The majority of Vista PCs being sold right now aren’t powerful enough to run Vista

June 21, 2007

Vista busy cursor Just imagine what might happen if the majority of Vista PCs now being sold were not up to the job of running Vista. If users were experiencing unacceptably slow performance, although the published minimum specifications were met. And we’re not just talking about gaming; this is using email, common applications such as iTunes and even emptying the recycle bin. In that situation you might expect there’d be a lot of dissatisfied customers right now, and the ranks of the disgruntled would be growing daily as Vista PCs continue to be sold in large numbers.

Well, this is exactly what is happening at the moment. Maybe it has yet to hit the collective consciousness in a meaningful way, but it will and when it does there is going to be an almighty backlash.

My bold assertion is based on the observation that the most common version of Vista, Home Premium, does not run satisfactorily on a PC with less than 2Gb of RAM whereas a clear majority of Vista Home Premium PCs sold today have only 1Gb of RAM.

There is supporting evidence for all of this, and corroboration from actual users.

Vista laptop

Let’s look at the evidence then consider the consequences.

Vista Home Premium needs a good 2Gb of RAM to deliver an acceptable user experience

The point was first made to me by John Thomson of Roundtrip Solutions in a comment to this post – viz Vista runs like a dog with only 1GB. Get yourself at least another 1GB and it will run much better” – but there is no shortage of evidence on the Internet. From a quick Google, here is a fairly random selection of quotes and associated links:

Tech.Blorge: A simple and easy rule of thumb for the amount of memory your computer should have installed is to take the minimum memory requirement for Vista, in this case 512Mb of RAM, then double it… and then double it again. This takes you to 2Gb of memory. LINK

Boston.com: Unfortunately, while vista may be more stable, other outside factors cause it to crash. For example, Vista took up over 490MB of my RAM, even with no programs running!! To get premium performance, especially with Aero, you are going to need at least 2GB of RAM. LINK

Computerworld: Microsoft’s on-the-box minimum RAM requirement “really isn’t realistic,” according to David Short, an IBM consultant who works in its company’s Global Services Divison (sic). He says users should consider 4GB of RAM if they really want optimum Vista performance. With 512MB of RAM, Vista will deliver performance that’s “sub-XP,” he warned. LINK

Gotfrag hardware: You do need a better system for equal performance with Vista. With XP 1GB might be fine but if you’re on Vista you’ll want at least 2GB of RAM. LINK

The subject was also addressed in Vista’s Voracity for RAM.

Opinions do differ to some extent, but there is quite a strong consensus that Vista needs at least twice as much RAM as XP for the same level of performance and, in general, with Aero Glass you really need 2Gb if you don’t want Vista to be annoyingly slow for far too much of the time.

The “standard” Vista Home Premium PC sold has only 1Gb of RAM

Let’s start with Exhibit A, the Dell Computers website (home and home office desktops).

Along with HP, Dell is a leading vendor of domestic PCs worldwide. Dell offers two ranges of desktops to home and home office users – the lower budget Dimension range and the higher spec XPS range. [Update: July 6 2007 – since this post was first published Dell have ditched their Dimension range and revamped their offerings – DMW]

Don’t take my word for it. Just browse the packages on offer and look at the number of packages on offer combining Vista Home Premium with just 1Gb of RAM. There are some 2Gb offerings, but relatively few and at price points which will be unattractive to everyday users wanting a general purpose home PC. Even looking at the “performance” XPS range, starting at $899, 2 of the 3 bundles displayed have Vista Home Premium in a 1Gb PC.

Given that it would probably not occur to most PC purchasers to worry about whether 1Gb was enough for Vista, and given that people can only afford to spend so much on a PC, what are the chances that the vast majority of Dell Vista Home Premium sold will come kitted out with 1Gb of RAM? What is there on that website to indicate that 1Gb might not be enough?

The irony here is that Dell CEO Kevin Rollins himself said “I think they tell you maybe one gig of memory is OK. No. Two gigs of memory would be great” when speaking about Vista in Shanghai last year.

As for Exhibit B, the HP website, the picture is very similar. They also offer Vista Home Premium PCs from 1Gb RAM although they tend to leave it up to you to customise rather than present definitive packages. Their recommended system does have 2Gb but they do rather imply that 1Gb is fine for general use, recommending 2Gb for “graphics and multimedia intensive tasks”.

