Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

When purchasing a new machine if offered a choice, Windows Vista may or may not be a clear choice over Windows XP. We'll look at the issues involved.

I'm about to get a new machine. I keep hearing bad things about Windows Vista - should I get my new machine with Windows XP installed instead?

Oh boy.

I get this question a lot, and it's a difficult one to answer. Vista's not nearly as bad as the rumor mill or Apple's TV commercials might have you believe, and yet there are, for lack of a better term, issues.

So let me start out by saying that I have exactly one machine that runs Windows Vista Ultimate: my Dell Latitude 620 laptop. It came pre-installed. The rest of my machines run Windows XP Pro, except for one server running Ubuntu Linux, and one running FreeNAS.

I've had almost no problems with my Vista machine. In fact, I'd go so far to say that I've had no more problems with my Vista machine than I've had with any of my other machines.

That being said, I'm a data point of exactly one, and I do know that there are people out there having problems with Vista.

"Vista's not nearly as bad as the rumor mill or Apple's TV commercials might have you believe ..."

Let's look at some of the issues I keep hearing about. I'm not going to claim that these are the issues that are the cause of everyone's concerns, or that dealing with these will magically fix everything, but many of these are, in fact, either issues that can be avoided, or issues that might well tip the scales one way or another.

It'll keep asking me to type in admin password all the time! No, it doesn't. Not nearly as often as complainers would have you believe.

For one thing, it's a very valid security technique that's used by other operating systems including Apple's OSX and various flavors of Linux. The fact is, the operating system only asks when you're about to do something that could compromise security. The password request verification serves two purposes: to alert you that this is happening, so that you can reject it if it happens when you don't expect it, and to verify that you are the owner of the computer and not someone who's just walked up to it, or someone who doesn't have your permission.

For another thing, it's easy to turn off. And turning it off takes you back to the same level of security you had in Windows XP. I lived with it for a while, to understand how and what it did, and then I turned it off.

My software won't work under Vista! Actually, it probably will. Vista, like XP, includes compatibility modes for software that for some reason has a dependency on Windows XP or an incompatibility with some of the new features in Windows Vista. After running Vista for perhaps two years now, I only last week finally encountered a case where I had to make a commutability tweak to get a program's feature to work as desired in Vista.

Most software, including previous versions of Microsoft software, run just fine. Heck, my decade old Visual Basic / Microsoft Access point of sale software ran quite well under Vista.

My hardware won't work under Vista! This is only an issue if you're upgrading an older machine. That's where this concern actually appears to have a little merit, though things are getting better. Specifically, older and perhaps obscure printers seem to be an occasional issue. I do hear of situations where printers will not work under Vista because drivers are not available. If you have a relatively newer printer (say within the last couple of years), this should not affect you. On the other hand if you have an older printer, or a special-purpose printer, be sure to check out the manufacturer's web sites for updated drivers, or just generally "search the web" for reports of whether or not your specific model can be made to work in Vista.

In general, most other hardware seems to be fine, though the same caveat applies: the older or more obscure the hardware, the more it behooves you to do some research on your specific hardware first.

Everything's different in Vista! No, it's not. Not everything. At least not for the most part. The Aero interface (which can be turned off) gives everything a different look, of sorts, but in general Windows Vista works and runs just like Windows XP.

OK, yes, there are some exceptions. One of the annoyances of Windows Vista is that they did seem to change some UI for the sake of changing UI. In some cases one might argue it's for the better, in other cases the changes make absolutely no sense. The good news, such as it is, is that once your machine is set up and working, the changes don't really affect you that often, as what I've seen is mostly around configuration and set up.

Networking sucks under Vista! Yes, it does. But it sucks just as badly and in pretty much the same ways that it sucks in Windows XP. It's really not a differentiator between the two versions.

Networking is, in general, difficult in most all versions of Windows. Vista added a few things that might help a little, but in my experience so far, it's just as good or bad as XP is or isn't.

Upgrades don't work! They do, mostly, but this is a case where I strongly recommend against upgrading an existing Windows XP installation to Windows Vista anyway. Either get Windows Vista pre-installed, or perform a clean install. The results tend to be more stable in the long run.

Vista Requires more RAM/HD/CPU! Probably, but once again this is only a concern if you're upgrading an older machine. Most machines currently offered with Vista are more than capable of running it.

