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Vista's cool and all that, but is it a compelling upgrade?

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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.

A couple of folks have asked me about Vista, and since I've been using it for a while I thought I'd report on where I am and what I'd recommend.

Vista has not blown me away. Yes, it's pretty and all that, but by and large in normal use I don't see it as representing that massive a leap from Windows XP.

I use both Windows XP and Windows Vista daily. My laptop, which holds my email and acts as my base of operations when I'm not at my desk, came with Vista pre-installed. My desktop runs Windows XP Pro.

Vista on the laptop works, and it works well. I've had no real problems, though there have been annoyances. Surprisingly, UAC or User Access Control actually hasn't been one of them - at least not directly. The popup asking for permission happens at what I'd consider to be logical points in time where the security implications of what I'm about to do actually warrant Vista double checking. It's a little more often than the rough equivalent on a Mac or Ubuntu Linux, but not excessively so.

The annoyances come from running as an administrator, but not really. Even though my login account has administrative privileges, it's actually running slightly restricted - hence the occasional pop-up. The side effect, though, is that file access permissions are occasionally wrong. By that I mean that I can't access some files. This may because I do a lot in the Windows Command Prompt, because firing up another instance of that with full administrative privileges gets me access to everything - except the network shares that were created in the non-administrative window.

As you can see, it's just a little complicated, confusing ... and annoying.

I suppose I could turn of UAC, and perhaps someday I will. But that just brings me one step closer to XP.

The other very big concern I have about Vista, and in fact the reason that I won't be updating my desktop, is application and hardware compatibility. I know for a fact at least one important application I run will not work in Vista and there are no plans to have it do so. And of course I also keep hearing of various hardware incompatibilities.

The bottom line for me is that Vista is simply not a compelling upgrade. If it comes pre-installed on a machine, and the applications you run will work on it, then it's a fine operating system. But right now the risks of upgrading simply outweigh whatever potential benefits there might be.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11679 in the go to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse over 1,200 technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.

Article C3092 - July 21, 2007 « »

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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.

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27 Comments
Mary
July 22, 2007 5:51 AM

Several friends have switched to Vista. A few just had to get the "latest and greatest" when it came out so they bought the upgrade disks. A few got new computers with Vista pre-installed. Every single one of them has had compatibility issues of one kind or another - either software, hardware, or both.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure compatibility? Microsoft for putting out a product knowing it won't work with a lot of existing hardware and software? Or the hardware and software manufacturers who might have to change their products several times because MS is still experimenting with Vista? Ultimately, the consumer is the loser.

I'd love to hear what YOU think as a former long time Microsoft employee.

Mary
July 22, 2007 6:00 AM

Follow up questions.

When Microsoft is developing a new product like Vista, and a compatibility issue is discovered, does Microsoft notify the hardware or software manufacturer of the compatibility issue? Does Microsoft have a contract with HP (just as an example) to use only HP printers, scanners, etc during testing and other companies are left out in the cold? Just curious.

Leo A. Notenboom
July 23, 2007 9:55 AM

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Compatibility is really really tough. Microsoft has, in fact, gone so far as to
occasionally "un-fix" a (non-critical) bug because fixing it would break
applications that had inadvertently relied on the bad behavior. I've done it
(the un-fixing, that is :-).

When it comes to drivers ultimately it's the job of the hardware manufacturer
to produce drivers that work for their hardware. Microsoft does go out of its
way to support them with the information and tools they need to do it right.
And yes, I'm sure that some larger manufacturers with particularly popular
devices might be in a more direct feedback loop as issues are discovered.

I have seen Microsoft get "frustrated" with the drivers produced by some
manufacturers and elect to provide their own. It doesn't happen often (it's
been a while, so I don't even know if it still happens), but if a particular
piece of hardware is a)popular and b) has a track record of buggy drivers from
the manufacturer, Microsoft can roll their own. When this happens the results
are usually much better, and naturally Microsoft owns the responsibility for
those drivers. Usually they have a more limited set of functionality, though.

