New Windows OS long overdue

Vista just isn’t cutting it for Windows users, and business needs to be careful when upgrading. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

Last week’s release of the first Vista service pack is an important milestone for Microsoft’s newest version of Windows. Vista hasn’t been a great success so far, so what exactly is a service pack and why should it make Vista more attractive to suspicious buyers?

Service packs are an important part of the Microsoft world. Software is a work in progress and there will always be updates regardless of how good a package is. Microsoft deals with this by occasionally bundling together all the updates, throwing in a few improvements and issuing it as a big, fat “service pack”.

In the past, these service packs have been important upgrades. The differences between the versions of Windows 95 were dramatic as Microsoft discovered the internet. Similarly, the differences between the versions of Windows XP were huge as it dawned on Microsoft just how bad the Windows spyware epidemic had become.

Unfortunately the Vista service pack offers few new compelling features. Common gripes like slow file copying have been partly addressed and there have been some changes to the irritating and constant yelping about security. But there’s still little reason to make the jump.

The simple fact is Vista offers little new over Windows XP. Coupled with a brain numbing array of versions and licensing options, along with the risk your existing software and hardware may not play with it, makes it hard to recommend.

If you are buying new systems then it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a machine without Vista, but with a bit of arm twisting, it’s possible to get systems with XP. Most manufacturers will reluctantly offer XP equipped systems if you insist hard enough.

Should you decide to go with Vista, make sure your systems have at least 2Gb of RAM and avoid cheap boxes that come with Vista Home Basic. Regardless of the size of your business you should have at least Vista Business on the machine.

It’s absolutely essential to do your homework before buying a Vista system. There are some weird incompatibilities such as printing in reverse on some printer models. Do a web search on your existing equipment and Vista to see if others are having problems.

The whole point of using computers in your workplace is to make business more efficient. To do that you need to choose the right tool for the job. Right now, it’s difficult to recommend Vista as the right tool for most businesses.

In many ways this is a shame, as Windows XP is showing its age and a new Windows operating system is well overdue. But right now, in my view, Vista just isn’t cutting it for home and business users.


Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3000 subscribers.

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