Less clear cut, but still there is a reasonable expectation that many or most users wanting general purpose home PCs will buy 1Gb models to save money having no inkling that they really need 2Gb, as the website leads them to think only gamers or people who do a lot of video encoding will need more.

Anecdotal Corroboration

My recent post “How real people are getting on with Vista” talked about how this website is acting as a honeypot for users suffering performance problems with Vista. This is because “Hasta la vista, Vista!” is quite likely to come up in searches by people looking for solutions to the same issues as I’ve experienced with my own 1Gb Vista PC and blogged about here.

All this shows is that there are many users having the same issues as I’ve had, but that says something in itself. It is a form of corroboration in the absence of a scientific survey.

For the record, here is a selection of Vista gripes taken from searches over the last couple of days:

  • vista disk thrashing june 2007
  • nero 7 slow start vista
  • windows vista works itunes slow
  • windows vista blocking adobe programs
  • taking windows defender off of start up
  • Vista superfetch sucks ram not enough
  • vista startup not yet classified
  • vista superfetch freeze problem
  • vista recycling slow
  • why does windows vista freezes
  • vista adobe update blocked
  • adobe update causes vista to freeze
  • vista itunes freezing
  • nero 7 slow vista
  • vista freezing on sleep
  • vista itunes freeze during sync
  • startup programs not yet classified vist
  • itunes runs slow on vista
  • netsh interface tcp set global autotunin
  • itunes running slow vista
  • firefox +vista +freeze
  • vista freezing itunes
  • Nero 6+Windows Vista
  • itunes slow vista
  • itunes slow in vista
  • vista itunes you do not have enough acce
  • superfetch Vista Disable
  • nero 7 vista update blocked by windows d
  • itunes sync freeze vista
  • itunes vista freeze
  • itunes vista slow problem
  • vista itunes memory
  • vista itunes slow
  • adobe update manager blocked vista
  • itunes freeze vista
  • itunes renames podcast files
  • nero vista freezes
  • what’s so great about VISTA?
  • itunes vista slow
  • why does Itunes run so slowly
  • vista run blocked program every time
  • where does vista file startup programs
  • vista defender is blocking adobe update
  • firefox vista freeze
  • run firefox withour user account control
  • install nero 6 on vista
  • disabling superfetch
  • does nero 6 work in vista
  • nero will not install on vista
  • windows vista nero won’t install
  • windows vista runs slow

Where will this all lead?

This is the crunch, will it make any difference to Microsoft if there is indeed an ever growing contingent of non-Wowed Vista users?

I think the answer is “yes”. Microsoft have had a stranglehold on the OS market for years, but people are starting to wake up to the fact there are alternatives. There has been a devout band of Mac afficionados for a long time and although the Mac market share is only around 5% at the moment it will rise as, increasingly, being a Mac user is seen as fashionable. The much talked about “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” adverts play a part but Apple won’t need to advertise if word gets around that most Vista buyers are gnashing their teeth in frustration, staring at rotating blue bagels. Also the Linux contingent are starting to get their act together and moving away from the home hobbyist market. There are now “hands free install” Linux offerings that the man in the street might seriously contemplate.

You could blame Dell, HP and the other PC vendors for not upping the specs to meet the demands from Vista, and there is something in that, but Vista is bloated and resource-hungry beyond the trend line in terms of hardware performance advances. And while more RAM helps, Vista is inherently a poor performer.

Microsoft have fouled up and bigtime. They needed a “Wow” new OS to compete with OS X on the Mac which was starting to pull away in terms of the user experience. Their answer was Vista (nee Longhorn) but the project was too big, too ambitious, badly mishandled and running very late. They had to get something out there for credibility’s sake. They could see it was over-bloated and poorly performing, so they threw some features out such as the long awaited successor to the NTFS disk filing system. Still, Vista was a pig but they had no choice but to get it as usable as they could, release it, indulge in a lot of hype and hope no-one would notice. Oh, and schedule an early replacement – the next version of Windows (codename Vienna) is due out only 2 years after Vista!

But I think people will notice. It is early days but history will look back on Vista as the start of the long inexorable dilution of market share and eventual loss of Microsoft’s vice-like grip on the home OS market. The damage has been done.

