Why should I stick with Vista?

This was originally posted on my business blog, but I thought it was worth asking around so I figured I'd re-blog it. The original post can be viewed here:


A couple of months ago I got a brand new laptop from HP, the Compaq 6715b, which came with Vista Business pre-installed. At the time they didn’t offer a Windows XP version. Usually I steer clear of new Windows operating systems until they’ve gotten a service pack or two out, giving them time to work out all the kinks of the new system with their huge beta testing public. However this time I needed a new laptop quickly and it was the best specification for the price that I could find, so I thought sure I’ll give it a whirl and see what it’s like.

Since then I have been using the system pretty intensively and have been slowly tweaking and adapting it to the way I work. I am at a point now where I am finding it difficult to justify continued use of Windows Vista. In my head the advantages and improvements are not outweighing the problems I am finding.

I made sure to get a decent enough machine, figuring that Vista would require a bit more power to get it running well. In that regard I felt the HP6715b was well kitted out and for your information I’ve reproduced the more crucial elements below.

  • AMD Turion X2 TL-60 – Dual Core @ 2.00GHz
  • 2Gb DDR2 RAM @ 667MHz
  • ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 (using shared memory)
  • 160Gb Hard Drive
  • 4 Gb Kingston Migo Data Traveller 2 Plus (used for ReadyBoost on occassion)

Using Microsoft’s new “Windows Experience Index” the laptop scores a “Base Score” of 3.0, which is low due to the graphics card not being a dedicated one. The processor scores 4.8, RAM scores 5.9, and the primary hard disk scores 4.9.

What’s good about Vista?

  1. Driver installation can be instantaneous:
    For example I plugged in a Canon S900 printer and it installed the drivers with no need for me to go looking for driver files.
  2. Snipping Tool:
    This is a useful little addition. However this functionality could be replaced by a third party application.
  3. Integrated Search
    I admit I do use the application search function in the start menu to launch a good few application. However I use Google Desktop for this on XP when I am not using HotKeyBind to launch applications.
  4. Improved Task Manager and addition of Resource Monitor.
  5. Improved Battery, Network and Sound implementation in the task bar – albeit a little unresponsive.

Is that it? Is that all I can think of? Surely this is too short a list for something 5 years in the making? However, for the time being these are the only things that I can remember having liked and noticed during my daily use of the laptop.

The GUI looks nicer granted, however I have long had different styles applied to Windows XP which has completely satisfied me visually. The Aero effects that have received the most air-time are the new Flip task switching and the window transparency, neither of which I use out of personal preference.

Windows Sidebar? I prefer Google Desktop.

What’s bad about Windows Vista?

  1. Explorer forgets my view settings:
    This is incredibly frustrating. I generally use the details view, but constantly find myself opening a folder I have recently visited to be presented with large icons grouped in some way I never requested. This is something noted by Chris Pirillo when he presented his reasons for leaving Vista.
  2. Sluggishness:
    This is one of the main issues I’m having with this operating system. I can’t shake the feeling that everything is running slower than it should be. As stated above, the specifications of this machine are fairly decent, and I can’t shake the sensation that everything from start up to application launching and application switching is taking longer than it should.
  3. Instablities:
    Firefox is much less stable than it was on XP, and granted this is not Microsoft’s fault, it does affect my computer usage immensely. Conversely, I have used IE7 a reasonable amount and have found it to be unstable and liable to crashing.
  4. User Authentication Control:
    In all my years of using Windows operating systems I have never been hacked or infected by a virus or spyware. I am very much aware of what I am doing and though I know I can turn off UAC, it seems kind of wrong to do so.So many things require UAC interaction. From changing a folder name in the start menu’s “all users” group, to Last FM trying t
    o access my media player when I start it up, to every single network configuration change that I make (which I frequently do), to my needing to install Xampp outside of the program files folder and messing up my saved locations in my FTP programme due to UAC getting in the way of running Apache.

    Overall UAC really is just annoying.

