But Wait…Vista’s Not ALL Bad

I got a private e-mail from a friend last night who read my latest blog “Current List of Unsolved Vista Mysteries,” and observed that I was starting to develop a bad attitude where this OS is concerned. I cheerfully confess that I am getting pretty fed up with Vista, but I need to qualify this remark by saying that it’s mostly where my production desktop is concerned. I have to observe that this machine is built around an early generation DDR3/LGA775 motherboard and I’m inclined to blame the combination of the motherboard and the OS for the troubles I’m having with the machine, rather than attributing all of my woes to the OS alone.

I have several reasons for adding this necessary caveat to my particular situation:

  1. I run Vista on at least 3 other machines all the time, including two notebook PCs and a home-built desktop with the DDR2 model of the same motherboard (the Gigabyte GA-P35-DQ6) that has proven to be entirely stable and reliable (I’m running 8 GB of RAM on that machine right now and use it as a host machine for all kinds of XP, Vista, and Windows 7 guest OS virtual machines)
  2. I’ve already gone through two long sessions of hardware tweaking and component replacement on the production machine’s motherboard, mostly trying out RAM modules until I found a pair of 1333 SuperTalent DDR3 modules that worked reliably for an extended period, but also having replaced my mirrored system drives. My gut feeling is that this particular mobo is not as stable as I’d like it to be, given the hardware components with which it is currently equipped. I’m also increasingly inclined to believe that running mirrored drives using the Intel ICH9R controller may not be the most stable of technologies, either.
  3. As I read over the various message forums, mailing lists, and self-help support sites, I find nobody else who’s got the same basket of issues I’m dealing with. This makes me think I’ve simply landed in a bad situation in terms of the particular constellation of hardware components that I’ve assembled for this system. FWIW, I do plan to replace the motherboard and move the whole shebang into a bigger cooler case when the time to upgrade to Windows 7 is finally at hand. It’s currently in an adequate but cramped CoolerMaster 3000 Elite case, and I’ve already purchased a sweet Antec 900 as its successor. I’m considering either an Asus  P5Q3, or an exceptionally capable Gigabyte model, the EP45-UD3P, as its replacement.

I’m also coming to believe that notebook PCs can be more stable than desktops, based on long-term observation of big-name models from Dell, HP, Acer, and so forth on both fronts. Take a look at these recent Reliability Index readings from my trusty 3-year-old Dell D620 Latitude (which I’ve beefed up with 4 GB of RAM, a speedy 250 GB 7,200 RPM HD, and a T7200 processor): where you don’t see straight “perfect 10 ratings” across the board, you see an occasional glitch here and there usually caused by a misbehaving application or operator error (in the case of the second figure below, I mistakenly tried to launch two upgrade installs of the Secunia Personal Software Inspector at the same time, where the second instance caused the first instance to crash — my bad!)

Most of the time Vista reliability on my Dell notebook looks like this.

Most of the time Vista reliability on my Dell notebook looks like this.

Occasionally, a glitch drops values down around 9.0, then values climb slowly back up to 10.0.

Occasionally, a glitch drops values down around 9.0, then values climb slowly back up to 10.0.

 

I could show similar graphs from my HP HDX notebook PC, or my other Vista test machine, but you get the idea. For those machines with more stable hardware, system reliability is correspondingly higher. Does this mean I should have swapped out the motherboard and rebuilt my production system months ago? Probably, but I didn’t have the spare cash, so I’ve continued to suffer along, but not in silence, as my blogs so tellingly illustrate.

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