Windows Vista has attracted a lot of heat since its launch in January 2007. It’s been called out for nagging users with the User Account Control (UAC), being a resource hog, being slow, having an unfamiliar interface, incompatible with legacy hardware, incompatible with legacy software – you name it, Vista has been bagged for it.
However, in my experience it really has not been that bad. There have been high profile cases of people declaring that they were going to downgrade back to XP (Chris Pirillo is one popular example) but is it really the case that people have been this much of a hard time?
Google Trends reveals that, for many people, Vista works.
(Blue is “vista sucks”, red is “vista works”)
(Blue is “vista works”, orange is “vista sucks” and red is “downgrade to xp”).
What is interesting to me is that downgrading to XP appears to have got the most attention online. Personally, I think downgrading to XP is a definite backward step and here’s why I think Vista is better than XP:
1. Great collection of bundled software: Vista (especially the Home Premium version that the majority of people will come in to contact with) comes with a wide range of applications that are designed specifically to play nice with the operating system and are handy for the general consumer. Windows Media Centre. Windows Movie Maker 6. Windows DVD Maker. Photo Gallery. Instant search. Windows Sidebar.
I know that a lot of these are also available in XP or have 3rd party equivalents but don’t underestimate the power of bundled apps. After all, isn’t one of the key selling points of Apple’s OSX the powerful consumer-level apps that come standard with the computer?
2. It makes better use of hardware resources: I accept that Vista has a heftier hardware requirement than XP. However, XP needed more resources than Windows 2000, which in turn needed more than Windows ME and Windows 98. A decent level of graphics grunt is required and 2 gigabytes of RAM is something of a sweet spot. The extra hardware resources are worth it as Vista puts them to good use. The shiny Aero interface of Vista utilises the Graphics Processing Unit of the computer that would otherwise sit there doing not much of anything outside of gaming. Aero makes looking at the computer screen just that little bit easier on the eyes. Vista also makes good use of spare RAM capacity. It might look like it has a big memory footprint but what it is doing is storing more things in the quick access memory that it thinks might be needed, giving the user faster response times and jumping back to the hard drive less (it’s quicker to fetch from RAM than from disk).
3. Vista is more secure: it’s very hard to argue with this one. Vista is not perfect but UAC makes it a lot harder for the general user’s system to be compromised. The regular pop ups can get annoying at times and Vista runs the risk of inducing “pop up fatigue” where users just click “OK” automatically. However, once you have the system configured just the way you like it, the pop ups happen much less than you think. Other operating systems employ similar security measures, for example OSX and Linux. While I don’t have experience with OSX I do know that in Linux I’ve had to use the command “sudo” to temporarily elevate user privileges many times, almost to the stage where it becomes habit to add sudo to the start of every command line action.
4. Vista has an improved user interface and other system tweaks: There are lots of little tweaks and improvements that make life easier in Vista. For example, when renaming files, Vista automatically highlights only the filename and not the file extension. Hit the TAB key when you’re finished and it jumps to the next file in the list and highlights the name, ready for renaming. Little touches like this go a long way. There are many more little Vista tips (for a great selection, visit The Supersite For Windows Vista page).
I accept that Vista isn’t perfect. Despite being more secure than XP out of the box, it still does have security problems. Some of the user interface changes can be confusing if you’re used to doing things in a certain way. Old hardware may never have Vista-ready drivers (especially if the hardware is obsolete or the manufacturer has gone out of business). There are some lingering concerns about the impact of the inbuilt Digital Rights Management, but that’s not a wall I’ve bumped up against yet.
I enjoy using Vista. I hate having to use XP on my work computer. Although I’m a fan of Vista, I don’t recommend it unconditionally. If you have XP installed on your current computer and it works just fine, I wouldn’t suggest upgrading. However, if you’re buying a new computer, I see no reason to stick with XP. Vista will work just fine.