When Windows XP hit the market people lined up overnight to be the first to purchase it. It was a major improvement over Windows 98 and Windows ME, and quickly became the bona fide standard for PCs — despite some security issues, some plug and play issues with peripherals, and the fact that Microsoft still hadn’t conquered the blue screen of death.
The first two service packs resolved many of those issues, and by Service Pack 2 the XP platform was more or less perfected. Microsoft Service Pack 3, which is available in beta test form, is even better and embraces next generation processors and systems.
At the same time, there’s no question that Vista — which was created to replace XP — has had its share of problems since it launched. It’s not that it’s a bad operating system, but people are disappointed. I got a chance to try a laptop with Vista Home Premium and I can confirm that the experience was underwhelming.
First of all, it was very slow to boot up. Setting it up was also time consuming — if you don’t know anything about computers it could take you hours just to get started.
Secondly, the number of error and update messages is truly frustrating, and there is no way to automate those features so it never asks you again. Why does the printer driver need to check for updates every time I turn the system on?
Although the Aero interface is far better than XP, Apple still does it better. Vista is still too complicated, and not nearly as intuitive as it should be. Instead of simplifying the platform for the mass market, it seems more complex.
One of the main reasons Vista might be slow is its size — more than 7 GB for most versions — which means the software constantly has to refer to the hard drive so it doesn’t overwhelm your memory. That takes time, which might explain why it takes so long to open and close programs, move files around, handle updates, and generally respond to my points and clicks. It wasn’t that the laptop I was using was underpowered because it wasn’t — it probably had the fastest hardware for a computer that I’ve ever used.
Another theory for the lower speeds is digital rights management software that is embedded in Vista, which may be spying on your every move to make sure you’re not stealing software.
Whatever the reasons, Vista is slow. CNet (www.cnet.com) also recently did a benchmarking test using Vista and Service Pack 3 on identical machines, and found that XP could handle various applications and actions twice as fast as Vista.