[ ThinkPadT400 ][ Previous | Next ]
Windows Vista Business 64
The Operating System of Last Resort
(Some of this is copied from Vista Ultimate 32 where behavior is similar)
This machine was ordered with Vista Ultimate installed with XP Pro factory media included as a downgrade option. My idea was to experiment with Vista but have XP available in case Vista didn't work out. It didn't. XP didn't either. The combination of switchable graphics' high RAM and address space requirements and Microsoft's decision to reserve the top 1 GB of the 4GB 32 bit address space meant that Vista 32 could only make use of 2.5GB of RAM. 32 bit XP Pro wasn't much better, and there was no driver available for switchable graphics. In the end I went with Vista Business 64 bit so I could use switchable graphics and (almost) all of my installed RAM. It has its own issues, but that's for another page.
NOTE: Vista Business 64 was sent to me (free) by a Lenovo "customer satisfaction" agent when I complained to my salesperson that he had sold me a machine with an XP downgrade, switchable graphics, and RAM I couldn't use. I have found Lenovo to be responsive to issues like this when approached respectfully. YMMV.
Installing Vista Business 64 from the factory media was a little nerve-wracking. It required faith and patience, and a few missing drivers...
This is from notes and memory, and a little vague. Hopefully they have improved the process by now.
As usual, I booted from the Rescue and Recovery DVD, then followed that with the Operating System and Driver DVDs. After quite a thrash, it came up with a login screen and asked me to swipe my finger. That was a bit of a surprise. I guess the fingerprint stuff is stored in BIOS somewhere, otherwise how would a clean OS install have my prints on file?
The installer said OK, then "Compute Name Invalid". WTF? I logged in as Administrator (without a password) and it continued the install. There followed great thrashing and several reboots (loggin in as Administrator each time) and finally the Windows setup screen.
After the usual dance, it was up and running, but in a low and ugly screen resolution. Turns out that the Vista Business 64 installer doesn't install all the required drivers. Swell. Downloading and installing the graphics driver from the driver matrix fixed that.
Random Notes, What Works, What Doesn't
Product Recovery Media
I already had these from Lenovo - but READ THIS ANYWAY.
First thing out of the box, MAKE YOUR RECOVERY MEDIA! These things don't come from the factory with CD/DVD sets to re-install the system already on the hard drive. They may come with the "other" OS if you ordered with the optional XP Pro downgrade, but you have to make your own set for the OS on your machine.
"Start" -> ThinkVantage -> Create Product Recovery Media
On my machine this produced a bootable CD (containing the rescue and recovery utility) and two 4.7G DVDs containing the actual install image. You get to do this once per some license agreement with Microsoft. DO IT!
This is a different procedure from the one used to make ongoing recovery images of your configured system. See below.
Dump the Recovery Image Partition
Since I had recovery media I didn't need the factory recovery image partition on the hard drive. I deleted it and added the freed space to the C: partition. NOTE: the Recovery Image partition is separate from the Service partition. More information in T400 Partitioning. You may prefer to keep the image. If you keep it you can do a factory restore by booting the Service partition - using the ThinkVantage button at boot time - if your hard drive is healthy otherwise.
Rescue and Recovery
I make occasional full recovery images and save them on a bootable external hard drive. In addition to its backup value, a full image can also be used to migrate to a new hard drive. See "Partitioning and Drive Upgrade" in the Partitioning page.
The installed Rescue and Recovery software seems to come set to make regular backups to an invisible folder on the hard drive. This gradually eats hard drive space, and while it can provide some backup in the case where Windows soils itsself, it isn't much good when the hard drive dies. I turn off auto backups to the local hard drive and do manual backups to the external drive.
