For nearly a year, PCs
have been shipping with Vista, Microsoft’s latest version of its
Windows operating system. Vista delivers many features that add new
capabilities to your computer, but they come at a cost beyond the
initial price -- you’ll need to have the right hardware to benefit,
and you’ll have to install updates continually.
The common advice with Microsoft
products traditionally has been to wait until the first maintenance
release, or the .1 release, of any new software. In fact, upon
Vista’s release there was so much concern about compatibility with
existing applications that Microsoft continued to provide PC
manufacturers with Windows XP to install as an option. That option
still is available for corporate purchases.
Under the Hood
What do you really get with Vista? The
most obvious feature is more advanced graphics, particularly the
transparent and reflective surfaces of the Aero user display and
the Windows Flip 3D navigational functionality. Improved security,
a spiffy new taskbar, and various file-searching, networking and
resource-managing features also are included.
I found two sources that provide
upgrade advisers, so you can see if your PC can run Vista: CNet (cnet.com/windows-vista.html) and Microsoft (microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/buyorupgrade/upgrade
Interestingly, the CNet adviser
informed me that my PC wasn’t recommended to run even the basic
Home version, while the Microsoft adviser recommended I upgrade to
the Business version. (My PC is a two-year-old Dell 3GHz Pentium 4
with 1GB RAM.) Both advisers recommended that I upgrade my memory
and video card “in order to use all of the Vista features.”
The bottom line: My PC, which meets or
exceeds what I currently need to run my many applications, is not
fully equipped to run Vista.
If yours is ready, before upgrading,
take an inventory of the applications you use the most. Check out
the websites for these applications and look for the “Works with
Windows Vista” designation. Updates might be available for some,
and other programs might run under Vista with no problems. You also
can search the Microsoft website for “compatibility with Vista,”
which will return a series of links to updates and the knowledge
For Every Occasion
As with previous Windows releases,
Microsoft offers different editions. The basic version is called
Vista Home, which primarily provides improved security and file
management. To get the new graphics, taskbar and many other highly
touted features, you’ll need to upgrade to either the Home Premium
or Business version. The Ultimate version does it all. Prices to
upgrade from Windows XP range from $60 to $100 for Home, $115 to
$160 for Home Premium, $141 to $200 for Business and $210 to $260
for the Ultimate version.
If you opt to buy a new PC -- which is
probably the least frustrating option, although somewhat more
expensive -- most of them include the Home Premium version and
hardware to support it, with the Business version a $99 addition
and the Ultimate version an extra $159.
A Mixed Bag
The first wave of Vista users offer
mixed reviews of its value, convenience and the necessity to
upgrade. According to Microsoft, the Windows Vista SP1 update will
incorporate user feedback and address “specific reliability,
performance and compatibility issues,” as well as support new types
of hardware. The update is scheduled for release in the first
quarter of 2008. If you’ve waited until this point, you might wish
to do so just a bit longer.
Bob Walters,based in Battle Creek, Mich., is founder of Phoenix
Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.