You’re sick of Windows XP. We are too, but Vista isn’t a panacea for your PC problems. We have some compelling arguments for waiting a few months before you upgrade.
Brace yourself. The largest Microsoft marketing campaign ever is gearing up to try to convince you the time is right to switch to Vista. But for most people, there’s no reason to rush out on January 30 to buy the fledgling operating system. Even though Vista is ready for people with relatively simple machine configurations, the more components your rig has, the more likely you are to encounter trouble.
Vista isn’t perfect right now, but it will improve with time. Hardware and software vendors will introduce better drivers and compatibility patches. New applications will be written with Vista in mind. After several months, you’ll be able to get new versions of crucial software, such as antivirus apps, as well as updates to your current products. In fact, you’d probably be better served by doubling up your upgrade and moving to new hardware and the new OS at the same time.
This probably won’t be a problem for most Maximum PC readers, but many folks who don’t play games will find their machines challenged by Vista’s system requirements. That Dell laptop Aunt Edna bought for $500 last year is going to struggle with this OS. While a simple RAM upgrade will probably get the machine running, it almost certainly won’t be sufficient to enable Vista’s bells and whistles. For once, Microsoft’s published minimum requirements for a new OS are reasonably accurate. The recommended system has a 1GHz or faster CPU with 1GB of RAM and a 128MB Pixel Shader 2.0–compliant graphics card, which is a fairly realistic minimum spec to get a decent experience with Vista. At Maximum PC, we aren’t going to bother installing Vista on anything slower than 2GHz; we’d rather have a fast XP install than a slow Vista machine. In short, if your machine isn’t up to snuff, take the next couple months to get it there before installing the new OS.
Even as we speak, there are literally dozens of applications that don’t work properly with Vista. And we’re not talking about garage-developed apps but high-profile programs such as iTunes, disc-burning apps, and pretty much anything that has to do with DVD ripping or viewing. And virtually any Java-based app that bundles the Java runtime automatically kicks the desktop back to Vista’s Basic mode, obviating the performance benefits you get from running Aero.
Vista is the most expensive consumer operating system we’ve ever seen. Let’s take a look at the pricing. Home Basic, which doesn’t include the fancy Aero Glass interface, costs a whopping $200 for a full version. Home Premium costs $40 more, and Ultimate costs an astounding $400. Why spend that much today on a less-polished product when you can wait a few months and have a much better experience for the same money? The good news is that Ultimate has a bunch of features that the majority of power users won’t need; the Premium version should include everything most people will require for home use—at least if you don’t run Group Policies on your home domain. Naturally, in Home Basic and Home Premium there are plenty of ads for Windows Anytime Upgrade, which will let you upgrade your “inferior” version of Windows to the obscenely overpriced (and unnecessary) Ultimate version.
We’ve already talked about the excision of 3D sound from the operating system, but there’s a larger problem. It turns out that many online games that use PunkBuster to limit cheating require Administrator access in order to work properly. The problem is that neither the game, PunkBuster, nor Vista actually tells you that. You just get kicked from the server every time you try to join a game. The solution is relatively simple: All you have to do is set the offending game to always run as an Administrator in its Properties window, but the entire process needs to be more user-friendly. Please get to work on this, Microsoft.