As for what's happening with Vista, it's hard to say. I'm certain that
Microsoft made the appropriate information available, but not all manufacturers
have the resources or the desire to retro-fit any new requirements into drivers
for older devices, or even to necessarily react to the changes for newer
devices for a new version of Windows that is still only (and slowly) growing in
market share. For those that did jump in, in general I'd be shocked if they
put their "best and brightest" on any such task.

We've been here before. Each version of Windows that had anything close to a
major change has had these kind of bumps. I'm reminded of the migration from
Windows 9x to Windows XP. As Vista "takes over" new hardware and new, more
stable, drivers will appear. Until then it's a bumpy ride for early adopters.

Leo

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George Arauz
July 23, 2007 11:21 PM

Vista messed up my comp.. and my friend's. I say not

Steve Myers
July 26, 2007 4:53 PM

Some of my friends have vista (preloaded) and I have had to help them on more than one occasion because of the UAC. I am a pc gamer and was going to build a new pc but I am waiting on at least a service pack 1 before going to vista. I don't appreciate that I am being forced to use vista if I want to play the latest games. The latest version of directx is only on vista. I myself am going to wait a while.

Ron Ledet
July 28, 2007 4:21 AM

I am a frequent computer user, having run XP for some time. I bought a new desktop preloaded with Vista and actuaaly returned the unit within two days because I was disatisfied with the new OS (compatibility, naming convention changes in UAC, etc.) Vista is nothing more than a Microsoft marketing ploy. Certainly no better than XP. I have resorted to having new computer built so I can get new technology hardware and still retain XP.

Frank D
July 28, 2007 5:05 PM

I just helped a friend with the purchase a new PC with Vista Premium installed. He had previously been using an 8-year-old machine with Windows 98. I am using a 6-year-old machine with Win XP Pro (installed over Win 98SE).

I state flat-out that Windows Vista is an _abomination_!!! My friend is angry and in despair over the new machine, which he can't use, and I am tearing my hair out trying to help him with the basics. Everything we try to do locks up the machine or we get the revolving circle cursor. I never had this kind of problem with WinXP.

Bill Wingler
July 28, 2007 5:45 PM

I tried a new Vista desktop amd had compatability problems with 4 printers. I use all these printers frequently so Vista is not a cost effective option for me since I would have to replace the printers. Maybe when all my printers die or my XP machines die I may be forced to bite the bullet and switch to Vista but hopefully not soon. Thanks to Wal-Mart's return policies I was able to return the Vista machine.

LeRoy Laycock
July 29, 2007 6:29 AM

My situation is much like Leo's, I purchased an HP Notebook with Vista Home Premium preinstalled and I have a desktop with XP S2 Home. I have just been 'playing' around with the Notebook, getting acquainted with it but have not fully relied on it because of the fear of running into the compatibility problems.

My question is, since I have a large HD, can I set up a dual-boot situation and use both Vista and XP and get the 'best-of-both'? If so, can you point me to a source of information?

Chris
July 31, 2007 2:54 AM

I have both my laptop and desktop set to dual boot Vista and XP. I have had so many problems with Vista on both because of all the compatibility issues, so guess what my default OS is set as... Yes, XP, still....
The video card problems and vista drivers for both ATI and nVidia don't work yet for some games (some may not work for older games, EVER), and I can name at least 2 of my very important programs that are not vista compatible either. I just cant find any upside to removing XP. I can find many excuses to remove Vista...

Btw, dont try to install XP after a Vista install, dual boot... You will have to be very aware of how to use bcdedit and other steps to bring back the Vista boot menu. It was really a pain in the ass for me, but I finally figured it out.. Takes a while to do too...

Bjorn Holberg
November 3, 2007 8:33 AM

I have had Vista Home Premium (oem) installed on my new PC from April, and have had unbelieveable many incompatabuilities with it. My EPSON rx640 would not install,and got a patch over the forums.
It seemed to corupt some files now and then (they just disapeared). The PC was sent to salesfirm to check, got it back and one and halv monts later the same happened. On a major update, Microsoft checked if my Vista was the real thing, and said NO, Told me to buy a leagal copy, and shut my machine down. Again to the salesfirm, and they ok the machine and the version of Vista. But now I have XP-Pro sp2 on a new harddisk, and its gonna be a long time til I look at Vista again (if ever).

