Upgrade to XP Pro or buy more ram?
December 21, 2007 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I bought a refurbed Emachine for my kids. I've put 1.5 gb ram into it, but it came with Vista and feels sluggish. Should I upgrade to XP Pro?

The machine has a 120 gb drive and the following cpu, according to belarc advisor:

2.00 gigahertz AMD Sempron
256 kilobyte primary memory cache
512 kilobyte secondary memory cache

The box says it has an AMD Sempron 3600+

And an Nvidia GeForce 6150 se with an pci-express slot.

If I "upgrade" to XP Pro will I have security problems?

Or, is my money better spent moving from 1.5 to 2gb of ram. Or both?

I'm a mac guy and out of my league here. I purchased a legal xp key, however, and am poised to make the jump, simply because my work lab has pentium IVs that are tons faster and they're four years old and have 512mb ram. Thanks for your help.
posted by mecran01 to Technology (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
An extra 512MB RAM probably won't make much difference. I'd "upgrade."
posted by indyz at 4:00 PM on December 21, 2007

posted by Cosine at 4:01 PM on December 21, 2007

Absolutely, Vista is an atrocity, XP is actually not half-bad.
posted by Cosine at 4:02 PM on December 21, 2007

XP > Vista.
posted by jjb at 4:23 PM on December 21, 2007

Definitely gonna agree with the others here and say go with XP. As much as I'd love to have Vista (it looks awesome and DX10 would make a world of difference for my games), I wouldn't touch it for several more years.. it's that bad.
posted by Sufi at 4:25 PM on December 21, 2007

nthing "upgrading;" at this point, xp is just a more robust system.
posted by General Malaise at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2007

I haven't taken the Vista plunge, but I would consider two things before you give up on it - just for the information, if nothing else. In XP, under My Computer -> Properties -> Advanced -> Performance -> Settings, you can choose Adjust For Best Performance. Vista probably has a similar setting. Also, BlackViper's XP services configuration guide is brilliant, so it is probably worth going through the BlackViper Vista Services Guide.
posted by Chuckles at 4:34 PM on December 21, 2007

I'll try the system configs mentioned above, but unless I see a massive improvement I'll then install xp pro. I am still open to suggestions, of course.
posted by mecran01 at 4:53 PM on December 21, 2007

XP Pro will make it a completely usable system. I'm currently running XP Pro on a ThinkPad laptop with a 1.2 GHz processor with 1.5 GB of RAM and I can't complain.
posted by qvtqht at 5:15 PM on December 21, 2007

Just to pile on, I just brought home a brand new ultralight notebook that came with Vista knowing full well that it would be sluggish. An "upgrade" to XP later and I've got a superfast sub 3 pound DVD burning powerhouse. It makes a world of difference.

Vista is really just not worth the trouble and a fully patched XP install is every bit as secure. Just grab yourself a copy of Firefox and use IE only for Windows Updates.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:40 PM on December 21, 2007

I bought a new system with Vista and fought with it for a year. Even after disabling all the animations, the new theme system, every single bit of frou frou and fluff, in the end, my Vista machine looked exactly like my old XP desktop, but it didn't run like it. Even with 2G memory, it throttled if I wanted to have Firefox AND Word AND iTunes opened. It regularly crashed trying to populate the explorer or control panel. It took forever to boot, forever to shut down, and it was sluggish the entire time it was on.

I begged Dell to give me XP disks, and oh my god, what a different. My machine runs so fast now! It doesn't choke anymore; it doesn't take three minutes to finish the boot process and render the desktop. It finally runs like a proper computer should. Upgrade to XP. Upgrade as FAST AS YOU CAN.

But as a hint-- go now, and download ALL the drivers for the machine (even things like display, touchpad if you have it, what not,) because native XP will still be a little confused, and you will have to start from the ground up on a lot of drivers. If I'd had all the XP-ready drivers, I would have been back up and fully functioning in about two hours. Instead, it took me four, because one of the drivers I had to replace was for the Ethernet card. Oops.
posted by headspace at 7:19 PM on December 21, 2007

Yeah, I haven't switched from XP to Vista yet for the same reasons everyone else dislikes it/is switching back. So do your 'upgrade' :-) Make sure you have XP fully up to date and have anti-virus software (I recommend Kaspersky for paid or AVG free for free). Especially if you have kids who might click silly stuff on hi-speed internet.
Also running anti-spyware programs (Ad-aware, Spybot S&D) once in a while is never a bad idea.
posted by baserunner73 at 7:22 PM on December 21, 2007

These are all great answers. Thank you for telling me what I needed to hear!
posted by mecran01 at 8:12 PM on December 21, 2007

