One of the things I learned at IL2007 (I’ll get to that post eventually) was that "all OSes suck" and yesterday morning this was only reinforced. Here’s what I saw on my laptop’s screen when I woke up Sunday morning and went to watch the latest episode of Bionic Woman:
How’s that for a scary error message. Basically, something happened overnight that caused my Vista installation to believe it was no longer a valid installation. So, I went to learn more…
Microsoft’s first suggestion was to run the online Genuine something-or-other tool that validates your OS installation. Yep, it failed. I "officially" have an "invalid" (read "illegal") version of Vista on my laptop.
Then they presented me with a list of incompatible software that I should uninstall. I didn’t have any of those programs on my laptop so scratch that.
Next it suggested I run CHKDSK to see if there’s any problems with the hard drive. (The theory being that if the right OS files get corrupted Vista could invalidate.) Run CHKDSK, no errors. Next.
I found lots of others who have reported this problem but most of those were people who had been playing with beta versions last year. I did however find a link to a Microsoft page in which I could report my error and get a response within 24 hours. I filled out their form, downloaded the diagnostic tool, ran that to collect the relevant data, and sent my report off to Microsoft. (I’m still waiting BTW.)
Not willing to give up I kept searching and found another Microsoft page that suggested it might be my anti virus program and I should uninstall that. (I’ve been using Avast! on the laptop since I upgraded and I’ve not liked it, too slow, so that sounded like a good plan regardless.) The trouble was, when you’re running an "invalid" copy of Vista it locks you out of certain OS features, most importantly in this instance, the control panel. So, how to uninstall a program without the control panel. (No, there wasn’t a standalone uninstaller to be found.)
Ah ha! I remembered MSCONFIG. Launch that and instruct Avast! not to load at startup. Apply the changes, reboot, and my OS is valid again! I quickly uninstalled Avast! and downloaded/installed the latest (now Vista compatible) version of AVG. System running smoothly again.
Granted, it was Vista that was yelling at me and it’s Microsoft’s "fault" that their DRM is touchy but right now I’m placing the blame at the feet of the makers of Avast! I suspect that it updated itself overnight as it should but that something in the update was incompatible with Vista enough to cause it to invalidate. Well, I won’t be recommending that product in class any more.