Robert
November 10, 2007 3:12 AM

I purchased a new desktop loaded with Vista mostly out of curiousity. I experienced several compatibility problems with HP printers and some applications will not run properly or at all. Vista is just another pretty face with no real benefits to me. I use it mostly for research, email and backup. I prefer Windows XP over Vista.

Ray
November 10, 2007 3:01 PM

To me, it is a matter of greed. From what I have read, most users prefer xp over vista. To quote a old saying; if it is not broken, leave it alone.If people are forced into buying vista, consumers should retaliate. A backlash can carry a lot of weight. - Thank you.

Ray

Jeff Lentz
November 12, 2007 8:33 AM

A co-worker got a new laptop with a bigger hard drive to burn a portion of his DVD's to disk for portability, but Vista came pre-installed and he finds it won't let him rip the copies. Needless to say, he was disappointed at his wasted outlay.

Gary
December 26, 2007 1:00 PM

I was running XP sp2 for along time, but now i have been forced into Vista due to buying a new PC.

Stick with XP for as long as possible people. Vista wont run my printer, some games etc etc.. even my modem won't work. Vista is a forced market ploy by Microsoft to re-invent the market.

Daniel Allen
January 11, 2008 7:51 PM

I have not entertained the Vista farce that Microsoft is trying to force on users. Microsoft has gone as far as it can. I refused to have Vista on the new computer. I loaded and registered my existing copy of XP. Microsoft messaged me and said I cannot do this. I took the machine to a licensed technician and told him what happened. He kept the machine for one day and returned it with XP on board fully registered and validated. Microsoft is becoming angry and desperate because they have invested all the money on this apology for a new system which is incompatible with most existing hardware and software.

Natalie Kehr
January 11, 2008 10:31 PM

I use Sound Recorder a lot. The XP version allows me lots of control over formats, and I can open and manipulate files. The Vista version allows neither of these options. Grrrrrrr. Could anyone tell me how to split a long recording into several smaller files. Microsoft's (non)-Help system obviously thinks that that is a stupid question!

stephen velasco
January 12, 2008 12:10 AM

well, as everyone is saying, there are alot of programs, applications, softwares etc. that is still not suported by vista. it seems that they launched the product pre maturely! but even with all the "downs" i will still use vista because i love all the "ups"!

Derrin
February 2, 2008 10:16 AM

Had Vista for 6 months. Fought with it for control every time I used my computer. Hated it, loathed it, despised it. Had enough. Formatted the HD and re-installed XP Pro. Leo is absolutely correct when he says it just isn't compelling. All the hoopla is for translucent window borders basically. Pretty, but not usefull. The charm wears off the instant you try to use the machine. UAC went off the second day. It just kept annoying me, instead of adding real security. It just kept telling me everything I was doing was evil. If there was actually a valid security concern I would have just dismissed it along with the dozens of others I was getting. Good thing I'm a big boy and can think for myself.

Cagrialp Kaplan
February 6, 2008 10:23 AM

I can not use my drawing program need for work and allso can not play my mmorpg game. I can not work with it i can not enjoy with it. So why did i buy this new laptop! This Vista is a big looser and the worst part is i can not get rid of it. (I think this is the only part that Vista can do)

Kasper
June 25, 2008 7:50 AM

I've used Windows Vista since April 2007 and I've had zero reason to go back to XP even though my current computer has a partition with XP Pro installed. My first vista was Home Premium OEM where I did a clean install. My second vista was Ultimate 64bit, where I again did a clean install and then made a dual boot option for Windows XP Pro in case I ran into issues. Thus far I haven't, and I haven't even bothering updating the XP partition for SP3

People blame Vista for alot of things that are outside Microsoft's control. 3. party applications, driver issues etc. Microsoft does what it can to improve Windows continually, but IMHO they do far far too much! I'd rather have a full 64bit system that *forced* 3. party developers to do full support on their new products in 64bit only.