To put some figures to it, I'd place the minimum requirements for Vista at a 1 Ghz processor, 1 Gigabyte of RAM, and a DVD-ROM drive. Pretty much any semi-decent video card should work (DirectX 9 compatibility is the stated requirement). I'd also make sure you had 20-30 GB of free space on your hard drive, or with a clean install a disk of at least 60 GB.

As always, your experience may vary depending on what you plan to do with the machine, and in general more (RAM, CPU speed, disk space, etc.) never hurts and can often have dramatic positive impact.

Vista is 64 bits! Not quite; Vista has a 64 bit version that is available. It might even work on your machine, since many current processors are 64bit-capable. In my opinion, average users should avoid it. The 32 bit version of Vista is more compatible with more hardware and software than the 64 bit version, and the 64 bit version just doesn't buy you that much yet. (My secret suspicion is that much of Vista's "bad rap" is due, in part, to people having problems with the 64 bit version.)

So, all that being said, what's my bottom line advice?

Vista's not nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be. In most cases, I see no reason not to get it preinstalled on new machines.

But if you're scared, if you still have concerns and just want to play it safe, Windows XP is still fine choice as well.

Note: like some of my older articles on Vista, this article is likely to be a magnet for comments from disgruntled Vista users. Read what they have to say, filter out the vitriol if you can, and factor it in to your decision. But also realize that happy Vista users have little reason to post; they have nothing to complain about. For many, including myself, Vista just works.

Article C3597 - December 21, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

December 21, 2008 12:51 PM

One thought: Anyone contemplating a *voluntary* move from XP to Vista (as opposed to having to replace a broken machine) might want to wait and see what enhancements Windows 7 will offer. XP should work just fine for the next few years, but if money is no object and you don't mind changing your OS and/or computer again in about 12 - 18 months... :-)

Dave B
December 21, 2008 7:04 PM

The one element of Vista that I find personally compelling is the integrated search. One tap of the "Windows" key and I'm off and typing. I have files on my machine that are over 15 years old (yes, from the Win31 days), so sometimes it's difficult to find a specific document - the Vista search makes it easier.

I know that there are bolt-on versions of several search engines for other versions of Windows, but I enjoy the ease of use in the Vista integrated search.

December 21, 2008 8:03 PM

Count me as a happy Vista user.

For a comprehensive list of the benefits of Vista over XP, check here:

December 21, 2008 9:40 PM

Despite the naysayers I've been using Vista Ultimate for a few months and love it.

December 22, 2008 8:05 AM

I've got a new laptop with Vista Home Basic preinstalled, and it works just fine, no problems or headaches. (I've been using Windows since the 3.1 days, so I feel confident in making any comparison.)

And to Mary: Good advice, yes, but be aware that Windows 7 (or so the rumor goes) may not be offered as an upgrade to XP.

December 22, 2008 8:20 AM

I've used Vista. I'm not impressed.
What gets me is that it doesn't add that much over XP, but requires 2-3 times the system requirements of XP to run.

Give me XP any day, if I must use Windows, as the hardware it isn't using to run the OS can be used on other applications.

December 23, 2008 8:21 AM

IMO XP is superior to Vista in that XP is not burdened with all the "FLUFF" of Vista. Of course most of the visual candy can be turned off in Vista and it runs much much better. I am some what of a purist with my computers and I want them to perform. I could care less about pretty pictures and animated menus. I am baffled by why MS felt it necessary to arbitrarily modify the GUI just enough to confuse people. My guess it is mostly marketing. BTW - how about that Office 2007 GUI? Good Grief.....

December 23, 2008 8:22 AM

Like the person asking the question, I thought long and hard about getting a Vista PC. I couldn't wait any longer and bought one with Vista Ultimate 64-bit. I have had absolutely no problems, not even with an external Sony DVD/CD burner that is 4 years old. I admit I have 2 XP computers to fall back on. At this point, I'm glad I decided to buy a new PC with Vista rather than upgrading an older one. I'm particularly enjoying the Media Center extended via XBox. As far as Windows 7 is concerned, I'm reading that the new Vista machines will be able to upgrade to the new OS. Hope so, anyway.

