ATI Cards and Macrovision
Securing the Internet and your Computer
How to make a DVD back-up
Monsoon's 2.1 PC Speakers Review
Acer 2200/2203LCi Laptop Review
Zalman Theatre 5.1 Headphone Review
Creative Zen Micro MP3 player Review
PalmOne's Zire 72 PDA Review
Palm's Tungsten T5 PDA Review
Samsung's CLP300 Colour Laser printer Review
Canon 8400F Photo Scanner Review
Canon Selphy CP510 Photo Printer Review
Windows Vista x86 and x64 versions should we upgrade?
SilverStone GD01MX HTPC Case Review
Corsair Survivor GT 8GB USB Flash Drive Review
Mio P550 Digiwalker
GPS PDA Review
Recode DVD's to H.264 with AAC 5.1
Guide to Install OS X 'Leopard' on a PC
Guide to install OS X 'Snow Leopard' PC
Kobo eReader Review
AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX Review
Review of the Mediasonic Pro Box 4 Bay Enclosure
netTALK Duo Review
Tablets: Android or Windows 8 and what screen size?
Windows Vista X86 vs X64
I take a look at compatibility issues, UAC (User Account Controls), memory and CPU needs and my thoughts on Microsoft's newest OS.
I was originally dead-set against Vista and even swore I'd never install it after reading a few reviews on other sites. It had high resource requirements and seemed to offer no compelling reason to dive into the 'Beta' period that follows every new Windows release. I say 'Beta' period because anyone of you reading this that jumped on Windows XP will recall the driver issues and program incompatibility issues after that OS upgrade. I should offer you some information on why you should even listen to me or perhaps why you should take my opinions over what you may have already read about the new Vista OS. The first reason is that I have spent many years helping computer users fixing their systems and helping countless others recover from hardware and software problems. Secondly I'm not really fond of Microsoft but understand 'Windows' is the default OS and the alternatives such as Linux just aren't ready for the majority of Computer users.
Update August 17 2007
I love Microsoft they have released two updates:
- KB938979 By applying this update, you can achieve better performance and responsiveness in various scenarios. This update also improves the reliability of Windows Vista.
- KB932539 This update resolves some compatibility issues and reliability issues in Windows Vista. By applying this update, you can achieve better reliability and hardware compatibility
But one of these updates has caused an interesting side-effect I can create a New Folder but I can't rename it I get an error "The file or folder does not exist." so I searched the Internet and I'm not alone the issue is affecting others (Uninstalling them does not fix it). After lots of reading I found a fix that worked for me and I'm putting the information here for others in case it happens to them its a simple registry fix that you need to download from Here and follow the instructions below.
Remember I didn't write/create this just used it and it worked fine for myself and a few others who have tried it so use at your own risk.... To install the file download it Here then extract the file which is called 'FD32.reg' right click on it and select 'Merge' you'll get a warning about how this could Foobar the system ignore and click OK. now if you can't install that way then extract it to a specific location, lets say drive C:\ then go to the Start menu and click Run... (or Win+R) type: regedit c:\FD32.reg It should popup something about merging the file with the registry, ignore and click OK. That's it Done!
Time to break this article up into specific questions that most of you have been asking.
Will Vista Run on my machine and what are the realistic basic requirements?
I would not suggest running Vista with less than a full Gigabyte of ram this requirement is especially important when you have a built-in Video system that uses shared memory resources as it can actually leave Vista with only 768Mb of ram to work with. The minimum Cpu used should be equivalent to a Pentium 4 running at 2Ghz or a CPU meeting the Performance Rating of the P4 2.0Ghz. Now I'm not saying it won't run with a lesser CPU and it you only have a 900Mhz P3 laying around it will work fine but you have better be a patient individual. The last issue is hard-drive space, I would recommend a 40 Gb drive as a minimum and for those with larger hard-drives ensure the install partition is at least 40Gb I actually have a 50Gb partition set aside for Vista. These are what equal to a minimum spec to install Vista and not throw the PC out of the window in frustration in the process.
What does Vista offer that would make me upgrade from Windows XP?
This is a hard question as what I see as an advantage others will not care about or consider it to a disadvantage. lets start with Microsoft's own list of valid reasons to upgrade. Microsoft actually has 100 reasons listed on the main website I'm going to mention these three.
