.

“Do not, under any circumstances, upgrade a perfectly good copy of Windows XP to Vista Beta 2. There is a special place in hell for people that foolhardy. Again, you’ve been warned. Do, however, consider dual booting XP and Vista. That way you can get back to a working OS when Vista inevitably does something so egregious that you never want to look at its translucent glass interface ever again. For me, it was the third blue screen in 30 minutes, after which I lost an accumulated page or so of text in Word. Anyway, I can’t give you a quickie guide to dual booting here, obviously, but you’ll need an extra partition or hard drive on which to install Vista. Have it ready before you start the install.

“Here’s my best Vista tip: If you do decide to dual boot, you can trigger the install in two ways: from within XP, or by rebooting the computer and booting from the DVD. If you use the former method, XP will be on the C drive and Vista will be on the D drive on both installs by default. However, if you install by booting from the DVD, XP will be on the C drive while you’re in XP, and Vista will be on the C drive while you’re in Vista. The latter is preferable, I’ve found.

“Finally, consider waiting for Release Candidate 1 (RC1). I know you won’t, and you know you won’t, but you’d free up a lot of time and save yourself some anger and frustration if you could wait. I would wait, but you know, I have this job to do. Sometimes, I wish things were different. Sometimes.”

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