Jason T.
December 23, 2008 8:25 AM

Hi Leo,
You should revisit 64 bit vista, it's stable and tight.

December 23, 2008 8:48 AM

I've been using Vista Ultimate 64-bit for about 8 months. I tried to upgrade from XP but had too many issues. I did a clean intall and it's been running great. Media center and the the interface with the 360 is great.

December 23, 2008 9:00 AM

I bought an HP laptop with Vista Home Basic pre-installed just as soon as the OS was available. Once I found out how to turn off User Account Control, the machine gave me no problems whatsoever.

I recently bought a Dell desktop with Vista Ultimate, and have no problems to report with it, either. The UAC has been such a non-issue that I didn't even bother to turn it off. My two-year-old Epson printer works flawlessly, and even my 1998 Umax scanner has had no problems. A version of FreeCell that I bought back when I had Win98, and that had occasional problems in WinXP Pro, runs much faster in Vista, with no issues at all.

In short, I have to think that all the folks who claim to have had problems with Vista either performed an upgrade over inadequate hardware, or don't understand how to use a computer in the first place.

Jim Glass
December 23, 2008 9:04 AM

My wife uses Vista Basic on a DELL Inspiron 530 and I use Vista Premium on a DELL Inspiron 530S, both presinstalled on new machines one and two years ago, with no problems and no learning curve from XP to report. Happy Users.

Anthony Vittoria
December 23, 2008 9:12 AM

My daughter bought a HP with Vista home premium installed. Their home caught fire and had extensive damage, smoke, heat, water from the fire dept. The computer sat in that environment for three months. I brought it to my home and worked on it several days cleaning and more cleaning. That was in may of 2008. I started it up
and it came right on. I went into the house and got my cable modem and hooked it up and the thing started getting updates included was SP1 supposed to be a baddie. It has not missed a beat since then. Not one time has it failed. I think Vista is a much better system than many of the so-called geeks and gurus claimed. The one thing I don't like, and that can be reset, is the transparent view. I have it networked to my XP Pro here and both do a good job. I don't think you could go wrong with either XP or Vista.

Mike Ronga
December 23, 2008 9:14 AM

Well said.....Yeah I’m one of those people that doesnt have any problems with Vista, in fact I take care of my computer, my brothers, and my nieces computer. Guess what...... I used to spend a lot of time fixing and explaining "issues" when they had XP. Problem solved after they went to Vista. IMHO it just is easier and less problems than with XP.Geez now I got nothing to do anymore...LOL.Thats my 2 cents worth and my experience with Vista, I wouldn’t turn back to XP unless I had to for some reason. In fairness there is a period of adjustment when Vista is first installed but its that way with most things. Thanks for a great newsletter.

Bobby Jones
December 23, 2008 9:50 AM

I agree with your comments Leo. I felt there were more incompatibilities between Windows 98 and Windows XP than between Windows XP and Vista. My laptop came with Vista preinstalled and I've had only minor glitches with it, which usually occur after an automatic Microsoft update! I still have networking problems between Vista and XP systems.

December 23, 2008 9:50 AM

I am an "I.T." guy and support Vista on a regular basis. In my experience, the folks who have the most trouble with Vista would also have trouble with other operating systems as well. Vista seems to get blamed for user error a certain percentage of the time. It is human nature not to want to admit ones own shortcomings.

With that said, Vista isn't perfect. Like most other folks I haven't had any issues with Vista but my biggest complaint is it is literally a memory hog. I bought a laptop built with the maximum amount of RAM and processor available along with a high-end graphics card. Right out of the box the PC lacked the snappiness I am used to seeing on new PCs running XP or Linux. Some of the related issues are supposed to be addressed under Windows 7 so there is still hope things will get faster.

In all honesty, I recommend against turning off the UAC. It is there because of the fact that everyone insists on running with admin rights when they typically don't need to which allows malware and viruses to silently infect your PC without your knowledge. UAC prompts (although not implemented as efficiently as they could by by Microsoft) only come up occasionally once you have your applications installed. The small annoyance is worth the added protection in my opinion. By the way, Linux and Apple's OS X have their own version of the UAC that promps the user for the adminstrator password at various times too. If anything, Microsoft needs to do a better job of helping users learn of the existence of the UAC and compatability features under Vista and how to properly use them instead of simply causing programs to crash when they aren't fully Vista compliant. There is a learning curve with Vista but if you have any computer skills to speak of you shouldn't have any trouble moving to Vista from XP.