- It makes using your PC a breeze
Well this one is a matter of what you consider to be easy I can see improvements in sections dealing with how to set-up a network but any regular Win XP user will be cursing more than when they are driving home from work.
- Because your PC remembers to back up for you
I'm not even going to comment on this one except to say with the advent of CD/DVD recorders and USB flash drives this should never be an issue.
- It's the safest version of Windows ever
that remains to be seen and given Microsoft's track record on security I won't be holding my breath, besides the user is the weakest link
Other than the new 'Aero Glass' desktop that needs a 256Mb Video card (yep more memory on the video card than my first Windows XP PC) I can't say it really offers much that isn't available on a Windows XP install with some third party applications added. In fact you can download a Vista Transformation pack from CrystalXP.net for free that will turn your Windows XP into a pretty close clone of a Vista desktop experience. I'll mention widgets here but remember these have been available with the Opera browser for quite a while before Vista, in fact Opera has over 1000 widgets available. Now if a new version of USB is released or whatever then you can expect it to only be supported in the newer Vista but at this point Windows XP functions perfectly well with current hardware.
Now those of you with newer/bleeding edge hardware (and empty wallets) will be glad to hear that Vista is truly next generation technology when it comes to network use and multi-tasking. I recently purchased a rather low-end ASUS P5L-MX and a Intel Conroe E6600 Core2 Duo (2.4Ghz) with 3Gb of 1066Mhz Ram, I'm running the ICH7 Sata in raid 0 with two Western Digital 200Gb Hard-drives. I'm mentioning this so when I talk about performance you have an idea of where you might fall in comparison. The list below is what I was able to do all at the same time while running Vista
- Opera Browser was downloading a 4.1Gb Ubuntu.iso file at 480Kbs
- utorrent was uploading at 70Kbs with 10 torrents being seeded
- Transferring 58Gb to a USB drive at **14.4 Mbs (external laptop 80Gb drive)
- Watching a Divx encoded .avi file with VLC player in fullscreen mode at 1680x1050
- Nero Burning Rom was burning a DVD+R at 8X speed
- These Vista 'Widgets' were open, Weatherbug widget, Cpu Dual-core speed widget, Network activity meter widget and the clock widget with the second hand active.
Try that with Windows XP!
** I will mention Vista's copy function reports the speed in Mb of a file transfer hence this is the speed reported during the file transfer process. A note to external USB HD drive users my USB 2.0 external HD would transfer around 19.3Mb and when I took the drive out and installed it into the PC the transfer rate jumped to 54.6 Mb so the same HD is 2.5X faster when installed in the PC.
Vista is worth the upgrade for users who have newer Hyper-threading/Dual-Core Cpu's the rest of you can wait until your next PC purchase when Vista will undoubtedly be included.
Should I choose a fresh install or go for the upgrade from Windows XP?
I have seen many users who have successfully completed an upgrade from a previous window installation only to end up on my door-step later as other weird problems arise. Think of Windows XP as last year's car and you want the new version, would you ditch it and purchase the newer model or attempt to strip it down and bolt on the needed parts to complete the conversion? The answer is obvious but since PC's have a lot of information and programs set-up with e-mails and things we don't want to have to set-up or worry about losing we go with the bolt-on solution and well things never really work the same as that new car down the street. Deciding if you upgrade or perform complete a fresh install of Vista really seems to depend on you willing to reconfigure your PC, if you have the knowledge go for a Fresh/Clean/New install and you can still purchase the upgrade version of Vista and complete the install with-out having a Windows XP installed by following the instructions Here. The rest of you either ask someone who can do the install for you or just go for the upgrade but take heed you might just end-up doing the Clean install later when issues arise.
I've heard the DRM software included with Vista will report details about my system.
Brace yourself Windows Media player in Windows XP has been sending info to Microsoft since it came out! Don't believe me install any third-party (Non-MS) Firewall software and open a video clip or whatever then close it you'll see the firewall alert you that media player wants outbound access to the internet. the DRM in Vista is really just an enabler that allows you to use your DRM purchase in Vista and they will collect information about the file played, DRM is short for 'Digital Rights Management' Sounds shady but it falls under 'usage statistic gathering' and many programs report home, Google knows all about your browsing habits, think of all this like those 'Loyalty Cards' offered by various stores you agree to get some kind of bonus or rebate in exchange for the store getting complete access to your shopping habits and every purchase you make while using the card. Harmless if only used for improving the service and sales but used incorrectly or sold to a third-party and things change really fast. 'Big Brother' is watching but they say no identifying information is gathered with the data collected so use VLC Player instead and avoid products with DRM if you have concerns. I mention VLC Player because it works under Vista and it does not install any codecs as they are built into the executable, and plays virtually any file thrown it's way and it's free.
