Does Vista's strong security make it better than XP?

Despite being the whipping boy of Windows operating systems, at least one expert, Brien M. Posey, feels that Windows Vista's security makes it a better OS than XP.

Read part one of Brien Posey's two-part series comparing Windows Vista and XP, entitled Why Windows Vista is superior to XP.

I have already talked about some of the backlash that Windows Vista has suffered since its release. The argument could be made, though, that Vista is facing far greater opposition than Windows XP ever has. This opposition to Windows Vista actually reminds me of the hostility many had toward Windows 95.

When Windows 95 was released, Microsoft heralded it as its flagship product. Everyone was told that it was going to revolutionize personal computing. The problem was that although Windows 95 was a good idea, it required hardware far beyond what most workstations were equipped with at the time, and many of its features just didn't work properly.

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The company I worked for when Windows 95 was released actually banned its use, as did many others. Currently, many companies are forbidding the use of Windows Vista in their organizations. Overall, I can understand why so many companies were reluctant to use Windows 95. It was a brand new and basically untested operating system; it would be very risky for companies to put such an OS on the desktops of users who perform critical business processes. Windows Vista, on the other hand, is much more stable. Despite a few compatibility and performance issues, the core operating system is solid.

Windows 95 wasn't great, but it did introduce many features that are still in use today, and, ultimately, Microsoft worked out most of the kinks by the time it released Windows 98.

Windows 95 was considered a revolutionary product. Windows Vista, on the other hand, is evolutionary. Vista code has been around a lot longer than most people realize. In fact, most of the security improvements in Windows XP SP2 were based on code that Microsoft originally designed as part of Vista. SP2 did not fix all of the security problems that plague Windows XP, so the company went back to the drawing board and fixed most issues before releasing Windows Vista.

Why do I like Windows Vista?

So far I have talked a lot about why there has been such a tremendous backlash against Windows Vista and about some of the history of the Windows operating system. But, I haven't yet explained why I think Windows Vista is superior to Windows XP. So why do I like Windows Vista? It's simple really. Vista makes my life easier.

Prior to the release of Windows Vista, I was staying extremely busy cleaning malware infections for clients. Windows XP was, and still is, extremely susceptible to damage from malicious websites. I have lost many hours of productivity over the last few years just because I accidentally typed one incorrect keystroke and ended up on a malicious website instead of on the site that I intended to go to originally.

I'm not saying malware never infects Vista. However, I have yet to encounter a serious malware infection on any enterprise machine running Vista. This is a big statement when you consider how many times a week clients called me in the past asking me to help them clean a malware infection off of a Windows XP machine.

Vista security has an edge over Windows XP

The subject of malware infections came up recently and someone commented that it wasn't a big deal if Windows XP became infected because the machine shouldn't contain any data. Therefore, it would be simple for the help desk staff to redeploy the OS image.

I completely disagree with this sentiment. If an infection occurs, you risk data exposure even if the data is not actually stored on the infected machine. In addition to that, reimaging a machine's hard drive takes time, leading to lost productivity for the user. It also ties up the help desk.

You must consider, too, that nearly every company has at least some mobile users. A malware infection can seriously affect a mobile user's productivity. The user cannot do his job until he returns to corporate headquarters and has the problems fixed.

Since Windows Vista is far more resistant to malware infection than Windows XP, it makes sense to use Windows Vista whenever possible. Improved security isn't the only reason that I believe Windows Vista is a better operating system than XP. Vista has too many new features to list, but its mobile device support is first rate. The Windows Search feature, which can be accessed by holding down the Windows key and pressing the F key, is also useful. This feature was not removed in SP1, as many believe.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional Award five times for his work with Windows Server, IIS and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox.

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