Ray Rodden
December 23, 2008 9:54 AM

got a computer just before vista cameout - came with a free upgrade to vista home prem.

Sent for the upgrade and it was pants!
Went back to XP.

Then got a laptop with vista home prem preinstalled. runs great. no problems with network.

so I think Leo is right. Get it preinstalled on a new machine. Upgrading a machine should be done only as a clean install.

Bob Stroup
December 23, 2008 11:20 AM

I have a dual boot system with XP and Vista Ultimate. I wanted the dual boot in case Vista lived up to its early reputation and I could boot into XP.

I have had this setup for over a year and I NEVER boot into XP. The Vista version is far more stable than XP ever was for me and is remarkably self preserving in a crash. I have occasionally had to reboot because of some curious lockup while on the Net but I am not sure that Explorer7 wasn't the problem.

I really like Vista and will never go back to XP.

December 23, 2008 11:23 AM

I have dual core laptop 32 bit Vista, and triple core desktop 64 bit Vista.
A very noticeable difference is when I transfer data by flash drive. It can take 3 minutes to write it in 32 bit, and 60 secs to read it into the 64 bit.
I presume 64 bit is shoveling data twice as fast. Triple core must play into it also.

You should compare read-to-read and write-to-write. Flash drives notoriously write slower than the read.
- Leo

December 23, 2008 11:27 AM

Add two more to the happy-with-Vista camp. I bought an HP Pavilion in May, 2007 pre-loaded with Vista. Although the machine had some hardware problems, and was eventually replaced by HP, Vista Home Premium has never given me a bit of trouble. I particuarly like the Media Center, with its Tivo-like recorder. I have saved many TV shows and movies to put on my Creative MP3 player for viewing during long flights, travel delays, etc.

Last Christmas, we bought my father-in-law a new Dell with pre-installed Vista Home Premium to replace his old computer. Although I worried about how an 80-year-old would make the transition from XP to Vista, it turned out to be a non-issue. Vista is so transparent that anyone can make the transition.

David Papadouplas
December 23, 2008 11:36 AM

After many years of running XP Pro I changed to Vista and it is so good not one problem in almost 2 years Vista is the future I love it and highly recommend it to all ...thanks for a great newsletter, David....

paul storaasli
December 23, 2008 11:37 AM

I've been using Vista 64-bit Ultimate that came loaded on an HP laptop, for a couple of years now with absolutely no problems. I like the 64-bit with the maximum memory which is greater than the 32 bit Vista or XP. The memory is so inexpensive today. I can load my browser (Firefox) with a ton of tabs, and still do lots of things with photos, and have never run low of memory. When I got the new laptop I studied all the Clean Install information, decided to first try simple uninstalls of stuff I didn't want. Everything has been running so smoothly since then I've had no cause to revisit the decision not to do the Clean Install.

David Randall
December 23, 2008 12:47 PM

Have been running Vista preinstalled on a new Dell computer since February 2007. Had a few problems with drivers for my existing printer and scanner which were solved by downloads from the manufacturers web sites. I thinks its fine as does a friend in his 70s who recently bought his first computer with Vista preloaded.

Lindsay Williams
December 23, 2008 12:49 PM

Good article. I have used Vista for nearly two years and it is great. I turned off UAC, though! I do a bit of support work with friends etc and get really annoyed about how many times they are told by 'experts' that Vista is bad and XP is good. I mean, why would you buy an eight yr old OS that has had its life support threatened for years over a two year old one? Let's not mention that even Vista will be superseded next year so XP will then be two versions behind. Nah, get Vista and move on.

December 23, 2008 12:59 PM

I have used windows 98, ME and XP and for the past 2 years have been using Vista and I love this OS. I have been hearing so much negative about this vista, but was wondering why. Now after reading your article I understand why. I like Vista and I have not faced any problem so far.

December 23, 2008 3:58 PM

"I mean, why would you buy an eight yr old OS that has had its life support threatened for years over a two year old one?"

Maybe because XP is a proven and well-liked OS that runs really well and needs a lot less hardware to run itself than Vista?