What's the best version of Vista for me Basic,Premium or Ultimate?
Home Basic is a scaled down version of Vista, but it's not lacking anything that will not make it function as a normal machine.
Home Basic vs. Home Premium
- No Aero interface, including transparency in many parts of the GUI
- No Media Center
- Five included Windows games, instead of nine
- No automatic network backup
- No relationship between PC and Xbox 360
- No advanced slideshows
- No Movie Maker / DVD Maker
- Weak Tablet PC functionality
- No SideShow Support
You pay around $40 dollars more for Premium than the Home Basic and it includes all the items missing in the above list. The Ultimate edition appears to be aimed at small or home-based networks as you'll see in the list below.
Home Premium vs. Ultimate
- No advanced complete system backup tool
- Small business apps, such as Fax and Scan
- No Ultimate "extras", which could include games and special utilities
- No BitLocker hard drive encryption software
- No automatic "Shadow" copies of your documents
- No Remote Desktop
- No advanced group policy editor
- Inability to run UNIX-based applications (through SUA)
- No support for dual CPU's (2 physical processors) or 128GB of memory
Vista Premium is the obvious choice unless you actually require the advanced features of the Ultimate edition.
Vista x86 or x64 What version should I install?
Simple the X86 version....
Firstly you need a 64bit processor before you can even think of trying it.
Secondly the x64 or 64 bit version of Vista doesn't run anything faster in fact many benchmarks seem to point to 64bit Vista being slower then it's x86 cousin
Thirdly you need drivers signed and approved by microsoft to install any hardware. I fought with my 20" Acer LCD because it runs at the oddball resolution of 1680x1050 and Acer had no signed Vista drivers I could only run at 1440x900 after countless hours of fiddling and reading other users with the same type of issue I solved it. Take note of this one because it just might save someone else the same headache. I downloaded the base LCD driver's that were signed for Vista from NEC's website after searching through the NEC monitors I found one with the same specifications as my Acer AL2016W which ended up being the NEC MultiSync 20WGX2 I installed the driver and pointed the device manager to use this specific driver and I was able to use 1680x1050 for those of you who may be in the same pickle you can download the signed NEC driver setup program Here
Fourthly no support for 16bit programs is in x64 Vista, the problem is that many software installer programs are still 16 bit so many software programs won't install unless they upgrade the install program the good side is that many programs such as Opera and VLC Player have proper 32 bit install routines but don't be surprised if you have to fight to get an older software package installed.
Lastly other than the bundled 64bit version of Internet Explorer hardly any applications exist that are 64bit other than highly specialized software for research or business.
This will change in the future as more 64bit applications and drivers are available, couple this with the advanced features possible with 64bit computing and most of us will be doing that upgrade but not for the next few years anyway.
Information on driver and application compatibility with Vista x86/x64
ATI Sucks! First Macrovision now they simply abandon my trusty ATI TV Wonder USB when it comes to Vista drivers, So I was fed-up and decided to purchase the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-usb2 figures no drivers on the CD no drivers on the website I think I'm gonna break something, Clam down lets do a search for others with the same issue, oh look beta vista drivers on some weird forum in the UK. Install drivers and pray while rebooting the system, they work, well sort of the FM tuner just plays static but the TV tuner is working Woot! As I write this they have the proper signed drivers on the Hauppauge website but this is the type of thing you can expect if you upgrade to Vista. Older hardware is just not being supported by manufacturers and some new hardware have beta or not very good driver support under Vista. At least Microsoft was smart when they told manufacturers they need x86 and x64 drivers to get the drivers signed this will ensure by the time we upgrade to x64 Vista lots of drivers will be available. Now you may not have this much trouble with drivers and you can installed unsigned drivers easily under x86 Vista but be prepared to ditch a few pieces of hardware along the way.