Just out of curiosity--if this is for your kids (I assume to do homework on and so forth), have you considered using Ubuntu? I know, I know. Linux is weird, but Ubuntu does a pretty good job of hiding the weirdness behind a competently-designed GUI.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:07 PM on December 21, 2007

I am not unfamiliar with Ubuntu, but my kids are primarily interested in flash games on the web and some turn-based older games like Starcraft. Plus, my son has a windows-based multiplication game and we have about 20 cds (set up as ISOs with daemon tools) of Reader Rabbit and the like for the younger kids. However, because we have 120gb to play with (the biggest HD I have ever owned--sad, I know) I can foresee sticking Ubuntu on as a dual boot option and playing with it.
posted by mecran01 at 9:24 PM on December 21, 2007

If you do get Ubuntu, you should run windows with VMWare, rather then going dual boot.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 PM on December 21, 2007

I'm a month into owning a laptop that came with Vista and haven't had time to upgrade it to XP, but I can report that the BlackViper Vista Services Guide mentioned above is really valuable. If you follow it and turn off all the crappy Vista services (especially all the seaching and indexing services), Vista stops hanging and crashing. It's still slower and more sluggish than XP, but at least it works.
posted by gum at 10:12 PM on December 21, 2007

I'm not confident that running windows in emulation will give me the snappy performance I crave--no, deserve as a resident of the future.
posted by mecran01 at 10:55 PM on December 21, 2007

First: XP Pro is a good way to go; it's as secure as Vista is, more or less, and will run faster (I know this from firsthand experience, running a 1.6ghz AMD Athlon with XP Pro and 1gb of memory against a Vista 1.8ghz AMD X2 64-bit dual core with 1GB of memory.)

However, I ended up sticking with Vista on the laptop, as it is quite pleasantly fast if you do the following:

#1: upgrade to 2gb of ram;
#2: switch the theme to "windows classic";
#3: hunt around for the various animations (might be advanced theme settings, might be somewhere else, I'm on my Mac at the moment) and turn 'em off.

You'll have a Vista installation that looks a lot like XP Pro, but more importantly runs just about as fast, thanks to disabling the beast that is the Aqua interface.

Also, some machines that come with Vista require drivers that aren't available for XP Pro (although this isn't a sure bet, I know at least HP machines sometimes fall into this category) -- so check the manufacturer's web site for information on "downgrading" to XP.
posted by davejay at 12:21 AM on December 22, 2007

wipe it. install XP. then you'll be good o go.
posted by Davaal at 3:19 AM on December 22, 2007

Another question, what are the kids going to be doing on it? If gaming, then yes, XP is much better than Vista. If they'll use it for web browsing, schoolwork, mail, etc. then maybe consider giving Ubuntu a go first. On that box it'll fly like a bat out of hell, you can enable all the cool desktop effects without significant penalty, and your kids won't be able to clog it with spyware like they would an XP box. I did that with my daughter's computer after the 3rd time I cleaned out the spyware on it, and since she has consoles to play video games on anyway, it only took her a few hours to adjust to using things like Pidgin instead of MSN messenger, Openoffice instead of Word, etc. And she can still play all those silly flash games in a browser. And if it doesn't suit, then just wipe it and install XP. No risk except for of course a couple of hours of your time.
posted by barc0001 at 3:26 AM on December 22, 2007

Erp, didn't read the reply in the middle of the thread regarding Starcraft etc. Dual boot's a good option, though WINE will run a lot of stuff these days, including a lot of games, and it's gotten a lot easier to do now as well. Here's a how-to on Starcraft in WINE. Basically throw the CD in, mount it, run "wine setup.exe" and then make a shortcut when done.
That being said, handling a bunch of games can be an issue, so XP is probably the most hassle free way to go.
posted by barc0001 at 3:33 AM on December 22, 2007

Try turning off the Indexing service, switching to the "classic" theme, and uninstalling all the crap that came pre-installed (virus scanners, etc). I bet it's much faster then.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:30 AM on December 22, 2007

Thanks all. I wiped it and installed XP pro today. There were a couple of minor probs--I installed the wrong version of the wifi drivers, and had to reinstall windows to wipe out the traces and get the right ones in place, and I had a hard time finding the realtek audio drivers--but now it is humming along and feels like a real computer again. There were a couple of features in vista that I liked--the kid monitoring and internet policing--but those didn't justify the sluggishness, and the complete lack of signposting about how to speed it up, information that should have been embedded in the OS, given that it is such an issue. It was just faster to install XP than hand tweak the system for six hours to gain marginal performance improvements.

When I have my confidence back I will take a shot at the Ubuntu dual boot system.
posted by mecran01 at 11:23 PM on December 23, 2007

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