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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Test Run: Windows Vista Hardware Assessment on a Home Network

With excitement over the performance problem I solved on my Dell Dimension 2400, I began considering whether Microsoft Windows Vista would work for me. Thinking there was an easy way to determine whether my current hardware would support it, I searched the Microsoft website.

Fairly quickly, I came across the Microsoft Windows Hardware Assessment page on the Microsoft site which helps to determine whether your hardware is compatible with Windows Vista. It even goes a little beyond that, attempting to determine whether you will have a standard Windows Vista experience or if you might have a premium experience and be able to use the nifty new features like Aero.

The truth is the tool is really designed for enterprises. I could not find a version that was targeted to home or small business in any order, so I downloaded the full version of the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment software to try out on my home network. The 25MB download was pretty reasonable on my 15MB Verizon FIOS connection, and my Microsoft Windows XP SP2 operating system was fully supported.

When installing the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment toolkit, it does require a backend database to store the data in. For that reason, during the installation I elected to install Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition in order to provide the data storage support for the tool. It took another couple of minutes to download. The entire process was completed in less than 10 minutes.

I fired up the wizard with the goal of analyzing both of the household computers that Ashley and I use, here is the experience:

Microsoft Windows Vista Hardware Assessment Picture 1First, is the introductory wizard which explains the goal of the wizard and what you are trying to accomplish. There are also some good tips about enabling "remote administration", "file and printer sharing", and "Windows Firewall exceptions" on each computer. All good notes and prequisites.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 2Next, you need to specify the database for which you want to store your data. For my purposes on SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, I just picked the name "Vista".


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 3This is really the parameters for your assessment. In my case here, I unchecked the "Use Active Directory Domain Services" box because there is no Active Directory in my home network -- only a WorkGroup. I left the check Microsoft.com and the Generate a hardware assessment report checked.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 4Add the names of your Workgroups here, using their NetBIOS names. If you have an Active Directory or a domain you can also enter that here.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 5Enter authentication information for your computers.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 6The accounts for Authentication for inventory. Click on the "New Account" button to add your various accounts.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 7Adding a local machine specific username and Authentication here leaving the domain blank.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 8Confirming the two accounts I need in order to perform the inventory for the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 9Simple warning message that does not apply since I was not using a domain.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 10A simple summary of the actions to be performed. In this case, Perform a detailed inventory using the WMI collector, Updating the hardware compatibility list, Analyzing the inventory data, & Generating the reports. Click on start and off you go!


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 11Tracking the progress of the collection and preparation of the information.


Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 12Confirmation that the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment program was successful and the reports are now available.

Microsoft Windows Vista Assessment Picture 13The folder with the two reports on the compatibility of the hardware.

In my case, some very good news. Based on the specifications of my hardware, the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment toolkit states I should be able to experience a Premium Windows Vista experience. Honestly, I have some real doubts that my P4 2.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 250GB, and 64MB Video card can really do the job.

However, this probalby means I will try it out first using Virtual Server before taking the full splash!

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