  5. Strange Glitches:
    There are quite a few of these little idiosyncrasies that are combining to become quite frustrating. I can’t think of all of them at the moment, but they include:
    • Alt-Tab inconsistent! This is such a basic thing and it’s glitchy. Sometimes it will only allow me to move to the next window, point blank refusing to cycle through all open applications. Sometimes it seems to switch to a window but act as though I had just pressed the Alt key in that window, moving the focus to the menu bar.
    • Dropping characters. When I switch to a new window it seems to frequently ignore the first letter I type on the keyboard. This is incredibly frustrating on instant messaging programs.
  6. Window Multiplicity:
    When I first started up my laptop I was amazed by the sheer number of explorer window instances that seemed to be required. I tackled this by installing the incredibly useful QT Tab Bar, which groups all those explorer instances into tabs in one explorer window.
  7. Networking:
    Getting to grips with the networking in Vista feels like a much more confusing system than XP (which in turn was in my mind much more complex than Windows 2000 – which just worked!). It all seems to be working now, but I can’t shake the feeling that I may have opened things up more than necessary just to make it easy to share files across our home network.
  8. Sleep Mode:
    To be fair, in general I like this new feature as it feels a lot more useful and snappier than XP’s standby mode. However, there have been one too many occasions where it has failed to return from Sleep mode and ultimately I’ve had to force the system to start from scratch, losing my session.This defeats the purpose of Sleep for me – whenever I am about to place the system in sleep mode I am inclined to save all files and make sure I am in no danger of losing anything.
  9. Favourite Links:
    This is a minor gripe about a nice idea that fails due to lack of proper planning. The explorer side bar now features the option to have multiple locations saved for quick access. Nice idea, though not a new one.This feature works ok, you can drag folders into it, you can reorder them (although you can’t group them). However, when you go to a save dialogue the Favourite Links are re-ordered in some arbitrary system I don’t understand. So my familiarity and recognition go out the window and I’m lost trying to find the folder I need.

Windows XP or Windows Vista

Ultimately I’m finding it hard to justify keeping Vista. I’m not finding that there are any features that are actually improving my computing experience. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this either. Joel Spolsky, a well-known software developer, has echoed my sentiments on this:

I’ve been using Vista on my home laptop since it shipped, and can say with some conviction that nobody should be using it as their primary operating system — it simply has no redeeming merits to overcome the compatibility headaches it causes. Whenever anyone asks, my advice is to stay with Windows XP (and to purchase new systems with XP preinstalled).

Jim Louderback, in passing the editorial helm at PC Magazine, finishes his stint with closing remarks about his bad impressions of Vista:

I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I won’t bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain’t cutting it.

Christopher Null writes an open letter to Microsoft asking them to re-introduce Windows XP while they sort out the kinks of the new OS:

Maybe you could freshen up XP with some of Vista’s visuals, but leave intact its menus and control panels, its functional networking, and its broad hardware and software support. You know, the things that people actually need to get their work done. Call it “Windows XP Reloaded” or something clever like that, and tack on $30 to the price tag for your trouble.

So, I’m asking the question, can anybody tell me why I should stick it out with Vista? There are only a few things I can think of that are advantageous, but I feel there are so many more reasons to move back to XP.

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  • I have a friend who every couple of months vista will wipe itself clean off the machine, I say stay with XP

  • aside from the "explorer forgets my view settings", which I have occasionally, I much prefer Vista over XP. I have two machines: a fairly new one, running XP, and an older one, running Vista. Why did I install Vista on the older machine rather than the new one? Well, the older one has quite a good ATI card, whereas the newer one has onboard graphics, so I figure it couldn't handle aero. Both machines have similar sized HD and RAM. Anyhow, comparing the two: the XP machine starts up slightly faster, and shuts down slightly faster. And thats about it. BUT.. I find it very hard to go back and use the XP machine. I don't like it.My old Vista machine (we're talking 2001 here) has a base score of 3.3, but thats due to the old graphics card (if I had a newer gfx card it would be more like 4.2) which isn't bad for a six-year oldf beastie. It certainly doesn't feel slower than XP, and runs aero just fine.Couple of things I did when I first installed it. 1) Turned off indexing for everthing apart from the start menu. 2) Turn off UAC.One thing I HAVE noticed on Vista,it gets sluggish if you're running beta or not-very-vista-ready background apps. My system slowed down to a crawl recently, and I couldn't work out why. So I went into the admin settings, and Vista told me "AVG Anti-spyware is causing your system to slow down" – seriously. Wow. So I uninstalled it, and it's fine again. Similar problem with an old graphics-tablet driver – when I installed the final Vista version, it stopped a slowdown-on-boot instantly.

  • Avast anti-virus seems to run well on Vista with no sluggishness. I too love Vista and wouldn't go back.

  • Hey guys.Thanks for the feedback. I have switched back, but I can definitely see myself going back in a little while (post service pack or something).I'm quite a tweak hound and had already switched off a number of things from indexing (apart from the start menu as well!) to defender to a load of unnecessary services. I spent a good while jumping around some of my favourite tech blogs looking for more optimisation tips but ultimately found the sluggishness was unimpressive enough for me to switch back.I've done a fresh XP install and everything seems to be running very well now, which is good. Interestingly on start-up my ram usage is running in around 24% of my 2GB. In vista it was coming in at about 40% if I remember rightly. Obviously it is hard to do a direct comparison – I'd need to really run benchmarks etc, but I definitely don't have enough time on my hands!