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I decided that my new machine will run Windows XP, and not Vista. At least not yet.

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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.net.

I ordered a new computer this week. It's a desktop machine, and as you might imagine I ordered it with lots of memory, processor, power capacity, disk space and so on. So far it's a fairly nice machine, and I'll probably report on it some more in upcoming articles after I've had a chance to iron out a kink or two.

When I placed my order I had my choice of operating systems: Windows Vista, Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux.

I ordered the machine with Windows XP Pro pre-installed.

Now it wasn't that easy a decision; I actually had to think about it.

As I've said before, for most people Windows Vista just isn't as bad as many might have you believe. Yes, there are absolutely people having significant problems with it, but while those problems get a lot of publicity I believe that they are really the exception, rather than the rule. Particularly when pre-installed - in other words not an in-place upgrade over XP - Vista's a reasonable choice. That's how my laptop came, and I've been running Vista quite successfully on it for well over a year now.

"So why did I decide on XP? In a nutshell: because it works."

Last week's podcast notwithstanding, Ubuntu Linux was also worth some serious consideration. The fact that it was available only without support, coupled with many of my requirements I alluded to on last week, made that a non-starter for me. (My plan, however, is to install Ubuntu on my current desktop which this new machine is replacing.)

So why did I decide on XP?

In a nutshell: because it works.

I'm not saying that Vista wouldn't, but the probability of XP working is a little higher.

One particular area of risk for Vista is in graphics and media. I ordered this machine with the capacity to do some video editting and right now XP's drivers and overall performance seem ... safer.

For all it's flaws, XP has a track record that extends back several years now. With SP3 just around the corner, XP is a reliable, stable operating system. Vista has yet to establish something like that same track record.

Given my eventual reliance on this new machine, I simply decided that until I need Windows Vista, Windows XP would do just fine.

And of course with XP perhaps disappearing in the coming months this could perhaps be my last chance to get it pre-installed.

So what should you do?

Good question. To be honest, today I think you'd have a hard time going wrong by following my example and choosing Windows XP.

But the good news, in some senses, is that it's not necessarily a obvious decision. For the average user, Windows Vista is still a fairly safe bet as well - at least for pre-installed systems.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.net and enter 12330 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 the hundreds of technical questions and answers on the site.

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

Article C3342 - April 6, 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.

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19 Comments
Mike D.
April 6, 2008 2:52 PM

Hi Leo, I agree with your sentiment that Vista is fine for most users. However I've still heard of some issues with it..most of them have involved pre-installed copies of Vista and the NVIDIA video drivers. Two tech-savvy colleagues of mine bought new computers with Vista preinstalled and experienced problems, but they reported success when they simply reinstalled Vista on the machine. Both had newer-model Dell laptops with NVIDIA drivers.

I'm running Vista on a work-issued HP laptop, and so far haven't had any major issues. I know it was purchased with Vista, but I don't know whether it was reinstalled before I got it.

So when people ask me about Vista, I usually tell them it's fine, but if they buy it, do a reinstall before you transfer any of your files onto it, especially if it's a Dell. It's a pain, but it seems to avoid a lot of the common issues.

Dave B
April 6, 2008 9:34 PM

Leo - it sounds like you've made a wise decision. The hardware manufacturers have had a halting start to their Vista support which has made life frustrating for those who push their machines in the hardware arena. Given your desire to do video editing, I bet the XP drivers are more mature and stable.

Although I run Vista on my home-built boxes (at home), I'm not doing anything that would begin to push the OS and its drivers very hard. Mostly I'm doing simple stuff, with an occasional MP3 rip or low-brow video game, but nothing that should cause my hardware to sweat. Hopefully the Vista support should become satisfactory for most users in the next few months.

Jim Baldwin
April 7, 2008 6:28 AM

XP is a wise choice. Too many people have complained about basic problems with their pre-installed Vista. Too bad the work around is to re-install Vista over the top of the pre-installed version before using the machine. I recommend XP while it is still available pending the 2009 release of Windows 7. Let's hope 7 will resolve the Vista issues much like the transition from Windows ME to XP did. If you have to have Vista, purchase the cheaper SP1 upgrade. SP1 will install the full Vista version on a clean drive complete with all the bug fixes without having to prove prior Windows OS ownership.

