Vista: worth it yet?
September 21, 2006 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Windows Vista RC1: worth the upgrade?

Considering installing Vista RC1, as I've heard some good things about it, but at the same time I have to wonder if my computer's good to go -- it's a year-and-a-half-old Presario laptop (Athlon 2800+ with 512MB RAM and about 9GB free on the hard drive) that wasn't exactly top-of-the-line to start with.

Recommended? Not recommended? For what it's worth, though it is my only computer, it's also not one that is entirely that crucial to, say, a business -- it's quite literally a personal computer first and foremost.
posted by DoctorFedora to Computers & Internet (29 answers total)
You need more RAM.
posted by smackfu at 2:12 PM on September 21, 2006

My understanding is that any beta software from Microsoft is never worth installing. I'm not even sure I'll switch from XP to Vista until Vista has a service pack or two under its belt.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:35 PM on September 21, 2006

I wouldn't. I haven't been brave enough to try it myself yet, but you will need more ram and possibly another HDD to really get any benefit from Vista. Otherwise, it'll just blog your PC down. I personally haven't heard anything overly wonderful about Vista, but I haveheard tons of negatives. I'd stick with XPm unless of ocurse you like torturing yourself and many PC-induced headaches :)

More personal bias: I would never ever rely on new MS OS until the first Service Pack has been released. It should also be noted that if I could get all the software I needed under Linux, I would never again touch a MS product. YMMV.
posted by cgg at 2:37 PM on September 21, 2006

Argh - I also can't type. That should read "I'd stick with XP, unless of course you like torturing..."
posted by cgg at 2:38 PM on September 21, 2006

Response by poster: Huh. I've heard that Vista runs, in many people's cases (heard firsthand, that is), faster than XP on a comparable system. Of course, there's also the matter of: how much of my hard drive can I expect it to consume after installation? That's kind of a significant issue on a laptop, with an essentially unupgradeable hard disk.

Also, for what it's worth, my personal bias has moved toward "anything BUT Linux" after spending a month or two trying to get it to work without freaking out regularly (e.g. displaying Control Panel applets in windows many times the size of my screen).
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:41 PM on September 21, 2006

Vista will probably run, but it will eat two weeks of your life, at the end of which you might wonder why you bothered. On a machine like that you probably won't get the enhanced graphic look of Aero and everything will be painfully slow.

RC1 seems a strange step backwards in many ways. Hardware which was accepted and worked on earlier betas was rejected by RC1. Third party vendors such as Toshiba and Netgear seem completely at a loss, just responding with standard messages that they don't support Vista and they don't know when they will. I would wait for the released product - and you may have to wait a while.

Reasons to upgrade include Aero, widescreen support, better support for high-resolution displays, Media Centre and improved video codecs. You need a powerful graphics setup to see any of these. There's also a lot of new features to explore, but none of them seem terribly compelling.

If you want to try something new and interesting, give Office 2007 a spin. It works on XP, the user interface changes take about fifteen minutes to get used to, then you might well be very impressed. Just an idea.
posted by grahamwell at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2006

Upgrade from what? From MS-DOS 4.0? Yes.
I'd recommend cleaning up or getting a bigger HD though.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2006

As for upgrading from XP, I've been running it full-time on my laptop for about a month now, and except for it not properly recognizing my graphics chip (still no Aero), it's been lovely.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2006

blue_beetle - I found that Vista RC1 had some serious issues with sleep/hibernate/shutdown and found myself continually having to hard-reset the machine when it failed to wake. Was I unlucky with my Toshiba?
posted by grahamwell at 2:58 PM on September 21, 2006

You would have to be insane to install a beta operating system on a machine that you expect to get any real work done with, and especially on this boat anchor of yours with 512MB of ram. I can't believe you'd even consider this.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:12 PM on September 21, 2006

I have an AMD64 3200+ system with 2G of RAM, and I'm sticking with XP. Vista is just useless eyecandy.
posted by mrbill at 3:12 PM on September 21, 2006

You will do yourself a huge favor by waiting until AT LEAST SP1 of Vista is released. Unless you are just dying to have the new interface available, it will be worth the wait.

As it is now, many professionals think that Microsoft is releasing beta software come January when Vista is due out.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:14 PM on September 21, 2006

And if you want a first-hand account, go read Scott Hanselman's blog wherein he blogs taking the Vista plunge and comes back cursing and pulling his hair out. And he is a professional software developer. One thing to remember is that even if the operating system might not have problems you have to also consider every application that you use. You can read about all the various apps that break or barely work in his postings.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2006

i just installed it and have found few problems. but why not dual-boot?
posted by ascullion at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2006

second thirding -- only use Vista now if you have a need-to-know situation. And get more RAM (and hard disk) regardless of whether you'll use Vista just yet ... things work much better with more RAM.
posted by anadem at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2006

I'm dual booting XP and Vista RC1 on separate partitions in an Athlon 3800+, 2GB RAM DDR2 system. Not worth the upgrade.

Performance is same as XP. Aero looks pretty on startup but pretty quickly you realize that all the transparency-ness is just tacky. Windows Defender freaks out about everything little thing that loads at startup. My sound card isn't supported. The Spotlight-ish Start Menu is annoying and inefficient (frequently used programs on first page, all programs on second page).

