A new look is only the beginning. Security and performance improvements are the true highlights in the next Windows. Vista will be the safest, fastest, and most reliable version of Windows in a decade. When it's released later this year after four long years of development, the successor to Windows XP will offer tangible security and performance improvements. Most of the elements planned for the final release are present (though often in very rough form) in the preview of Beta 2 released last December (we examined the first beta last October in "Windows Vista Looks Slicker, Safer"). We like what Beta 2 shows of Vista (even without a two-way firewall), and such new and enhanced features as parental controls that hint at more than they deliver in this release.
Security is the principal reason most Windows users will jump at the chance to upgrade their OS. Vista beefs up Windows' defenses against 21st-century online dangers, many of which overwhelm XP. It streamlines startup and shutdown, and harnesses the copious RAM installed in modern PCs to speed up application launching via the new Superfetch memory manager. The OS also promises new features, including systemwide speech recognition. And its Aero interface uses transparency, shading, and color to pack more information and control into every icon, window frame, and dialog box. (The striking similarity to Mac OS X is purely coincidental, we're sure.)
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Plus: Discover how to tailor Windows XP more to your liking in "Windows Hacks: Registry Remedies"