Software compatibility is a mixed bag but the biggest issue is with x64 Vista and I mentioned it earlier no 16 bit support as for compatibility issues I have had an issue two FTP programs WS FTP Pro and FTP Wanderer the last time I checked WS FTP pro was supposed to release a patch but in the meantime I started using Flash FXP and just might stick with it. I have seen a full list that is updated you can check it Here
Ready Boost, why it sucks!
This may seem harsh and many of you may disagree but here we go Ready Boost is a simple way to use those USB Flash drives as a pre-buffer space for the main memory to boost system application loading time by keeping the most frequently used programs paged into the memory they load faster giving Vista a much needed speed boost. Seems easy enough plug in a USB stick and your ready or is it not ready more often than you may like. Truth is many USB drives fail the test for use as a Ready-boost drive I have an Apacer 1Gb, OCZ Rally2 4Gb and a SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2Gb all of them failed to pass so after reading up on them I found that many users had gotten them to work some had to use the rear USB ports or they kept trying ports until it passed so I fought with each until the SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2Gb was identified as Ready Boost capable. I turned it into a 1Gb readyboost drive and away we went until I went to record a TV program on the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-usb2 it was stuttering every few seconds WTF it wasn't doing that before. After a few reboots and fiddling I decided to disable ready boost as I'd forgotten it was running since it was in the Rear USB ports and guess what the stuttering issue was gone. Now this may not be your situation but benchmarks done by others and my observations come to the same conclusion. Investing in 1 Gb of extra ram for your system has 3x the benefit of using Ready Boost so buy some ram and save your USB drive for something useful like a few dozen free programs that can run from USB drive with a full menu, you can download the files from Portableapps.com oh and the programs are Vista compatible.
If you have managed to read everything I've written then your probably wondering what can I add here that hasn't been mentioned earlier and rightly so, my gripes, issues and problems have been addressed previously in this article. So I will start by saying the widgets in Vista have the chance of becoming the next 'Big' thing as they can be very powerful and full featured with access to Vista resources that Opera's widgets just can't do and I suspect it won't take long before we see Vista's widget count exceeding the 1000 mark set by Opera. 'Aero Glass' is the first step in 3D next generation desktops and Windows users can stop drooling over the Mac desktop, even Linux users can download 'Beryl' which is the 3D desktop for Linux. I suspect the 3D desktop won't go away and it does provide us with considerable eye-candy while actually improving how certain tasks are done, Linux has multiple desktops that are shown on a 3D cube where the user can look through the cube to the desktop of choice and select that program this kind of use of the 3D desktop is most welcomed and puts the 3D flip view to shame on Vista but it's a start. DreamScene which is only an option with the Ultimate version for now allows users to play a hi-Definition Video as a live background and appears to be tip of the iceberg of what other 3D applications might be found in Vista.
Vista is a new powerful OS from Microsoft and only the future can tell us if Ubuntu or another Linux distribution will be able to draw enough users away from the 'Force' that is Microsoft. Vista is worth the upgrade for those who have the hardware I would say resist unless you have these minimum requirements 2Gb of ram a Cpu with Hyper-threading/Dual core technology and the prerequisite 256 Mb video card. The rest should wait as Windows XP is no slouch and will be fine until you get your next hardware upgrade.
I've waited to talk about UAC (User Access Controls) until now, you have probably seen the commercial where the mac guy and PC guy are talking and he gets prompted to select a choice before he does anything? Well if not don't worry UAC are in my opinion the best new feature of Vista they inform you of what a program is trying to do and asks you to allow it before it continues, this has the potential to stop virus writers and trojans from ever getting installed on our system if the user takes the time to read them and not click on something suspicious. Linix, Unix, Aix and Solaris all use this system of requiring a higher access level to start any process that could damage the system and it keeps them safe and healthy. Embrace it becuase it's the way things should have been done to start with. It's annoying at first but when you stop to think of how much has been being done to your operating system without your knowledge you begin to be thank-full Microsoft has decided to invoke the UAC system. And if you really hate it that much it can be disabled through four different methods which are listed Here
I have one last item to mention the Open source (free) version of Open Office that can work with all of the normal Microsoft Office products, installs and work flawlessly on vista x86 and x64 versions, the download is around 100Mb and includes everything you need and more to avoid buying another MS Office Upgrade for Vista, now just click on the link Here to get the files.
I hope this article was helpful