Why you ask? Because we're ever so slowly but surely reaching the memory limit a 32bit OS can handle. A 64bit OS would not have this limitation and our computers in general would be faster if everything running on it was written with 64bit in mind since a modern CPU can run at 64bit. If you're wondering about the 32bit memory ceiling I'm sure Leo has written an answer for it already :)

Sadly that is not how it is today, and that is not how it will be in Windows 7 also since they will still be holding on to the 32bit mainstream.

Ah well, maybe in Windows 10 :)

petya
July 16, 2008 2:19 AM

I hate Vista. I bought a new laptop and was forced into vista (the laptop came with it), since i bought it i regret it. Most of the softwares i used to use with XP are not compatible with Vista. I am having a website and used to use Netobjects Fusion 8 to build and edit it, but now it is NOT possible, because of Vista. I have to choices to buy NOF 11 (for $200 - no way) or to get a new laptop with XP. I think that buying a new laptop with XP will be the end of my nightmares. HATE vista and all people I know hate it too.
Sorry Microsoft.............

Beverly
July 28, 2008 6:16 PM

I've spent 6 months using Vista. Hate it, Hate it, Hate it. I want to go back to XP. But have had no help from Microsoft or ACER in doing it, in fact ACER said if I put XP on the computer (it came with VISTA pre-loaded) it would void my warranty, You can't win for loosing.

Alex
July 30, 2008 1:15 AM

Just like many others here, my high-end 2GB ram DELL laptop came with Vista Home Premium pre-installed.
It was always VERY slow to react to ANY sort of command.
Startup is sickening, opening Control Panel is sickening, opening any document is sickening.
Being rather familiar with the "ins and outs" of Windows XP, I did whatever was possible to lighten the already minimal load on Vista.
I knocked off all the unnecessary programs from the laptop especially the ones at Startup.
I switched off all the frills that Vista comes with, including Areo. I very regularly clean & defrag the hard disk and registry. I am well serviced with anti virus/spyware/adaware etc
AND YET .. . VISTA is still a pain to work with !To make matters worse, Vista isn't even capable of installing its own SP1. About a HALF HOUR after the start of the installation (of this much awaited SP1), Vista finally gives up and stalls. How pathetic !
Windows XP pro was and still is the better of the two. It is more stable and can run most of the software available on the planet.
I'm sorry but we cannot say the same for Vista !!
For any other service or product us customers have the right to get refunded for a product that is not up to standard ! Vista is advertised as one of the Seven Wonders of the PC World. It certainly hasn't lived up to anywhere near that claim. So can any of us mortals claim a refund?
Thanks Leo for your valuable time and precious advice,
Take care
Alex

Bill
September 1, 2008 11:56 AM

I bought a new Toshiba laptop with the obligatory Vista OS. Now my Sony video camera won't work with it (and Sony tells me a Vista driver will never be written for that camera), and several key programs that I depend on for my living don't work either. My laptop is now nothing more than an expensive e-mail checker and video game, and that's not why I bought it. I agree with Alex that a refund should be forthcoming from Microsoft for a product that has proven to be ineffective, and actually constitutes a step BACKWARD in computer usefulness. I'm going back to XP Pro, which actually worked!!

Kawsar
September 19, 2009 10:24 AM

Dear friends,
My pc details:
> Intel DG31PR motherboard
> Intel Pentium Dual CPU 2.20 GHz E2200
> 3 GB RAM
> 250 HDD
> 512 MB ATI radon HD 4350 Graphics
> DELL 18.5 LCD

Please tell me , which version of windows should be best for me? I am using windows xp pro. What about vista ultimate or windows 7? Please tell me detalis with proper cause. thank you :)
My mail:

Twinkle 987
November 12, 2011 2:00 PM

My vista has 74.5 GB , i have 22GB left and i hardly have ANYTHING on the laptop itself, and i'm here right now literally deleting every program i can find.
I want to have an XP Laptop, is that possible?

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