When I first knew I was getting a laptop for the freshman year of college, I was told the specifications, many of which I liked. Reading through I saw a decent graphics card, huge hard drive, a nice screen…And Vista. Up to this point, I had never used Vista in any environment, let alone used the Operating System for my main computer. As many people would imagine, I was a bit skeptic about making the move over from my trusted Windows 2000 Professional desktop (I HAVE heard of XP, I just didn’t have it on my computer) to a new computer with an operating system I have never used.
My own thoughts regarding Vista hadn’t been overwhelmingly high, after hearing tons of stories where many problems had presented themselves to people with slightly-old hardware and software. I didn’t want to be stranded with a bum computer over 130 miles away from anything I was familiar with, so I asked my parents to see if they could get the laptop during the summer so I could experiment around to make sure everything would work properly. Well, schedules never worked out, so I received my Lenovo notebook loaded with Vista Business on the first day I moved in to the dorm.
Through experimenting with all of my favorite programs, much to my amazement, I found nothing that had any problems running in Vista. None of my hardware (none really old, but nonetheless none were designed compatible with Vista) had any troubles with Plug-and-Play, and everything was working wonderfully. In fact, to this day I haven’t had any problems that can directly be linked to the operating system!
I have heard time and time again from tech professionals that one way to determine if you truly like something is to try to go back to its predecessor (for anyone that doesn’t know, Windows XP is the predecessor to Vista, having been around since October of 2001). On my first visit back home, I found myself clicking the start button and causing random programs to start. No, this isn’t a bug, I was just so used to the quick search that it had become routine for me to utilize it. Much the same with the interface, from the somewhat underrated Aero, to the new layouts of nearly every menu, I truly missed Vista.
Now, as I have said, I was not around when Vista first came out and I didn’t try upgrading my computer either. Everything I’ll say about the actual speed and ease I’ve had with certain things must be taken with a grain of salt. I am running a 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 3 GB of RAM, and a 256 nVidia graphics card (my Vista Score, commonly known as the Windows Experience Index, is a 4.8/5.9, limited by my RAM). By no means is my laptop some cheap off-brand that was designed for the minimum requirements of Vista Basic. This being said, I can and do run Vista with all of its eye candy on with no problems or system lag. After all, why use Vista if you want to run in minimum graphics, more befitting Windows 95?
One of the other improvements over Windows XP is the ability to use Directx 10. Directx is used in many high quality games such as Halo, Crysis, Call of Duty 4, and Grand Theft Auto (all using their PC counterparts, of course), so it would come to reason that the newer your Directx version is, the better games you can play. This is true in many cases, but not all. There are several workarounds that allow users with DX9 to play certain DX10 games, the most talked about being Crysis. I’m not going to have a huge discussion of exact performance gains (or in some case losses) that people claim to have with one versus the other, but both work wonderfully with what they are supposed to do even with the “heavy burden of Aero” in the background.
Everyone who has heard of Vista has heard about one, if not both of the following features (and usually not in a good way, mind you). One, being User Account Control (UAC), and the other being the four version choices.
Though many people dislike the added hassle of having to authorize many of the somewhat trivial things they do each day (running system management tools like Disk Cleanup, or updating certain software definitions), UAC does do its job. Due to having to authorize many system functions, the user is kept a bit safer from the potentially malicious programming that is designed specifically for Windows operating systems. Sure, it can be annoying, but I can honestly say I have not gotten infected with any Spyware, Adware, or Virus since getting Vista. I haven’t exactly been trying to get them, and I didn’t get many previously, but it’s nice to know I’ve got another layer of back up defenses. For those who wish to not utilize UAC, it is easily turned off via the User Accounts menu.
With four commercial versions of Vista, one has many different options when they wish to get a new computer. In fact, they may have too many options. With prices ranging from 200-$320 USD, Microsoft seems to have something for every price range. However, before you rush out to spend $200 on the lowest priced version, take a look at what you are getting. With Vista Basic, you really only get Instant Search and a few graphical changes, as compared with XP. Moving up the line to Home Premium and Business nearly all features are unlocked, and finally Ultimate has everything unlocked, plus a few extras. If you don’t have Ultimate, you can upgrade from any version for a less than full price, supposing your computer can actually handle the upgrade.
My laptop came preloaded with Vista Business, and I haven’t found anything that I can’t do that I would be able to do in Ultimate. The few things that Business has that Home Premium are some backup features, and the Fax & Scan utility, while Home Premium has some of the Media Center and High Definition movie creation features that Ultimate has. Neither of these would be any use to me, so I can’t say I miss not having them. In general, unless your computer can handle Home Premium or higher, there will not be a worthwhile reason to upgrade from XP.
Now, I can’t say I’ve had a totally user friendly experience the entire time I’ve been on this computer. I also can’t say that I can blame everything, or anything for that matter, on the operating system, a program, or a specific cause in general. I encountered a bad driver for a program over the Christmas holidays that rendered me unable to logon without blue screening. Horrible, I know, but without too much time lost I was able to utilize the easy to use Shadow Copy that had been made sometime earlier that day to restore my computer to a very useable condition. Other problems that I had that I could not find the route of involved unknown problems with Java (yes, the very same program that must work in order to play RuneScape) which forced me to use a different than normal browser to access certain sites.
I have had several problems with my graphics display driver, which occasionally causes a failure while I am playing a game. This means my screen goes blank, and for a few seconds (20-30) I can do nothing. Never has this not corrected itself, meaning that I only lose a minute of gaming time every week or two.
Before I returned to campus, I set a goal to reinstall everything on my computer to attempt to correct any errors that had shown themselves, and undo anything stupid that the University tech department did when they preinstalled everything. To my pleasant surprise, the reinstall has been a breeze. Everything that has had problems in the past has not shown up (yet?), except for that occasional temporary failure of the graphics display driver.
The reinstall process was very easy for me, though I am not sure how a normal reinstall works. Because the university I attend has some deal with Lenovo, Lenovo sets up a separate partition on the hard drive that contains all of the Windows install files. This replaces the standard DVD that Vista is normally contained on, and also what makes it different, it is a near fully autonomous installation. This made the reinstall easy, and it essentially put my system back at the pre-university configuration, after which installing my normal programs is quite easy. Even the boot / startup time has gone back to times comparable with the day I received my laptop.
Overall, I’d recommend Vista to anyone who is looking to upgrade their current computer to a newer faster model. I haven’t had experience using Vista on a computer designed for XP, so I would recommend to stick with XP until you know you can run Vista well enough to enjoy Aero, otherwise you won’t have a pleasant experience. Time will tell if Vista will eventually take over XP’s market share, but I for one am glad I didn’t stick with XP.
Microsoft: Compare Editions of Windows Vista