Why is installing MySQL on Windows Vista such a bear? For someone who is not
a professional database administrator, it seems like I am jumping through hoops.

This page
pointed to this page
which suggests this page
which points to this beautiful pdf file
Ah, now I am getting somewhere.

It suggested I turn off the User Account Control (UAC). Which I did.

But after following these steps
There was an error at the end of the installation that said that the server failed to start.

Where do I go to find answers?

I had a similar problem, try right clicking on the .exe icon and then 'run as administrator'.

Let me know if that helps.

The problem is in doing a clean uninstall.
I ran Revo Uninstaller and it worked.