Ever since Microsoft announced that it was going to stop selling Windows XP, the phrase "Save Windows XP" has become something of a battle cry. In spite of the nearly global backlash against Windows Vista, though, I personally think that Vista is a better operating system than Windows XP. I realize that many of you are probably calling me an idiot right now, but hear me out before you flame me.Before I begin, I want to dispel one rumor up front. There have been several occasions over the years when people have accused me of working for Microsoft or of promoting anything that Microsoft is selling, regardless of whether it is any good or not. I assure you that this is simply not the case. I do not, nor have I ever worked for Microsoft. I also try to be as honest as possible when giving my opinions of their products.
Why such a backlash?
For those of you who may be wondering why there is such a backlash against Windows Vista, it's primarily related to three issues: performance, hardware compatibility and software compatibility.
Windows Vista performance
I am not going to insult anyone's intelligence by telling you that Vista outperforms Windows XP. It just doesn't. What I will say, though, is that Vista's performance is not usually an issue on most newer computers.
In a way, the same thing could also be said about Windows XP. Before Windows XP was released, Windows 98 was the dominant operating system. When Microsoft released Windows XP, a lot of people complained that the new operating system was bloated and that it did not perform as well as Windows 98. Over time, hardware became more powerful and the operating system's performance eventually ceased to be an issue. I believe that the same thing will happen with Windows Vista.
Vista hardware compatibility
Another reason why many companies shy away from using Windows Vista is because of hardware compatibility concerns. Admittedly, Windows Vista requires a lot more CPU power, memory and disk space than Windows XP does. There are also issues with the unavailability of drivers for legacy hardware, especially if the hardware is something obscure or highly specialized.
In some ways, Windows Vista has Windows XP beat in the hardware compatibility department. Although there has been a 64-bit version of Windows XP for many years now, finding 64-bit drivers for XP has always been a bit of an issue. Initially, the only 64-bit drivers you could get for Windows XP were the ones that came with the operating system. Even though hardware vendors started releasing more 64-bit drivers for Windows XP over time, finding drivers can still be a challenge.
Things are different, however, with Windows Vista. Although Vista comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, it is obvious that Microsoft is working hard to get everyone to make the move to 64-bit. Also, the 64-bit version of Vista comes with plenty of drivers. On occasion I have needed to download 64-bit drivers for some of my more specialized hardware, and on only one occasion have I ever had any trouble finding 64-bit drivers for Vista. I can't say the same for Windows XP.
Vista software compatibility
Probably the one concern that has hurt Windows Vista more than any other is the software compatibility issue. Many applications that run just fine under Windows XP will not run under Windows Vista. Often, the operating system can be tweaked to allow legacy applications to run, but not always. Running newer applications isn't really an issue anymore, because just about every software vendor now makes Vista-compatible versions of their applications.
Personally, I had quite a few problems with software compatibility when Vista was first released. I just could not get three applications I use on a regular basis to run in Vista. Since then, these applications have all been updated and software compatibility has not been a problem for me in quite some time.
Although software compatibility is something you certainly have to consider when making a decision about whether or not to upgrade to Vista, it is important to remember that the reason why some compatibility problems exist is because of Vista's new security model. In my opinion, this new security model more than makes up for any compatibility problems that may result.
Look for part two of Brien Posey's column on why Windows Vista is a better operating system than Windows XP.
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.