A lot of people talk a lot about XP vs Vista. I’ve stayed mostly out of that debate, and I’m certainly not dim enough to tell you one or the other is correct. Every few years, Microsoft puts out a new version of their operating system.
Let’s review history a bit. When Windows 98 came out, most people upgraded from 95. Why? Because most people didn’t have Windows 95 OSR2.1 (OSR’s were the predecessor to service packs), so most didn’t have things like USB support in Windows 95. In short, Microsoft didn’t backport features to 95, pushing people to the otherwise-unchanged 98.
Then Microsoft released 98 SE, which was essentially a service pack to 98 (see how we went from OSR’s to Second Edition to Service Pack… Windows Mobile developers, start taking notes too). Everyone pretty much agreed, upgrading was a no-brainer, assuming you could (and most couldn’t without grabbing a new license). Enter Windows Millenium Edition. The upgrade was universally panned as buggy. Microsoft cut out parts of DOS for what appeared to be no good reason, which wound up causing application problems. The logic behind this was more straightforward however; ME was going to pave the way for future Win 9X releases which wouldn’t have DOS… and added in Windows 2000 elements to augment the platform.
Microsoft however at the time realized Win9X had no future, and scrapped it. Welcome to Windows XP (I’m getting there… just hang on). XP was the first consumer OS to receive Service Packs, industrial-grade support, and unified Microsoft on a single kernel (for PCs, anyways). All good stuff, but it has been around for five years, people have become attached.
But did everyone hop on the XP train at first? No. For almost four years, I remember the holdouts chanting “2000 is way better than XP, you’re an idiot for using XP!” Kool aid anyone? Sound familiar today?
The truth of the matter is, people will upgrade versions of Windows at their own time. Vista vs XP is not very different than XP vs 2000.
Okay, so you’re getting to the point of asking “But Chris, which version is right for me?” I can only tell you my experiences with XP and Vista (which include the upcoming service packs, Vista SP1 and XP SP3).
First off, there are some things that if you use Windows for… upgrading to Vista is a no-brainer. Windows Media Center and DirectX 10 are two components that stand out as being so extremely re-written… you shouldn’t hesitate. And, considering any Home Premium or Ultimate copy of Vista can be turned into a Media Center PC (with as little as a $50 USB TV Tuner), there are certainly features that make Vista attractive beyond the “faster and more reliable” statement.
Should you stay with XP? From my experience, only those with Pentium III or Athlon systems (or lower) should stick with XP. While Vista only requires an 800 MHz CPU, other bottlenecks start to come into play. Drivers start to be hard to come by, and it just doesn’t make sense considering you can’t take advantage of any of the new features in Vista (even ReadyBoost, a technology that would actually improve performance on older systems, cannot be run on them usually due to timing issues).
As to downgrading… if your system came with Vista, I wouldn’t advise it… unless you can convince the company that sold you your computer to make good on downgrading rights. See, Vista Ultimate and Business owners are supposed to have downgrade rights (and should get a copy of XP). Microsoft says to contact your PC maker, but only a few OEMs are actually willing to do the right paperwork right now. And, modern systems can handle the added Vista overhead, so I don’t really feel there’s a lot of benefit to doing it even if you can.
Almost all my systems run Vista. Granted, Microsoft gave me free copies, and if I hadn’t gotten them for next-to-nothing, I’d probably have more XP than Vista. However, the point of this article is… decide for yourself!
Best Buy is offering online this week Windows Vista Home Premium for $79.99 after a $50 gift card. With SP1 on the horizon later this month, it may be time for you to actually buck the cynical trend and say yes to Vista.