Upgrade to Vista?
I'm confused about upgrading to Windows Vista. There are so many options, prices, and new features. Which ones are really important, and is Vista ready for prime time?
Vista Pros and Cons
With Vista, as with any new technology, there are some things to consider prior to upgrading. It's imperative to weigh the benefits versus the risks. Familiarity does breeds comfortability, and with any major software upgrade, there's a learning curve. Depending upon your adaptability, time and budget, it may or may not be time to upgrade to Vista.
Installing Vista will set you back anywhere from $100 to $400, depending on the version you need. With Windows XP, there were only two flavors (Home and Pro Edition) but Vista offers four: Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate. Here's a quick rundown on pricing and features.
- Vista Home Basic ($199 Full / $99 Upgrade) sports a new desktop search feature, anti-phishing protection, parental controls, and support for 64-bit processors.
- Vista Home Premium ($239 Full / $159 Upgrade) includes Windows Media Center, extra security features, the Aero graphical interface, and automatic file backup.
- Vista Business ($299 Full / $199 Upgrade) provides features for mobile productivity, helps you manage how employees connect to your network, and has advanced system backup tools.
- Vista Ultimate ($399 Full / $259 Upgrade) offers special features like DreamScene (full-motion video as your desktop wallpaper), Windows Hold'em Poker game, Windows BitLocker security and support for tablet and touch devices.
The reality seems to be that Vista Basic is the poor cousin, lacking in support for music, video and gaming tasks, and no spiffy Aero desktop. Since the Basic version looks like a step down from what people are used to in Windows XP, most will do best to choose the Vista Home Premium version, unless you expect to confine yourself to basic email and web browsing.
Vista's Hardware Requirements
In addition to the initial impact on your wallet, there are some possibly daunting hardware requirements that may require memory upgrades or completely new machines. You'll need a processor (CPU) with a minimum speed of 1GHz, 1GB RAM and a DirectX9 compatible video card to support the Aero interface, which keeps a transparent image of other windows in the background. If you don't have a DirectX 9 capable card, you can still run Vista, but it may not fully support the bells and whistles of the Aero interface.
Due to memory (RAM) requirements of at least 1GB, Vista's Ready Boost (USB drive as memory) is a helpful crutch for many systems that have limited RAM. There are some things that offset the cost of the Vista software and hardware requirements. Vista is a money saver in the sense that it has built-in diagnostics and centrally managed power settings which can save you $50 a year. Also, the startup repair tool can automatically repair many cases of unbootable systems which could avoid sending out your PC for repair and data recovery.
Vista's New FeaturesTo its credit, Vista does offer a lot of time savers and conveniences. One new nicety is shadow copy technology, which automatically stores versions of files as users work on them without manually backing them up. The integrated desktop search and sidebar web pages that automatically update are also user-friendly. One worthwhile time-saver is the ability to store your desktop search results in a folder accessible for recall at a later time. Another plus is common controls such as battery, brightness and presentation settings stationed in one centralized place. Windows meeting space enables users to broadcast and share documents with multiple users. Vista's new imaging technology allows companies to deploy a single OS image to different types of computer hardware and machines in different languages which is a huge money saver.
Vista's new and improved appearance is the new transparent view called the Aero interface mentioned earlier. It's glass-like window feel allows you to multi-task working on the current window while viewing other applications in the background. You can also quickly switch between windows using Windows Flip 3D and Live Thumbnails. (See demos of the interface.)
Although this is a great feature with a fresh appearance, it requires more horsepower, and will drain a laptop battery quicker. Aero Glass also affects your video card, hence slowing down game performance. Microsoft reported current games running 10-15% slower on Vista than XP, but newer DirectX 10 games can perform better than the same game running in DirectX 9 on XP. Since the Aero Glass interface requires a DirectX9 capable graphics card, a lot of older desktops and laptops won't be able to use Aero Glass even if they meet the other requirements.
Vista Internet and Security Improvements
Within the physical arena, Internet Explorer version 7 organizes web page content via tabbed browsing and eliminates cutting off information when printing. IE7 also has many new security features to block malicious software and protect you from phishing attacks.
Vista also offers BitLocker Drive Encryption, making the computer unusable to anyone not in possession of the startup key. Moreover, there's built-in support for strong user authentication, user account control capability and new Group Policy Objects which enforce standards on desktops.
Are We Compatible?
Like any new "Version 1.0" product, Vista has a lot to offer, but there are some potential glitches. There are reports of compatibility problems with software such as Nero, iTunes and QuickBooks. Before you install Vista, you should run Microsoft's free Vista Upgrade Advisor, which reports any hardware or software that may be incompatible with Vista. You might also want to read this entry from Chris Pirillo's blog.
And unlike earlier versions of Windows, you won't be able to use a Windows XP/2000 disk as proof of ownership to install an upgrade version of Vista, since Vista requires that Windows XP or Windows 2000 be already installed on the hard drive. However, you can get around that requirement by using the Vista Upgrade disk to first install a 30-day trial version of Vista. (The trick is NOT entering the Vista product key when prompted during the installation.) After installing the trial version of Vista, restart the installation process, but this time enter the product key.
Astute readers may be wondering if this means that they can use the UPGRADE version (which costs about $100) to install a FULL copy of Vista (which goes for about $200) on ANY machine, without having to prove ownership of XP… Hmmm… ;-)
Got comments or questions about Windows Vista? Post your thoughts below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 1 Feb 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Upgrade to Vista? (Posted: 1 Feb 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved