Windows Vista – Ready to Upgrade?

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Original Print Date – May/June 2007)

Windows Vista, Microsoft’s first new operating system in more than five years. Vista looks beautiful and has number of new features, but is it worth the upgrade?

When Vista was released to the public on January 30, 2007 I made a point of picking up a copy the first day. I must admit, I was excited to get my hands on the new OS after seeing some of the previews and screenshots of the new Aero interface.

For the non-techy, things could get a little confusing. Before even considering upgrading to Vista, you need to figure out if your current PC can run it effectively. You see, each new version of Windows typically requires a faster and more powerful PC to run it – and Vista is no exception. At minimum, Windows Vista requires a modern processor of at least 800MHz clock speed, 512MB RAM, and a DirectX 9 compatible graphics card. But these minimum specs won’t run Vista well.

In fact since running Vista in all its glory requires a pretty decent PC, Microsoft has made available, a free software download to test your system and tell you if upgrading your current PC to Vista is possible or even worthwhile.

Because I have a high-powered Dell laptop I ran the test, curious to see the results. Even though my Dell Inspiron XPS laptop was top of the line two years ago, I was interested to see how it would fair. According to the software, my PC was more than capable of running Vista without losing any functionality of graphical appeal. This mostly due to the 256MB nVidia graphics card on board.

I proceeded to install the upgrade over a recently installed fresh install of Windows XP – Media Centre version. After inserting the Vista DVD, the first thing that happened was a request to run the Windows Upgrade Advisor once again to identify any potential hardware or software issues. The test identified a few hardware drivers that may not function properly but for the most part there were no major problems listed. So after inputting the serial number which came inside the package, the install began.

The PC hummed as it chugged along, accessing the DVD and loading the installation. To my surprise it took at least 45 minutes before Vista was even ready to reboot for the first time. I waited patiently to see what Vista would look like upon reboot…but again I was unpleasantly surprised as more installation began to take place. I would have to wait at least another 10-15 minutes before seeing Vista in operation. All told, the upgrade took well over an hour, but finally I was able to see what new features and functionality Vista had in store.

My first impression upon loading – I was impressed with the new visual interface. Transparent windows, smooth animations and crisp graphics are the first thing you notice, along with other things like Windows Sidebar, and a new Start Menu.

There has been a lot of talk about how Vista resembles the Mac OS 10 with it’s visual appeal and affects. I won’t do a comparison here, but regardless I feel that the new Windows Aero interface is beautiful compared to Windows XP. The effects are possible through the newly designed graphics subsystem, and the introduction of DirectX10 which will allow for ultra-realistic games and program graphics in the future. Although a handful of games are under development to take advantage of DirectX10, users will also require a new graphics card such as the nVidia Geforce 8800 GTX which currently runs about $600 US!

Other advances include Windows Vista Instant Search which is fast and accurate. As you type in the file name, property or even text from within the file, it returns results before you even press enter. I found the search function performed very well.

Vista was built with security in mind. The OS functions in such a way that crucial parts of the code cannot be accessed by other programs such as malware and viruses. There are also a number of security features built in such as Windows Defender, firewall, and anti-phising software. Other security measures require the user to approve most changes to the system, such as when installing programs and approving any detected changes to the system files. It seems like overkill, but if it helps to keep the system from safe from online intruders and other dangers, then I might be able to live with it.

Windows Sidebar is kind of neat. The feature allows you to add gadgets to the side of your screen…cool things like a CPU and memory monitor, stock ticker, RSS news headlines, a clock or calendar and many more. They let you see information without opening a full program.

Most of the five versions of Vista have built in Media Center which helps you organize all of your digital entertainment including music, photos, movies and video clips. Users can utilize Media Center to play DVDs, record TV shows, or stream multimedia to your Xbox 360 if you have one. Although Microsoft has enhanced Media Center, it is essentially the same as the previous Windows Media Centre Edition.

I have now been using Vista for about two months and I have to say, there are a few things about it that really irritate me. The security measures I mentioned earlier, are a real pain to deal with. Vista asks for permission to do everything it seems, which really gets quite annoying, and I have found that several of my old programs do not work correctly with Vista, in fact a game I installed would not run because it was looking for a particular file that is not in this version of Windows. I have even had some trouble with programs that said they were Vista compatible.

All in all, I think that Vista is a nice step forward. The OS adds some neat features and some really great features, and does appear to be more stable and secure. However, there are significant compatibility issues that will take time to iron out.

My recommendation would be to pass on the upgrade of Vista and instead wait to get it with your next PC or laptop.

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