giving Vista a second chance…

by on Sep.19, 2008, under software

In February 2007 when Windows Vista was released I gave it a try and was as many many other users quite disappointed. The main complaint was the bloody hardware requirements, very slow performance and some of the new features being more restrictive than helpful. My computer was kept occupied all the time only by the operating system and I was thinking, what would happen if I actually try to run some applications? Like Visual Studio? Or games? Network performance was also an issue, transferring files between two computers made me remember 90’s and coax 10Mbps ethernet. So after only few days – actually even hours – I gladly returned to Windows XP.

With the release of Service Pack 1 earlier this year Microsoft addressed most of the issues that everyone was complaining about and Vista actually became quite usable OS. Shall I give it a second chance? The decision was made when my 15krpm Ultra160 SCSI Seagate system drive moaned loudly and simply stopped spinning. So I just grabbed the original 160GB SATA drive and used it instead. The PC I tried it on is pretty obsolete in 2008 – HP dx6120 with 3GHz Pentium 4, 2GB RAM and i915G chipset – anything new you buy these days is better than that.

Funny thing – when the new installation of OS, all drivers and applications was finished, miracle happened and the Seagate came back from the dead… Murphy was right!

The installation was fast, done in about 20 minutes, everything worked fine except the AC97 sound – I downloaded it from HP website. The default WDDM video driver for i915 was behaving weird when playing movies (using ffdshow), I installed the latest i915 driver for Windows XP and problem was gone.

Note – i915G chipset, both desktop or mobile version, is not able to run Aero – blame Intel for that one, though they clain the chipset was designed long before Vista was released and that’s why it is not supported, even older GeForce and Radeon cards happily work with Aero, so something stinks here. Vista will work in ‘basic’ non-Aero mode but from my experience it looks much worse and is much slower than the fully accelerated Aero engine. So if you have free AGP or PCI-E slot, sacrifice 50USD and get a cheap DX9/10 GPU – it is worth it.

Get at least 2GB of RAM, especially DDR2 is so cheap these days, Vista (unlike XP) takes full advantage of it. IThere are lots of complaints that Vista uses all memory there is – and that’s true, it does. What is the use of having lots of memory when it is not in use? When other applications need memory and ask for it, it is freed immediately, until then Vista uses it used as a system cache.

Multi core CPU is not necessary, HT works fine, and my other computer with 2GHz Pentium M runs Vista quite as well.

I also noticed it takes couple of days for Vista to get used to the hardware and optimize itself, after that it runs much faster. So it seems that the prefetch and optimalization crap actually works…

The only problem I had was obtaining the Vista SP1 installation DVD – slipstreaming the service pack easily into the installation DVD as it was done in Windows 2000, XP and 2003 is no longer possible. I found an article compiled from various sources how to make a SP1 DVD from the RTM + SP1 installer and it was really long and complicated story. I cheated – downloaded the ISO image from MSDN.

So after my first negative review I have changed my mind and am now a happy Vista user. And since Windows XP is getting harder to get these days and in few months it won’t be available anymore, like it or not, Vista is the only choice. Le roi est mort, vive le roi.

Well, of course, if you have so much spare time, don’t know how to use mouse or still run on 386SX, you can go for Linux… 😉

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