Monday, March 31, 2008

Desperately Seeking Drivers ... for Windows Vista SP1

I haven't been able to upgrade my Dell Inspiron XPS M1710 to Windows Vista SP1 because of - what else - driver issues, as you probably recall from my earlier post. Basically, I needed an update for my SigmaTel sound card driver. And quite naturally, looking at the M1710 driver section, there was no update!

So, I trolled the Community Forums, finding that others were in the same situation as myself. From the forum, as I indicated in my earlier post, I found this driver, R171788.exe. Naturally sicne it wasn't published on the M1710 page, I was a bit nervous, but I gave it a shot this weekend.

So, to make a big production out of it, here's what I did:
  • Downloaded the standalone SP1 installer so I wouldn't have to do it on the fly.
  • Crossing my fingers, I installed the SigmaTel driver on my M1710. It worked! And after rebooting, I saw the above image in Windows Update (click to enlarge). Sweet.
  • Created a drive image using Acronis True Image 11.
  • Created a drive image using Paragon Drive Backup 8.51. Why create two images with two different programs? A friend told me a horror story of having a corrupted image, which pushed him into using two backup programs. I took his advice.
  • Ran the SP1 installer. For your information, on my M1710 it took several reboots and 50 minutes. And that's a pretty powerful laptop! Just imagine someone with a slower system doing this. As it says in the screenshot below, it can take an hour or more to install. If it takes 50 minutes on an M1710, it's gonna take a hour on a lot of systems.
After the 50 minutes was over, I tried the system (I am currently using it), and found ... nothing really different about the system. I did notice one thing that's been annoying me since the start with Vista - file copying, over the network or to external drivers - seemed to be improved. And I mean really improved.

So, for me, the reason to upgrade to SP1 is mostly, as I told my wife, eventually they will stop providing updates for non-SP1 systems. And if you're going to keep your system for a while, you're going to need those updates (mostly security based, to be sure).

Now what? I still have to find a driver for my wife's HP laptop. It's several months newer than my M1710 so I'm annoyed at the issue. I also have to find a driver for my Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2. It doesn't use the same SigmaTel hardware as my M1710 so I have to find a different one. Typically, the XPS Gen 2 driver page doesn't even list Windows Vista as an OS for the darn thing. Oh, and let's not even talk about my relatives' systems.

What gets me, as I said in my previous post, is that John or Jane Q. Public is going to have a heck of a time finding these drivers. They're probably going to just ignore the whole thing. Now, hopefully Microsoft will directly offer replacement drivers in Windows Update, but to this point, nothing.

Even if that happens, as I previously said, both Microsoft and OEMs such as Dell, Gateway, etc. should team up and offer some sort of tool that scans your system, tells you what the issue is, and points you to a replacement driver - or at least a coming soon page.

You know Microsoft wants SP1 to be successful so that they can get more people to adopt the OS, but this whole SP1 thing has been a fiasco so far.

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