Running Vista with dodgy drivers? Try turning off Aero

Vista may be RTM, but it’s early days for the drivers. This will cause confusion, and will damage Vista’s reputation. For example, a letter in today’s IT Week describes what happened when you upgrade a “Vista Ready” Sony Media Center PC with the MSDN Vista RTM:

It was a disaster. The Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 video card was not supported so the machine reverted to VGA. The audio chipset also failed to have a driver so no longer works. The TV system completely fails to work, and Media Centre blue-screens when started.

This kind of thing is no surprise. Third-parties like Sony have not had the final Vista any longer than the rest of us. While Microsoft includes drivers for common hardware on the Vista CDs, there are many devices for which drivers just are not ready, and consumer systems such as Media Center PCs with lots of extras will suffer more than most. If you have a “Vista ready” PC, and are not the adventurous sort, then the best advice is to wait until the vendor comes up with properly supported drivers specifically for your machine.

Having said that, I’ve tested Vista on several systems with reasonable success, including a self-assembled media center PC which is now working nicely with an XBox 360 as media extender. One tip: if you run into problems, try switching off Aero and using something like the Vista Basic display as an alternative. This fixed a problem with Media Center where it would flash uncontrollably after waking from sleep, and had a similar beneficial affect on a Toshiba tablet. Aero changes the way windows are displayed at a low level. See for example Kam Vedbrat’s blog on why some application disable Aero; there’s more good information on the shell: revealed site.

It’s a shame to disable Aero, but if that’s what it takes to get a stable machine then it must be worth it; I’ll be trying again on my test boxes when updated drivers emerge.

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