Everything You Need to Know About Windows Vista

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The Bottom Line

All in all, Windows Vista is a great leap forward for the operating system, with a much-improved, far more useful (and pleasurable) interface; faster, better search; beefed-up security that's a big improvement over Windows XP with SP2; and far, far better networking. There are some clunkers in there, though, such as the annoying UAC feature.

But the pluses make you forget the minuses. I've been using Windows Vista alongside Windows XP for months, and every time I have to switch back to a Windows XP-based PC, I feel like I've moved from a modern automobile back to a Model T. Sure, the old model will eventually get you where you're going--but the ride won't be as much fun.

Pluses and Minuses, Versions and Costs

Here's a summary of the pros and cons, and a table of the versions and their costs.

Five Things We Love

  1. AERO: Transparent windows, tasteful animation, elegant design: Sure, it looks like a Mac, but why not steal from the best?
  2. SEARCH: Fast, smart, and you can create virtual search folders to revisit your searches with a single click.
  3. NETWORK MAP: Finally, Microsoft gets networking right; it's a great way to get an overview of your network and its devices.
  4. WIRELESS NETWORKING: Connecting to multiple wireless networks and hotspots is a simple affair.
  5. SECURITY: You get a firewall with outbound filtering, a better browser, and a lot under the hood offering better protection.

Five Things We Hate

  1. USER ACCOUNT CONTROL: Who needs a virtual nagging nanny?
  2. BACKUP: How could Microsoft have built such a brain-dead application?
  3. WINDOWS MEETING SPACE: With worthless chat and no telephony, this isn't a virtual meeting I'd want to attend.
  4. HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS: Be prepared to spend a bundle for hardware upgrades--or a new computer.
  5. PRICE: $399 new, or $299 for the upgrade to Windows Ultimate? No operating system should cost that much. And the cheapest version, Basic ($199 full, $100 upgrade), isn't worth the trouble.

How Much Will Your Vista Upgrade Cost?

For the lowdown on the unprecedented array of flavors that Microsoft's new OS comes in, click on the chart icon below.

Windows Vista EditionHome Basic1Home Premium2Business3Ultimate4
Windows Defender and Firewall YYYY
Aero and Windows Flip 3D YYY
Windows Mobility and Tablet PC support YYY
Windows Meeting Space YYY
Windows Media Center YY
Business Backup and Networking, Remote Desktop YY
BitLocker Drive Encryption Y
Suggested full price:$199$239$299$399
Suggested upgrade price:$100$159$199$259
Footnotes: 1 Allows in-place upgrades from XP Home. 2 Allows in-place upgrades from XP Home Media Center. 3 Allows in-place upgrades from XP Home, Media Center, and Professional. 4 Allows in-place upgrades from XP Home, Media Center, Pro, and Tablet PC.

There's much more to say on Vista. Here are links to other informative PC World Windows Vista stories and video.

Preston Gralla is the author of more than 35 books, including Windows Vista in a Nutshell and Windows Vista Pocket Reference (O'Reilly Media).
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