POST SCRIPTUM added 31/7/07: First concrete signs of the Vista backlash

POST SCRIPTUM added 28/9/2007: The Vista backlash gathers momentum

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  1. I am using Vista Home Premium and that has exasperted and irritated me as much as it can.
    It is the worst thing on which i have ever spent my hard earned money. I have grown sick of its green rotating circle. To start it, I switch it on and start doing some other work. After a minimum of 20 minutes it starts respondign gradually. Every now and then it gives message-The explorer has stopped working, The installer has stopped working, the this the that has stopped working. I am fed up with this VISTA. The crook that is microsoft corp. which should have provided a free update to Windows 7 for all those users who were cheated by this Crap called VISTA and spent their money to buy it, is demanding money for the update. Hell with your swindling policies.

  2. Microsoft should have taken XP’s mistake of being slow when it came out in to consideration. They have made the same mistake twice

  3. Nice article and thanks for the mention :-).

    Just as scary are the manufacturers punting out Vista Basic systems with 512MB! WTF. Not only are these poor idiot customers missing out on the nicest feature of Vista but they’re getting a system with barely enough memory to run Windows XP well, never mind all the extra resources required for running Vista.

    Recently, it has also been the same with Windows XP. When SP2 came out, the minimum memory required to run an average XP machine went from 256MB to 512MB, but many manufacturers were still shipping with 256MB. The bare minimum for XP is 512MB and it runs better with more memory.

    For the people who’ve successfully ran Vista on a “386 with 512kB of RAM” (okay I mock) then you’re the lucky ones. All I know is every machine I’ve seen, and as an IT support person I’ve seen quite a few, if it has less than 2GB and is running AERO then it sucks. I’ve even had machines that required a rebuild within weeks but once extra memory was added they ran Vista a treat and I’ve not seen them since.

    Maybe you guys aren’t running with all the protection and other bits and pieces that is so commonly required these days for a safe and rich Internet and user experience?

  4. the way i see it, i aint sayin this article is crap, but there basing it all on the ram, its not just about the ram, its about the graphics cards u have, the cpu’s and everything else

  5. i agree with fwh, i have had more problems with vista 64 on my quad core 4gb ram duel geforce 8800gtx sli system than i have with vista 32 which was previously 1gb of ram with a centrino 2ghz cpu and a geforce go 7800gtx 256mb but now has 2gb of ram for games. even with 1 gig of ram i was playin halo 2 on 1680×1050 res with most of the settings on high and supreme commander on same res with settings on medium and it was running fine, some slow down, but i also had that with xp on the same game, same settings, on my quad core had no end of problems getting vista 64 to install, had bsods, but now its all stable too 😀

  6. Cheers FWH. Some people do appear to be perfectly happy with Vista. Maybe it just happens to run really well on your system. There isn’t always any obvious rhyme nor reason to it. There are an awful lot of people who really do have problems with Vista. Maybe I can’t claim that everyone has a rotten experience with Vista, but neither is it reasonable to call this article c**p just because it happens to work fine for you.

  7. That’s a bunch of crap. I run Vista just fine with my 3 year old system with only 1 GB RAM. Have since mid-February. Never had a freeze, crash, and don’t even know if it even has a BSOD.

  8. My impression is that the current Vista experience is worse than the corresponding teething problems with XP. The fact that existing proprietary software does not work well is just a rerun of past OS launches and not a surprise. Where Vista may be different from corresponding phase of XP launch is the resource-hunger/bloat factor is I think worse and the annoying behaviours: pop-up dialogs, freezes, disk-thrashing etc.

  9. People…stop complaining about programs being buggy…That’s the software manufacturer’s fault…And when XP first came out…people like you kept complaining about how pretty it was (ram usage) and etc…

  10. I’ve reverted to XP Pro for everyday use and iTunes is OK on that, particularly on the higher spec machine I’d bought (which was supposed to have been good enough for Vista).

    I’m not a huge fan of iTunes as playback software but I don’t use it for that – mainly to fetch my podcasts and transfer them to my iPod.

  11. You can buy a Chevy Aveo and use it to tow something, but it’ll suck. Same idea with a Vista machine with 1 gig.

    Had to chuckle at the number of people having trouble with iTunes. iTunes sucks on Macs, PC’s and any other platform.

    Solution? Go with Winamp. 🙂

  12. Thanks, Jay

  13. Very eloquently put.

  14. […]  In that situation you might expect there’d be a lot of dissatisfied customers right now, and the ranks of the disgruntled would be growing daily as Vista PCs continue to be sold in large numbers. Well, this exactly what is happening at the moment. Read more. […]

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