Honestly, Vista is fine nowadays … really it is!

October 23, 2008

Vista busy cursor The genesis of this blog was the plethora of troubles I had as a Vista early adopter. There was no wider agenda (I am no Apple fanboy), it was just a catalogue of genuinely unexpected problems from the perspective of a Windows user who had been hoping for great things from Vista.

I rapidly found myself in good company. No shortage of bloggers ready to put the boot into Microsoft’s new OS.

But that was then and this is now. As I have no axe to grind, and Vista is now perfectly fine and trouble free on a day to day basis, I may as well say so, never mind how this blog got started.

I put down the transformation in life with Vista to three things:

(a) beefing up the hardware a bit,

(b) the various Vista updates put out by Microsoft and

(c) what I call the personal learning curve.


The hardware changes were the adding of 4Gb of RAM, to the 1Gb that shipped with the PC, and the introduction of a dedicated graphics card to replace the onboard graphics chip. The latter was up to the job of running Aero Glass, although not gaming, but ate into the limited RAM that came with the computer. The key benefit of the proper graphics card was to free up the whole of the initial 1Gb, and the extra 4Gb made a big difference too. Vista needs RAM to work well, and my biggest gripe is with the Dells and HPs of this world who early on sold Vista PCs that were not really up to the job. They were branded as Vista ready, and technically they were, but not really powerful enough to cope satisfactorily with Vista’s RAM and graphics processing demands. Clearly, they were trying to maximise sales and profits, and coupling a new OS with the lowest possible price/spec would have seemed like the way to go.

Microsoft have suffered from the reaction to PCs which are barely up to the job of running Vista, the OS getting the blame, not the vendors for their avarice. Unlike Apple, Microsoft don’t directly control both software and hardware. But they could and should have seen this coming, and exercised better control over the branding of Vista machines sold by third party vendors.

Vista updates

The various Vista security and performance updates have made a big difference too. Many people still go on about Service Pack 1 as the turning point, but only because they had heard bad things about Vista, had already decided that the release of SP1 would make it all better and did not dip their toe in until then. Anyone who had been living with Vista on a day to day basis from the start would have seen a gradual improvement in behaviour from well before SP1, and the service pack itself would not have brought that much of a step change user experience.

My feeling is that there were still a lot of bugs in Vista, and poorly written components, when it was first released. The code that shipped was only up to the standard of a late Beta, but Microsoft were under pressure to ship because Vista was already running so late. This meant that a lot of code improvements that should ideally have been taken care of before final release were instead put out under the update system as fast as Microsoft could manage it, eventually getting the complete OS up to the standard everyone had hoped for on day one.

Some parts are still maybe not quite there. People talk about bloated kernels and the drawbacks of backwards compatibility, but I think that is quite wrong. I think the problems are in higher levels of the architecture, such as the WIN32 component. For example, I find it amazing that a third party application such as teracopy can do a far quicker and tidier job of copying files around the PC or between different drives than the native Windows copy function.

Learning Curve

Finally, we have the personal learning curve. This includes simple things like sticking with User Account Control until it no longer grates. The longer you have your Vista PC, the less new software you need to keep installing, and UAC intrusions become fewer and fewer. It just stops being that much of a nuisance.

The rest of it is finding alternatives for the software that ran under XP but doesn’t run under Vista. Software vendors behave like PC vendors – they see the launch of a new OS as an opportunity to boost sales. So they don’t offer fixes to make existing versions of their programs Vista compatible. They try to sell you new Vista compatible upgrade versions at added cost. Again, Microsoft get the flak but it is third parties who are to blame.  Over time users find alternatives.

Meantime, the public perception of Vista is badly tarnished … and Apple continue to trade on that in their successful Switch adverts, long after Vista ceased to be the pig it is portrayed as.

Microsoft have tried belatedly to repair the harm, with their Mojave stunt and their own new advertising campaign.  But it’s too late for Vista.  It will go down in technology history as a turkey, regardless.  Microsoft need to learn the lessons of the Vista debacle to be sure they don’t repeat them with Windows 7.  They are big and dominant enough to survive one poorly received OS, but two in a row would not be so clever.

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  1. hats off 2 u budddy, awesum article…vista atm is an awesome os, windows 7 will b a bit tighter and hopefully well integrated with the new live services ray ozzie’s offering…i’ll b keepin an eye on this blog, man, nice piece of work.

  2. I disagree with this article. Vista is bloatware designed by salesmen. The user interface is clunky. The engineering is wasteful and faulty. It is truly a turkey and I strongly suspect that Windows 7 is not going to be any better. Microsoft has lost Bill Gates and will likely never recover.

    • What does “bloatware” mean in this context? If you mean Vista has a large disk footprint to accommodate legacy compatibility code, then it’s true but so what? Large disks are cheap now and the legacy code causes no performance hit for sitting unused on the disk.

      Designed by salesmen? No more than anyone else’s product. If it were truly the salesman’s dream it would be easier to sell, no?

      Engineering faulty? Only to the extent described in my article.

      Windows 7 no better? Based on what evidence? There is much already to suggest Windows 7 will be successful.

      I started off this blog to document my (initially bad) experiences with Vista. I have faithfully documented both those early problems and the subsequent improvements.

      You on the other hand are an Apple fan-boy with no objectivity whatever.

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