Charlie Griffith
December 23, 2008 4:12 PM

I'll cheerfully chime in with positive thoughts on Vista Home Premium. I've got it on an HP Slimline. I un-installed a lot of that marketing promotional stuff I didn't need or want. I've been into this computer-thing only about five years now (I'm 77) and am very enthusiastic with all the potential compared at this age with what a lot of younger guys could not have experienced. Frankly, in reading a lot of the complaining, it seems to ease a need to voice some sort of opinion, as perhaps being a techno-crank is "in". Seems almost shallow...doesn't it? Thanks, Leo for your balanced articles.

"Techno-Crank" - I love it! A very accurate label for some people.
- Leo

Ravi Agrawal
December 23, 2008 10:16 PM

I am not against Vista & I love it too. I have used it without problems but one particular problem I was faced with was the inability to run a 16Bit DOS version of Foxpro in Full Screen mode. (Vista gives an error message that it does not support it in Full Screen, but well...).

XP too was not that popular until 3 years when everyone started to realize the advantages of XP over Windows98 & the older Operating Systems expecially after the realease of Service Pack 2, it was damn stable.

XP lived its period of unacceptance & Vista too will have to. I think that major incompatibilites have been sorted out & people will begin to embrace Vista soon as they did XP.

Well Licensing Costs of Microsoft do come in the way & I believe that Ubuntu Linux & similar free Operating Systems will give a tough fight to Vista. Though there is a steep learning Curve with Linux, once you have mastered it, there is some much in Control that one would think, WOW! could we control PCs to that extent.

But yes computer illiteracy is so much, that I fell it terrible to see Windows98 machines still ruuning. Many people don't know about the Internet (though they have heard about it) & leave that alone, there is so much unawareness that they think it is possible to open only one Browser Window at a time. So Linux penetration is still very much at the surface though Ubuntu holds a lot of promises & Yes Open Source & Free software, who does not want it? There may be numerous Incompatibility issues with Linux though. Well, but most software is still made Windows Only.


December 23, 2008 10:43 PM

I am a member of a group of senior people who meet daily for a chat Most of us have xp but a few have upgraded to vista, the vista people love the system and are the ones that always seem to be having difficulty and will stand devoutly to their decision to upgrade to vista. I have xp on my desktop and my laptop has vista which i have now installed XP. I spend a great deal of time trying to help the vista brigade with some success. Personally I dislike vista as it is too flashy and hard to understand. But we will be served what is put in front of us.LONG LIVE XP

December 24, 2008 12:07 AM

I do not use Vista a lot, but my few experiences with it have not been too bad. Nevertheless, I do not see a reason for anyone using XP to upgrade to Vista, unless they are so in love with the Aero interface (and refuse to use modification packs). The same goes for Office 2007 vs 2003. If someone really needs an upgrade, OSX/Linux is a more sensible choice. There are plenty of software for these platforms, many are better than their Windows counterparts.

December 24, 2008 12:12 AM

Like you I have Vista Ultimate on an Asus Laptop, XPPRo and Fedora FC10 dual boot on my desktop. I agree fully with your comments.
I too am a senior 82 years old!
However, after computing since we started by buiding them and with DOS, I will now only use Fedora which has everything that Windows has Plus many more programs - all free. It has been worth the little trouble to learn Linux. But today Fedora with other Linux programmes is as "user friendly" as Windows or Mac ever was.

Carl Goodwin
December 24, 2008 11:32 AM

I love Vista. Two machines of mine have it, and I have not had to reformat like I used to with XP. I was sick of the XP color choices too (OLIVE GREEN???). As for the RAM, most programs now demand more memory, so older machines would run slower anyway.

December 25, 2008 2:18 AM

techno-crank..i'm borrowing that word :D

December 25, 2008 8:06 AM

Or... you could buy the Vista license and then your OEM would then be permitted to install XP on your machine. Apparently Windows has a policy where a previous version of Windows can be installed on a machine provided that the current license is purchased.
Have had this done on a couple of machines now. That way, I can enjoy XP for now, and then when they "hopefully" get the bugs out of Vista to a point where others besides Leo agree, I will be ready.