To turn off auto backups:
Start -> Rescue and Recovery -> Launch Advanced Rescue and Recovery -> Set Schedue and Preferences
Some blog posts about how to regain lost drive space if auto backups have already been run:
I like to make my external drive bootable and install the R&R software utility on it before saving backup images. This utility can also make a bootable recovery CD (containing the utility, not the recovery image):
"Start" -> ThinkVantage -> Create Recovery Media
To actually create the ongoing backup images, select the external drive and do the backup:
Start -> Rescue and Recovery -> Launch Advanced Rescue and Recovery -> Set Schedue and Preferences (select USB drive)
Start -> Rescue and Recovery -> Launch Advanced Rescue and Recovery -> Back Up Your Hard Drive
I generally de-select the USB drive after making the backup image. I have seen cases where the software tries to access the external drive (for some unknown reason) and ties up the machine until it finds it. I don't leave it connected - it is a laptop after all - so I just avoid the situation.
Shadow Copies and Restore Points
These "features" also take up a lot of disk space without asking. The simple "fix" is to just do drive cleanup from time to time and delete shadow copies and all but the most recent restore point.
Even with switchable graphics enabled, Vista Business 64 shows 3989 MB of RAM in task manager with 4GB installed. Vista Ultimate 32 showed 2500 MB.
Total train wreck. The Vista + Lenovo Access Connections combination is a disaster. So is Vista wifi alone, for that matter.
Wifi was almost unusable out of the box, even with full Windows and Lenovo software updates. Symptoms were inconsistent and a little hard to describe, but among them the machine could see an access point but not associate. Or it could associate but not get an IP address assigned by DHCP. The most consistent behavior was that after a successful wifi connection if I changed to another access point or switched to a wired connection, the next attempt to connect to a wifi access point would fail. Doing an immediate reboot after a connection failure would cause the connection to succeed. Until the next time the connection changed.
This kind of thing happened with different access points in different locations, all wide open with no encryption.
Access Connections and the Windows wifi management software usually reported different status for the same connection. It looked like another case of Windows conflicting with Access Connections. Unfortunately, in Vista there is no equivalent to the XP check box that says "Let Windows Manage My WIFI Networks" - so it can't be turned off. The underlying Vista WLAN Zero Configuration stuff seems to be necessary for wifi to work at all. Disabling that service left wifi unusable.
The other alternative - removing Access Connections - didn't fix the problem either.
On the suggestion of Lenovo support, I swapped out the Intel 5300 AGN card that came with the machine for another 5100. Didn't help. I pushed for escalation, and the 2nd-level tech suggested downgrading to an Intel 5100 AGN card. That didn't make any sense to me but since they were willing to send hardware, I gave it a try. Since then wifi has been solid. Go figure. I don't know if the problems were caused by the specific card model, the Intel driver, Windows, Access Connections, or gremlins. It is even possible that the card change caused some kind of reconfiguration of the driver that got around the problem.
High CPU Usage
In the course of fiddling with the Vista desktop I added the "CPU Meter" gadget to the gadget sidebar. I noticed that no matter what was going on in the machine, CPU usage was always around 50% or higher. Task Manager revealed that the igfxsrvc process was constantly using half of my CPU. Not nice.
It turns out that igfxsrvc isn't the direct culprit. The real problem is igfxpers constantly calling ifgxsrvc. These are part of the Intel graphics software (provided as part of the ATI driver with switchable graphics) and don't seem to be necessary for normal operation. I disabled igfxpers startup by running msconfig -> startup and unchecking the check box. CPU usage is back to normal, and the machine seems to be running fine otherwise. igfxsrvc still runs but doesn't eat CPU.
Nero Burning ROM
Nero 6 won't even install. Vista just says no, there are known issues. Installed Nero 8. That works. I did a custom install without Nero Home and Nero Media Home. With those installed, Nero Scout was always running in the background indexing my hard drive. You can also disable Nero Scout via the Nero Toolkit:
"Start" -> All Programs -> Nero 8 -> Nero Toolkit -> Nero Scout -> uncheck "enable" check box
WordPerfect Office 12
Initial install and updates went OK. Works fine.
Corel Draw 12
(Warning, nasty hack ahead...) Installs OK, but the installer for the update wouldn't run. Unfortunately, CD 12 isn't usable without the 1st update. My temporary solution was to do the initial install, then overlay the CD12 program files with files copied from a running XP installation that had been updated. I'm amazed that my machine didn't go down in flames. It seems to work. Kids, don't try this at home.
