Stick with XP: Vista not ready for prime time! (3/2/07)

I've spent the last month performing a Vista upgrade install on my most powerful XP laptop and intensively working with the resulting Vista system, as well as studying what the rest of the world has to say about it. 

If you don't want to read the rest of what I've written about Vista, the bottom line  is:

Stick with XP because Vista is not ready for prime time, and should be avoided if at all possible, particularly if you depend upon computers for your livelihood. I wouldn't even think about purchasing a Vista system for at least a year, and more likely for several years. Under no circumstance should you consider upgrading an existing computer to Vista because the chances of getting a fully functional system are close to zero.

Advice similar to the above is being widely propagated throughout the IT community by people who perform actual hands-on computer support and who have actually worked with Vista. Additionally, it appears that most large institutions, in general, have no immediate plans for conversion to Vista. All of the hoot and holler about Vista right now is nothing more than a gigantic marketing campaign aimed primarily at the naive home user, aided by various lazy media outlets and other self-interested outfits that are simply rehashing canned press releases.

Unfortunately, the home consumer is taking it on the ear right now with respect to Vista, since almost no retail stores are offering the choice of pre-loaded XP systems. Even online sellers like Dell, HP, Gateway and the rest are not offering home users the option of XP. 

This means you'll have to explore the Small Business offerings of the various PC vendors online when you go to purchase new computers. Some of these types of business systems  offer the choice of XP or Vista. And why is that choice available to businesses? Because the sales of new business PCs would halt if XP wasn't made available. At any rate, a similarly configured business machine costs about the same as a consumer machine, and is loaded down with much less vendor junkware software anyway.

OK, so why is Vista not a great choice right now?

1. Vista has been released for only a few weeks. As with all newly released Microsoft products, the Vista release is buggy, and true stability won't be achieved for at least a year. My own experience has turned up such bugs, some of which don't yet have Microsoft fixes. 

The worst problem I've had is that my laptop won't reliably resume from sleep mode, which I and most other power laptops users use constantly throughout the day. There are pervasive reports of this problem on the web, and it's somewhat mind-boggling to imagine an operating system being released with such a fundamental flaw.

Another major problem with Vista appears to be very, very flaky wireless networking behavior, which is particularly fatal for laptops. Much of this flakyness appears to be the result of having IPv6 activated by default.

2. Vista is particularly immature, even for a Microsoft product, and it is quite obvious that it was rushed out the door long before it was truly complete and before Microsoft and other vendors were prepared to legitimately support it. Drivers for both onboard hardware as well as external hardware such as printers and scanners have had to be extensively reworked, and enormous numbers of these drivers don't yet exist. This means that there's a good chance your existing peripherals won't work with Vista. Even worse, vendors with poor track records for producing compatibility upgrades for older existing products, such as Epson, will not be supporting many of their older products with Vista.

3. Large numbers of existing software packages will not run on Vista or run poorly.

4. Vista is a major resource hog. A minimum of 1GB of main memory is required if you expect any kind of response at all from Vista, and in my opinion (and many others), 2GB is the true minimum. Vista consistently performs worse on various benchmarks when compared to XP, often showing results 16% slower than XP.

4. Vista is very, very poorly tuned out-of-the-box. Microsoft has added a whole slew of almost useless services that run in the background, many of which constantly pound on the hard drive in the background, thereby guaranteeing shorter disk life and a substantially greater probability of premature disk failure. To me, uselessly using up the lifespan of the system's hard drive is probably the greatest fault of Vista. Careful tuning under the hood can eliminate most, but not all, of Vista's disk trashing.

5. My experience has been that, out of the box, Vista is sluggish and extremely annoying. I've had to turn off most of the vaunted Vista "security" features, which really amount to little more than a crude overlay that issues dozens and sometimes 100's of annoying "are you absolutely sure?" prompts throughout the day that require you to enter your login password each and every time. Also, in order to get performance to begin to approach XP performance, many of Vista's eye-candy features frequently have to be disabled.

6. Microsoft has made dozens of small user-interface changes, the great majority of which offer no improvement over XP, and in fact, offer less functionality than previously with XP. Many familiar features and tool buttons have been removed from Explorer and other system programs, without replacement functionality being added back elsewhere. 

7. All in all, I see almost no advantages to most users of Vista over XP, and see a large number of both serious and minor disadvantages. In my opinion, poor decision-making is evidenced throughout Vista's internals as well as the external decision-making regarding Vista's premature release.

8. As mentioned at the beginning, the consensus of support professionals is to continue using XP for at least another year, and really, I suspect there will be no compelling reason to move to Vista even after 2 or 3 years, and probably even longer.