Windows Vista wasn’t ready in time for Xmas shopping and the computer manufacturers got worried that people would begin to put off their new system purchases until the spring. Microsoft cooked up a coupon deal to entice you into buying your new computer now instead of waiting for Vista: beginning today, most PC manufacturers will give you a coupon for a discounted version of Windows Vista when you buy a new computer.

The coupons aren’t as interesting as they might appear. Not all of them are free; some require additional money to get the Vista upgrade, anywhere from modest shipping & handling costs on up to $45 to get certain versions of Vista. (Understanding the different versions of Vista will make us all feel old and cranky, by the way.)

The more important reason to be wary of the coupons is that upgrading a computer operating system is difficult at best and disastrous at worst. Microsoft has worked hard to make upgrades go smoothly and some people will have good experiences. In the past, though, it has always been a good idea to install operating systems only on an empty, freshly formatted hard drive. I don’t expect any change with Vista. A fresh install means reinstalling programs and moving data and settings, which is a time-consuming pain – but my gut tells me that upgrading from Windows XP just won’t be a good idea.

Here’s an article from PC World by a columnist who has some of the same reservations.

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