VMWare Server (my favorite free tool) won't even install on VB 64. Vista has a hissy fit about signed drivers. There are ways around this, but given the (poor) way it works in Vista Ultimate 32, I didn't bother.
I'm told Workstation works, but it isn't free :( In both flavors of Vista I ended up using the free VMWare Player (which runs fine but can't build VMs) with the free VMX Builder (which can build VMs). It isn't as slick and integrated as Workstation or Player but it works.
I had been running AVG 7.x Free on all my machines. That version is being dropped in favor of AVG 8. IMNSHO, AVG 8 is a disaster. On some machines it won't install. On some it won't update. On this T400 it installed and sometimes worked. Sometimes it would go insane, take 100% of the CPU, and wedge the machine. I have abandoned it in favor of Avast Antivirus (free).
Zone Alarm doesn't have a 64 bit version (at the time of this writing) so for now I'm going bareback. Just Windows Defender and whatever Avast provides.
Thunderbird and Firefox
My usual browser and email client. I copied my profiles over from the XP installation my T61 before installing these. If the profiles are in place first, the installers should pick them up, and email accounts and bookmarks should be there. The Vista location of a given profile is different than in XP. It will probably be necessary to enable viewing of hidden folders to find these.
XP: C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Application Data\<app name>\Profiles
Vista: C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\<app name>\Profiles
Trillian instant messenger
Installs and runs fine. Trillian Basic is a nice free IM from client from Cerulean Studios for multiple networks.
Version 9 from Ipswitch installs and runs.
Agent News Reader
Version 4 from Forte installs and runs.
Paint Shop Pro 7
PSP 7 and update install and run. Vista worried that it might not have installed correctly, but it seems fine.
Internet Design Shop XL
Initial install and update OK. This is really old website editing software from Boomerang Software that I'm stuck with. I used it for this site initially, and haven't figured out how to get away from it.
Generally works OK but on all platforms file save may fail. This happens if a link is at the end of a line. Weird. Just make sure there is always a space or punctuation following any link, and it should be OK.
Tuner and software work fine. The tuner is tiny, and does a decent job with NTCS, ATSC, and QAM signals.
JDrill Kanji Practice Program
JDrill is the Java Version of Phil Brown's KDrill Kanji program. I keep it on my desktop and practice in my spare time. It requires that Kanji fonts be installed, and seems to only work with an older Java runtime. I installed JRE 1.4.1.03 and made a desktop icon that pointed to that specific JRE version. If allowed to pick up whatever later version is on the machine, it won't work.
Canon Zoom Browser EX
No joy. This is the software for my older Canon A20 digital camera. No Vista support according to Canon's support site. The A20 doesn't appear as a removable drive so Canon software is necessary :( A couple of ways to skin this cat: a $10 USB CF card reader (requires pulling the card out of the camera each time) or (more fun) make an XP VMWare virtual machine and install the Canon software there. That actually works :) It requires dragging the photos from XP to Vista, but at least I don't have to unplug the CF card just to get photos to the laptop.
This is the DVD playing application that came with the laptop. It is present after loading Vista 64 from the Lenovo media, but when started it says it is a 30 day free trial! This is one of those things like the graphics drivers that don't quite get installed from Lenovo media.
Over in C:\SWTOOLS\APPS there is "DVDPlay" program that will install the "real" version of WinDVD. It will nag for registration, but isn't a trial version.
Installed Linux-like Cygwin. It provides a nice C programming environment and a place to run BASH scripts. Occasionally very handy when I need something like sed. The X windows version seemed hinky, but the command line only install works fine.
Borland C/C++ Compiler
BCC 55 is another nice (free) command line C compiler. It's old, and may be hard to find. One possible download source is Codegear free downloads .
Microsoft has been giving this away. It includes a GUI IDE and debugger.
Usually quite fast. Sometimes very slow, like "I'm going to miss the ferry" slow. I suspect it has just decided to create a restore point or something. Just a WAG. It seems like this very long shudown happens if I have just booted up. If it has been on for a while shutdown is usually quick.
[ ThinkPadT400 ][ Previous | Next ]