December 25, 2008 8:44 AM

I find vista freezes up daily & constantly have to end task mgr. I've left it alone for 15 min as the "earth" sign was still revolving, but nothing was loading. The microsoft word edition is very confusing on where to find it from Xp version. & if u don't ask ? the right way u don't find the answer!! an't buy xp when I needed new computer, or I would have stuck with XP

December 25, 2008 9:17 PM

Vista is cute,secure and fast.I have been using Vista Ultimat and Home for more than a year and experienced that its a lot more stable than XP.XP's IE6 has no security and prone to attract viruses where in Vista its IE7 is secure and tabbed browsing got a lot of convenience.

December 25, 2008 9:19 PM

I have been using Vista for several months and like it very much. I have not had a single problem with it. Frankly I don't understand why people hate it so much. When I use XP now I feel like I am using something outdated. That is not to say that I don't like it. I do I just like Vista better. I have noticed at my work that people don't seem to give it a chance. I have seen them sit down at a computer running Vista then get up and walk away in two or three minutes and from that point on talk about how bad the it is. I believe that eventually people will take to it.

December 26, 2008 5:06 AM

Get either, just don't use either. Use Linux. 64 bit (why use 32 bit software if you have a 64 bit system?) And don't forget linux is free (as in doesn't cost money!) Also many applications are available for download for free. YOU DO NOT NEED WINDOWS. Many people are starting to realise, the choice is NOT limited to XP or Vista, there are other BETTER options!


December 26, 2008 5:08 AM

Forgot to mention, most Linux distros don't need like a gazillion gigabytes of RAM just to load. Plus the fancy desktop eye candy is much better... (tip: Google Compiz Fusion) or search it on youtube and be amazed...

December 26, 2008 5:13 AM

"(My secret suspicion is that much of Vista's "bad rap" is due, in part, to people having problems with the 64 bit version.)"

I beg to differ

Wisdom Talks
December 27, 2008 6:41 AM

You are right. I am running a Acer machine and its working fine with Vista. However, i face problem on network, specially regading printing. It always gives message spooler fails. Dont know how to solve it.

December 28, 2008 10:28 AM

I am a very happy Vista user, for almost a year. It solidly rocks. It works fast, works well, and is secure.
My computer came with Vista pre-installed, and was built for Vista. That is, in many ways, the key. Vista Home Premium has Aero, all kinds of bells and whistles, and needs a lot of oomph to run it.
Many Vista machines are affordable anyway - mine was $300 US, and came with an Athlon 4400+ 64x2, and 1 GB memory (I put in another GB). It has a relatively weak Radeon on board graphics card, but I am no gamer.

I am very happy with Vista, and honestly like it more than I did XP - and I liked XP.

December 30, 2008 5:02 AM

No problems here at all with vista.
Actually it's better then XP.
Ive tweaked it out to the max.
Use Apps from XP programs and they run
just fine.
Ive turned off all the added garbage
including the UAC.
1 yr and no crash's.
Im a happy camper.

Ron Boyd
January 30, 2009 6:12 AM

If I have a Vista installed laptop and want to go to XP, can I purchase an XP upgrade disc and use it or do I need the full Operating disc?

February 20, 2009 11:26 AM

@ Ron Boyd
You cannot 'upgrade' vista to XP as that is a 'downgrade', it just wont let you..

I have 64Bit Vista running sweetly.
Not a compatability problem at all, and everything runs perfectly, including old games like UT GOTY edition and the original C&C game.

Never going back to XP.

linda avallone
April 11, 2009 11:07 AM

costco has a desktop that comes with--vista business pre-installed with downgrade rights to windows xp professional (xp Pro media included in box)does this cause problems--should i just buy a desktop with one or the other? i am an amateur and just use my computer for internet. email, music to ipod, some photos, what do you suggest

May 16, 2009 2:44 PM

I wish someone had commented on Linda's question (April 11, 2009) because I am faced with somewhat the same questions.

I haven't been in the market for a computer for some time but am currently learning about/configuring/buying a new desktop for a friend.

She is VERY computer illiterate and does nothing more than a bit of emailing, web browsing and listening to music. (We both currently use XP.) While I'm not sure it's the best choice, both for her and for the $$, I've been looking at the Dell Inspiron 530. (If you have other recommendations in the under $1000 category please feel free to suggest.)

