Vista – 2B or Not 2B

By now you’ve heard and seen the hub-bub around Windows Vista. If you walk into your favorite computer store you see it advertised everywhere and its all that’s running on the new computers. A lot of folks have been wondering if they need to spend the money on a new version of Windows and, if they do decide to make the jump, are confused about which version they need to buy. So with that introduction, let’s walk through this and see if we can help you decide.

First off, let me say that I like windows, but I like alternatives too. You regular readers know that I run Linux at home, along with my Windows machines, and I think Macs are cool too. While Linux is cool and has tons of software, it doesn’t have the same software available that you might be used to running on Windows. That said, there are oftentimes alternatives available. An example of this is Photoshop which you can get for Windows or Mac, but it’s not available for Linux, but the GIMP is a fine Linux alternative and, best of all, its free just like most Linux software. So here’s the rub; most of us have put significant time into learning windows software such as Photoshop or Quicken or –you fill in the blank— and don’t want to have to learn something new. If this is you then the Windows platform might be a good place for you to stay (but don’t let that stop you from experimenting with Linux anyway!)

For those thinking about a Mac, the problem is basically the same as with Linux but perhaps slightly better in that you can oftentimes find Mac versions of your favorite software. The problem here is that you’ll have to shell out some cash to get the Mac version of your favorite package.

Let’s assume that you’ve decided to stay with Windows. Now the question is do you spend the $100 to $400 to upgrade or do you stay with XP. As you might have guessed, it simply depends; there’s no clear-cut answer to a question like this. If you’re running XP and you’re happy with it, don’t bother to upgrade. If you’re running XP and you are frustrated with the performance or you’re looking for more eye-candy from your OS, then maybe you should give Vista a try. Before we move on, let me make something clear. Vista won’t make your existing PC run faster, no way, no how! If your existing PC is slow with XP, it’ll be slow with Vista too and, depending on how old that PC is and what kind of investment you made in the hardware, it may not even be able to run vista or at least not run all of the available features.

Now that we’ve made that clear, back to our question. You’ve forgotten the question haven’t you …… just to remind you, it was VISTA — 2B or Not 2B (ok it should be Vista — To Be or Not To Be, but I needed the title to be fewer characters 🙂

As I said before, if you’re happy with XP, there is absolutely no reason to upgrade. If you’re looking for the eye-candy or you’re frustrated with your current XP installation then consider an upgrade. If you’re in the frustrated camp then you’re probably going to need to look at a new computer with your purchase. Vista is hardware hungry and if XP is slow, as I said before, Vista will be slow too; don’t let anyone tell you different. If you already have a beefy PC or you’re going to buy a new one, make sure you have at least 1GB of RAM although 2GB is better, a dual-core processor (single core will work if you have an existing PC but if you’re buying new, buy dual-core), and a DirectX 9 compatible video card with at minimum of 64MB of memory although 128MB or 256MB would be much better. With this configuration, you will get a number of years of useful life out of your computer.

Now we turn our attention to Vista versions. Believe it or not there are five different version available but you should only need to concern yourself with three; Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate. In my opinion, Vista Basic shouldn’t even be a consideration primarily because it doesn’t have any of the Vista Aero support which is the cool graphics stuff that a lot of you would be looking for with an upgrade. Basic is also lacking in other areas as well such as no Media Center, fewer games, no automatic network backup, no advanced slideshows, no Movie Maker / DVD Maker and more.

That leaves us with Vista Premium and Ultimate. With these versions you get Aero support which is a big factor in an upgrade. With Ultimate you get things like advanced complete system backup tool, apps such as Fax and Scan, Ultimate “extras” which could include games and special utilities, BitLocker hard drive encryption software, automatic “Shadow” copies of your documents, Remote Desktop, and more.

For most people, Premium is more than enough. If you’re buying a laptop, you may consider Ultimate for the disk encryption capabilities but if you’re running a desktop, this may not be as important.

If you decide to proceed with Vista I wish you the best and know you’ll enjoy the slick new interface!