I finally got around to putting Vista on my laptop this week. My experience with Vista has been that clean installs work better, so that's what I did. I use my laptop a lot - I would guess of my 3 main computers (the others being my home and work desktop computers) that my thinkpad gets over half of my total computing time. There was a time, years ago, when clean installing an OS was close to an all day affair. Between copying the important files someplace safe, installing the OS, installing applications, and restoring the "safe" files to the system, finishing in anything under 8 hours was considered productive.
For the last year or two, I've been using Groove more and more to store my data. I have three Groove workspaces - two are collaborative projects I'm working on with others at MS, and the other one is for all of my stuff. The biggest day to day advantage of this setup is all three of my computers automatically stay in sync. Last night, for example, I was writing a paper at work. I saved it before I went home, then when I got home I opened the document and picked up right where I left off.
I had another big win with Groove this week (I'm referencing Microsoft Groove in this post, but any solution that allows files to be saved somewhere in the "internet cloud" would likely provide the same benefit). Before I started the install, I opened explorer to look for files I wanted to back up. There were a few files on the desktop that I wanted to save, so I copied those to a USB key, then shrugged my shoulders and rebooted.
I kicked off a network OS install at boot. I selected a network boot option that installed Vista and Office, then selected the "format the disk" option in Vista setup and let it run. An hour later or so (probably less, but I didn't time it), Vista was ready to go. I made my usual tweaks to the OS and Office (in the old days, when I clean installed more, I saved reg files to do the changes for me), logged onto my groove account and let about a gig of download. Another 30 minutes later, I grabbed my laptop to head to a meeting. I pulled it out and started working, and everything I needed was there (ok - not everything - I lost my high score in Spider Solitaire, and had to install Visual Studio). High scores aside, I love the thought that none of my data is tied to any of my computers. I could drop my laptop into a lake, or my desktop computers could melt and I wouldn't lose a thing. I think that's pretty cool.