My question about the Dell, as it relates to this topic is: while it's not easy to find on Dell's website they do offer this PC with both XP and Vista installed. Would it be a good idea to configure it that way -- or just mess things up? (My fear is that my friend will not like/be able to figure out Vista... Is that fear unfounded?)

Further, the one Dell guy I have spoken with on the phone stated that XP will NOT be able to be upgraded to Win7 but Vista will. (I've read conflicting reports ... is this true?) Will having both XP and Vista installed conflict with a future upgrade?

Just wondering ... Thoughts appreciated.

First, I think having two operating systems is more likely to confuse your friend than Vista.

Most people's problems with Vista have not been around "figuring it out", but more typically hardware related issues that are significantly less frequent when Vista is pre-installed. I have Vista on my laptop and I find that, with perhaps the tweak of turning UAC's annoying behavior off, it's just fine.

Finally, whether or not you will be able to "upgrade" XP to Vista is a red herring. An upgrade is nothing more than installing new on top of the old and preserving all your settings and installed applications. It's often problematic enough anyway that I actually recommend backup/reformat/reinstall instead. That will always work, regardless of the versions involved.

- Leo

September 4, 2009 11:56 AM

I hope I'm wrong, but Leo's statement that most software (including previous versions of Microsoft software) run just fine under Vista, seems to be not 100% right. If anyone knows how to install one of Microsoft's better applications, Outlook Express, under Vista, I would certainly like to know to do it, without using my extremely clumsy solution of installing it with an older Windows O.S. in a virtual machine. I haven't tried Parallels, but Microsoft's Virtual PC is severely limited in the amount of system resources it can use. Before anyone is tempted to reply to this by saying Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail have the same features as Outlook Express, please don't. They are both missing the "identities" feature that I and a lot of others feel is essential. That alone is reason enough for many of us not to "downgrade" to Vista. For all the jibes hurled at Win ME, at least the e-mail program that suits many of us best will run under it. So far, I can't say that about Vista or Windows 7. But I may be wrong. Hope someone can prove that I am.

I did say "most", not "all". Outlook Express is a special case because Microsoft no longer supports it. It has nothing really to do with the operating system technically, but Microsoft's simply not making it available in a way that can be installed on those OS's any more. I know you don't want to hear it, but it's time to move to a new email program. Given all the problems I hear about with Outlook Express, I would encourage that anyway.

September 7, 2009 11:11 AM

I tried Vista on my XP Pro pc which is 4 years old. I liked it so much I bought the upgrade.
Had a problem installing it (it wanted to do a clean install-YIKES!).
I called the MS Store, ready to be on hold forever, but they answered the phone right away, transferred me to tech support (on hold 3-4 seconds!), who transferred me to the next level tech support (on hold for another 2-3 seconds).
The tech support person had me log on to a web site that allowed her to take control of my computer and she installed it for me.
Can't beat that for customer support!
I've had a few issues with both sound and video, but tech support via email resolved those issues.
For a 4 year old, outdated computer, I think it upgraded very well.

robert edwards
September 8, 2009 8:57 AM

HOw do I get vista to act and look like XP -HAve new powerful asus laptop N81 VP D1 machine but cannot do anything -

March 23, 2010 1:05 PM

I would be a much more enthusiastic reader of yours if you would devote a section to Win 7; I've gotten by with the Stanek written administrator's pocket consutltant. and the Ubiquitous web.


David Curl
March 23, 2010 7:22 PM

Minolta DiMage scan Elite 5400 is a film and slide scanner which works magnificently in XP but refuses to work in Vista. I have turned on the compatibility option for the driver (it is the latest driver) but still the computer and scanner refuse to talk. I have tried a generic driver and although it works, the full functionality is not there. Now that Microsoft refuse to service Vista we are looking at the options for this machine. What are we doing wrong that the compatability mode is not working?????

You would have to talk to Minolta.

Suellen Crawford
April 4, 2011 8:46 AM

Prior to retiring, the law firm where I worked had windows 2000 (in 2009) and was going to upgrade to windows vista since support was ending on windows xp. But after researching problems with vista they chose window xp. Apparently there were still bugs to be resolved. Trend Micro which they used was having problems with Vista but worked well with xp for one. There were others.

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