Mary
April 7, 2008 9:29 AM

I work at a hospital that has more than 75,000 desktops and laptops in use. Most run 24/7 and they all use XP Pro. Our IT department has been experimenting with Vista for several months and they've decided to keep XP Pro for as long as they can. It's my understanding that Vista will not work with many of the hospital software programs needed in operating rooms, reading x-rays, etc. A quick check of other hospitals and private doctors' offices in the immediate area showed they aren't switching any time, either. Guess that says something about the Vista / XP controversy.

David
April 9, 2008 8:12 AM

Thanks for the great website; I've learned a lot by browsing through it.
I upgraded a Vista-capable Gateway from XP to Vista - after taking the time to upgrade the BIOS and being sure that I had all the Vista drivers for my hardware and Vista versions of my software. The upgrade was easy and my machine is faster and smoother than before. Yes, it takes a *little* longer to boot - but not nearly as long as some of the horror stories I've read.
While an upgrade may be riskier than buying a new machine with Vista alread installed, it can be accomplished nicely on a machine with the proper hardware, as long as one is smart and does the research beforehand.
While I respect the quality and stability of WinXP, I shall never go back.

ross
April 10, 2008 10:15 PM

My laptop has xp home, but I too will be purchasing a new desktop for my young kids.I do a lot of text docs, letters, excel charts, and intend to use the new desktop as well. Should I get the desktop with vista or xp?

Carl R. Goodwin
April 11, 2008 7:20 PM

I must be the ONLY person in the World that likes Vista! Maybe it is because I own REAL peripherals (Canon printer, W/D Hard drives, etc.), on a REAL computer (H/P desktop & Dell laptop). I've never had problems. Maybe part of the problem is all these cheap knock-offs that people buy to try to save a buck, and why should Microsoft even BOTHER to make compatible drivers for them?

Russ Horton
April 11, 2008 9:16 PM

Leo, for me, despite the initial problems, XP is the best Windows I have ever seen. Generally, it runs more applications faster with less problems.
I hated moving from DOS to Windows because the big "W" was so SLOOOOOW, but eventually went to 3.0 (horrible); 3.1 (worse) 3.11 (Great!) Let's run with that one...
but, noooo, here comes 95. I beta tested it until release date then reverted to 3.11 until the application world made me upgrade.
OK, so we'll fix 95 with 98.... ARRRGGGHHHH, revert back to 95.... then 98SE comes! YEAH! Let's stay with this one. (short trip in between for NT; 2000; and VERY short to ME), then back to 98SE (with 2000 for networking).
When XP came out, I watched it for a couple years and then grabbed it and have been happier with every rev.
My PET PEEVE is probably what new users love; all the gooey gui. My XP looks as close to 98 as possible. All that mush just makes it harder to navigate. I would love for all new releases to have a "Look Like" button... Select "95," "98," "2000," "ME [not!].. but hey, I'm easy.
- Thanks for all the GREAT work and patience* you expend on your following!
{*the guy with the REAL peripherals :-)}

Ravi Agrawal
April 11, 2008 9:33 PM

I totally agree with Leo. Vista preloaded is the best but if one opts to buy an OS separately to install on an assembled machine or on older machine XP would be better. I believe that Vista preloaded should not have major driver issues because the manufacturer would have got them thoroughly tested before shipping the machine to you.

I have worked with two Vista Laptops of HP and Toshiba without any major issues. But if you want to go for a downgrade to XP, I think being with XP would be better because the manufacturers are reluctant to provide XP drivers for Vista shipped machines.

Yes, I had any issue while installing XP (using Dual boot on a separate partition) on a vista installed machine because basic XP drivers were unable to identify the Hard Disk which used some advanced reading techinque (which should have been first been disabled in the Bios). Moreover to take advantage of the newer hardware, you should be able to provide XP with 3rd party Drivers during install.

