Fast Forward: Being smart about Vista

Nathan Edwards

How can you turn a big, fast computer into a small, slow computer? Upgrade Windows!

Unfortunately, there’s always a dark side to upgrading. Code bloat in each new version of Windows erodes our precious RAM and hard-disk space. I still have my Windows 1.0 install disks: two 5.25-inch floppies. Each disk holds 360KB, so the whole installer is less than one megabyte. Nowadays, one megabyte isn’t enough for the splash screen.

But never mind that I’m a pack rat. My point is to assure you that it’s OK not to upgrade to Windows Vista—not immediately, at least. Although long-term resistance to Vista is futile, there are good reasons to wait a while. Your status as a power user need not be threatened. Real power users aren’t reckless lemmings. Only insecure users succumb to peer pressure and marketing hype by robotically upgrading their systems with the latest of everything. Real power users know when to upgrade.

Corporations know, too. They usually wait at least a year after a new version of Windows is released before updating, by which time Microsoft has released Service Hack 1. That’s the collection of patches that fixes the worst bugs, security holes, and shortcomings. Plus, delaying adoption gives the IT folks enough time to test the new OS with all their apps and upgrade the creakiest PCs in the company.

My day job is at a 38,000-employee international corporation that only last year began broadly upgrading from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. No joke. When I sent my company-loaner laptop to the IT department for repair, it came back with XP Pro—but still with only 128MB of RAM. Now it takes 10 minutes to boot, and it runs like a drunken slug.

Maybe you crave Vista for its allegedly tighter security, airhead user interface, or DirectSeX-10 graphics. Whatever. That’s fine for your primary power machine. But most people these days have one or more older machines, too. Maybe your previous PC is now a media server, backup system, or hand-me-down to someone. You have my permission to keep running XP, Windows 2000, or even (in extreme cases) Windows 98. I promise that Maximum PC won’t cancel your subscription.

Tom Halfhill  was formerly a senior editor for Byte magazine and is now an analyst for Microprocessor Report

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