Only thing I was impressed with was the slick new Media Center.
posted by junesix at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I have heard that apparently you can use USB flashdrives as basically extra semi-RAM when connected through USB 2.0. I have a 1GB iPod Shuffle that's broken, but it still works for data storage when connected to a computer -- would that, I wonder, be sufficient to run Vista without making it so slow I'd want to murder myself in the face?

Of course, to be perfectly honest, yes, a large part of my motivation to upgrade is simply because it'd be kind of cool (I'm a nerd with a soft spot for big upgrades). I like the idea of Windows Update running as an independent applet, for example, instead of being browser-based, and the thought of Windows Explorer not being IE-based also appeals to me.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:41 PM on September 21, 2006

The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor RC will give you some info on if your system is capable and if any features won't be available. WinSuperSite's Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 Review is just that and they also have a thing called Feature Focus which might help you decide.
posted by ed\26h at 3:48 PM on September 21, 2006

Go read Scott Hanselman's blog wherein he blogs taking the Vista plunge and comes back cursing and pulling his hair out. And he is a professional software developer.

And if the amount of very talented software developers I’ve had to help with depressingly basic general computer problems is anything to go by – I wouldn’t read very much into that.
posted by ed\26h at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2006

Think about what you actually DO on your computer.

Will Vista help you get your work done faster? Enough faster that it's worth losing at least a day, and possibly more, to the installation?

My guess is that it's a terrible idea, unless you're some sort of beta-software junkie, or windows developer who needs to test software on Vista.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2006

Only thing I was impressed with was the slick new Media Center.

Yeah, funny you should mention that. Windows Media Player 11 will basically take a baseball bat to the knees of your previously held notions of media as property. As in, the inability to play anything on other computers, including CD's you already own that you rip to your HD.

Not for this guy. No thanks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:12 PM on September 21, 2006

Do not "upgrade" to Vista RC1. This is a beta version that will expire on June 1, 2007, at which point it will become unusable. There is no guarantee that you will even have access to data created under the beta version once it expires, so I would in no way treat this version as something that you can treat as a primary OS.

Install it on a separate partition if you want to play around with it, but this isn't a legitimate replacement for your system, completely apart from the question of system requirements.
posted by camcgee at 4:13 PM on September 21, 2006

RC stands for "release candidate." That means its software publishers put out soley for testing. Its never recommended nor meant to be used for standard use.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:20 PM on September 21, 2006

  • grahamwell: I have a Toshiba Satellite P30 and haven't had any sleep/hibernation problems with RC1
  • As for MediaPlayer11 DRM, yes, it is a demon, so uncheck the DRM box in your settings and everything is fine. I prefer it to iTunes or any other random media player.
  • If you're a developer, no you won't be able to do anything with Vista right now. the dotNET 1.1 framework won't work at all on it. (Meaning things like the Microsoft SyncToy won't work). SQL 2005 isn't supported, neither is Delphi 2006/2006.
  • I use it without Aero and find it roughly as fast as XP.
  • If you have working drivers, games are as fast or faster on Vista than on XP.
  • I've had problems on a desktop machine with multiple video cards, and can only use 2 of my 3 monitors.
  • If you turn on System Restore on a dual-boot system (XP with Vista) in XP prepare for hard-drive corruption (MBR bitmap size allocation for the techies). This can be easily fixed with CHKDSK, and turning off System Restore.
  • There is no item #8

  • posted by blue_beetle at 4:29 PM on September 21, 2006

    When I get the overwhelming urge to play with Vista, I just go over to DeviantART and download a few Vista WindowBlinds themes.

    Less HD space, less RAM, I get a nice new interface, and it only took a few minutes.

    Repeat until the Vista urge subsides. ;)
    posted by 4ster at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2006

    As many others have said - if you want an upgrade, get more RAM (it's cheap). You've barely even got enough RAM to run XP right now, let alone Vista.
    posted by dmd at 6:31 PM on September 21, 2006

    Going against my better judgment regarding upgrades to MS operating systems, I upgraded my XP installation on a machine roughly equivalent to what you're describing and it was awful.

    So I rebuilt the machine entirely and it's been much more stable but there are a number of issues that keep cropping up that are tempting me to go back to XP (considering I have 3 days to activate, it might be very soon). I can't run Aero, so I'm not convinced that the upgrade was worth it.
    posted by purephase at 6:56 PM on September 21, 2006

    I've heard five other positives people havent mentioned here about vista: file tags, versioning (can go back to any version of any file), and smart searches (ie, saved searches saved as 'active' folders), and faster boot-up and shut-down times.

    I dont have first hand experience with vista but sites like lifehacker have generally been positive on the coming vista features.

    That said, I too would wait atleast until SP1. Its very wise not to install any OS upgrade until then (whether from MS or Apple; its of course a huge myth that Apple's run out of the box. They dont, and when they break, which is often, are much harder to fix. Ibook logic board, anyone?)

    For the moment if you want a performance boost: 1) add another 512mb to your system; 2) upgrade your drive to a 7200rpm one (you'll get more HD space too).

    7200rpm drives generally add a 15-20% overall performance boost; Adding memory can add as much or more. In both cases if you buy them used on ebay you'll save much cash.
    posted by jak68 at 9:43 PM on September 21, 2006

    Well, I have heard that apparently you can use USB flashdrives as basically extra semi-RAM when connected through USB 2.0.

    You know how slow the computer is when you hit the wall and Windows starts relying on the pagefile? Multiply your woes by about fifteen.

    (But it does sound fairly neat at first, I'll agree ;-))
    posted by PuGZ at 3:47 AM on September 22, 2006

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