Ravi.

Paul Mierop
April 11, 2008 9:34 PM

Leo I agree but probably for other reasons than those you listed. I like Windows XP and I also beta tested that program when it was part of the long wait for its release. And it was really the program I became to like. To me it is easy. I also prefer to use keyboard short cuts. I found Vista an economic waste for a lazy person like me. It takes to many keystrokes to get something very simple done. It is the same thing as with Microsoft office 2007 versus M.O. 2003. I even uninstaled MO 2007 Word and reinstalled Word 2003. And are thinking about doing the same thing with Excel. I think that Microsoft tried to make everything simple and achieved the opposite.

Joop
April 12, 2008 7:07 AM

Very informative viewpoints from readers. Have had only 1 desktop since coming on board and will apply the info to new machine which will be bought soon. (With XP!) Thanx for opportunity to get info on line Leo! Goete Grus! Joop

Gil
April 12, 2008 7:25 AM

Leo, if you had ordered the new computer with Vista, could you have downgraded it to XP, leaving you with the option of putting Vista back on it later when it meets your needs? Or does downgrading Vista to XP prohibit the future reinstallation of Vista per the EULA? Just curious. Thanks.

Leo A. Notenboom
April 12, 2008 9:05 AM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

I would have had to have purchased both versions, and I
would have lost any manufacturer support on the operating
system I'd purchased if the first thing I did was overwrite
it with another. (They install it, they support it. You
install it? You're on your own. In the long run that kinda
makes sense. :-).

Aside from those issues, though, yes, I could have ordered
it with Vista and then reverted it to XP and re-reverted
(unreverted? preverted?) back to Vista at some point in the
future. Having purchased two copies, I'd have two
independant licenses.

Leo


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Rich
April 12, 2008 11:49 AM

Leo- I LOVE your newsletter thank you.

I have heard nothing but horror stories about Vista. Many from people with "real" machines and not just knock-offs. I have XP running on my office machines and the devil you know is definitely better than the devil you don't. Not everyone has hrs and hrs to get their PC's to work. Microsoft likes to change things for the sake of change (see moving the Home Button on IE 7). It really makes people think about Mac.

I also heard Microsoft Windows 7 might be released in 2009, which is supposed to be 'smoother' and easier than Vista. So will Vista be another Windows ME?
I am planning to get another desktop before June and get it with XP. It runs, I do not have to relearn how to use it and everything I have is compatible with it (Printers, peripherals etc). I will keep XP as long as I can and just pray Windows 7 is better.

H. Clark
April 12, 2008 5:12 PM

Leo, agree with you 150%. Would absolutely hate having to lose my Windows XP. Been through several different types: XP has them beat, hands down.

Steve
April 13, 2008 3:37 AM

XP RULES! It's the only way to go. vista is doomed to failure, and an early grave.

Dave Markley
April 13, 2008 5:00 AM

I learned on Windows 2000 Pro so stepping up to XP wasn't much of a change. I love XP's simplicity and features. Most of my friends' newer PC's of course came with Vista and none are overly thrilled with it, but thought they 'must' have it for various reasons. I just built myself a desktop and used XP. One big reason is many of my software programs aren't compatible with Vista. I realize eventually I, too, will have to switch - especially since I'm now learning software and game design, but my main home computer will probably always be an XP machine. I think a friend of mine said it best that "if you learned on Windows 2000 or XP you probably won't like it, if you learn on Vista you won't have as much of a problem with it."

Jim Moss
April 15, 2008 8:27 AM

I bought an HP laptop (dv9220us) pre-loaded with Vista. It took 9 months for my HP printer to print. In fact none of my externals worked for at least 8 months. Now MS Zune software will not start and MS cannot figure out why. I have a $200 brick on my desk that I cannot change the music on.

Peter M
April 15, 2008 4:04 PM

Hi Leo

I have been running Vista without problems, including running XP on it as a virtual PC. This way I have XP if I need it for any legacy applications that I am not happy running under Vista.

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