Windows Vista is a line of operating systems developed by
Microsoft for use on personal computers, home, business desktops,
laptops, Tablet PCs, and media centers.
Prior to its announcement in July 2005, Windows Vista was known
by its code name "Longhorn". Development was completed in November
2006. Over the following three months it was released in stages to
computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers,
and retail channels.
In January 2007, it was released worldwide. The release of
Windows Vista comes more than five years after the introduction of
its predecessor, Windows XP, to date the longest elapsed time
between successive releases of Microsoft Windows.
Windows Vista contains new features. An updated graphical user
interface. Improved searching features. New multimedia creation
tools such as Windows DVD Maker. New networking, audio, print, and
Vista aims to increase the level of communication between
machines on a home network. It uses peer-to-peer technology to
simplify sharing files and digital media between computers and
Windows Vista includes version 3.0 of the .NET Framework. This
tries to make it easier for developers to write applications than
with the traditional Windows API.
Too many versions + too much confusion
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Microsoft's primary stated objective with Windows Vista, has been
to improve security in the Windows operating system.
One common criticism of Windows XP and its predecessors has been
their commonly exploited security vulnerabilities. Microsoft
chairman Bill Gates announced in early 2002 a company-wide
"Trustworthy Computing initiative".
This aims to incorporate security work into every aspect of
software development at the company. Microsoft stated that it
prioritized improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server
2003 above finishing Windows Vista, thus delaying its completion.
Windows Vista has received a number of negative assessments. PC
World listed it #1 of "the 15 biggest tech disappointments of 2007,"
saying that "many users are clinging to XP like shipwrecked sailors
to a life raft, while others who made the upgrade are switching
back." Criticism targets
include protracted development time, more restrictive licensing
terms, the inclusion of a number of new Digital Rights Management
technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital
media, lack of device drivers for some hardware, and the usability
of other new features such as User Account Control.
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Microsoft began work on Windows Vista, known at the time by its
codename "Longhorn" in May 2001,
five months prior to the release of Windows XP. It was originally
expected to ship sometime late in 2003 as a minor step between
Windows XP and "Blackcomb", which was planned to be the company's
next major operating system release. Gradually, "Longhorn"
assimilated many of the important new features and technologies
slated for "Blackcomb", resulting in the release date being pushed
back several times. Many of Microsoft's developers were also
re-tasked with improving the security of Windows XP and Windows
Server 2003, both of which had been the target of a number of
high-profile security lapses.
Faced with ongoing delays and concerns about feature creep,
Microsoft announced on August 27, 2004 that it had revised its
plans. The original "Longhorn", based on the Windows XP source code,
was scrapped, and Longhorn's development started anew, building on
the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 codebase, and
re-incorporating only the features that would be intended for an
actual operating system release. Some previously announced features
such as WinFS were dropped or postponed, and a new software
development methodology called the "Security Development Lifecycle"
was incorporated in an effort to address concerns with the security
of the Windows codebase.
After "Longhorn" was named Windows Vista in July 2005, an
unprecedented beta-test program was started, involving hundreds of
thousands of volunteers and companies. In September of that year,
Microsoft started releasing regular Community Technology Previews
(CTP) to beta testers. The first of these was distributed at the
2005 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, and was
subsequently released to beta testers and Microsoft Developer
Network subscribers. The builds that followed incorporated most of
the planned features for the final product, as well as a number of
changes to the user interface, based largely on feedback from beta
testers. Windows Vista was deemed feature-complete with the release
of the "February CTP", released on February 22, 2006, and much of
the remainder of work between that build and the final release of
the product focused on stability, performance, application and
driver compatibility, and documentation. Beta 2, released in late
May, was the first build to be made available to the general public
through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program. It was downloaded by
over five million people. Two release candidates followed in
September and October, both of which were made available to a large
number of users.
While Microsoft had originally hoped to have the consumer
versions of the operating system available worldwide in time for
Christmas 2006, it was announced in March 2006 that the release date
would be pushed back to January 2007, in order to give the company –
and the hardware and software companies which Microsoft depends on
for providing device drivers – additional time to prepare. Through
much of 2006, analysts and bloggers had speculated that Windows
Vista would be delayed further, owing to anti-trust concerns raised
by the European Commission and South Korea, and due to a perceived
lack of progress with the beta releases. However, with the November
8, 2006 announcement of the completion of Windows Vista, Microsoft's
lengthiest operating system development project came to an end.
New or improved features
Windows Aero: The new hardware-based graphical user
interface is named Windows Aero, which Jim Allchin has
said is an acronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and
Open.. The new
interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically
pleasing than those of previous Windows, including new
transparencies, live thumbnails, live icons, and animations,
thus providing a new level of eye candy.
Windows Shell: The new Windows shell is significantly
different from Windows XP, offering a new range of organization,
navigation, and search capabilities. Windows Explorer's task
panel has been removed, integrating the relevant task options
into the toolbar. A "Favourite links" panel has been added,
enabling one-click access to common directories. The address bar
has been replaced with a breadcrumb navigation system. The
preview panel allows users to see thumbnails of various files
and view the contents of documents. The details panel shows
information such as file size and type, and allows viewing and
editing of embedded tags in supported file formats. The Start
menu has changed as well; it no longer uses ever-expanding boxes
when navigating through Programs. The word "Start" itself has
been removed in favor of a blue Windows Orb (also called
Instant Search (also known as search as you type) :
Windows Vista features a new way of searching called Instant
Search, which is significantly faster and more in-depth
(content-based) than the search features found in any of the
previous versions of Windows.
Windows Sidebar: A transparent panel anchored to the
side of the screen where a user can place Desktop Gadgets, which
are small applets designed for a specialized purpose (such as
displaying the weather or sports scores). Gadgets can also be
placed on other parts of the desktop.
Windows Internet Explorer 7: New user interface,
tabbed browsing, RSS, a search box, improved printing,
Page Zoom, Quick Tabs (thumbnails of all open tabs) ,
Anti-Phishing filter, a number of new security protection
features, Internationalized Domain Name support (IDN) , and
improved web standards support. IE7 in Windows Vista runs in
isolation from other applications in the operating system
(protected mode) ; exploits and malicious software are
restricted from writing to any location beyond Temporary
Internet Files without explicit user consent.
Windows Media Player 11, a major revamp of
Microsoft's program for playing and organizing music and video.
New features in this version include word wheeling (or "search
as you type") , a new GUI for the media library, photo display
and organization, the ability to share music libraries over a
network with other Vista machines, Xbox 360 integration, and
support for other Media Center Extenders.
Backup and Restore Center: Includes a backup and
restore application that gives users the ability to schedule
periodic backups of files on their computer, as well as recovery
from previous backups. Backups are incremental, storing only the
changes each time, minimizing the disk usage. It also features
Complete PC Backup (available only in Ultimate, Business, and
Enterprise versions) which backs up an entire computer as an
image onto a hard disk or DVD. Complete PC Backup can
automatically recreate a machine setup onto new hardware or hard
disk in case of any hardware failures. Complete PC Restore can
be initiated from within Windows Vista, or from the Windows
Vista installation CD in the event the PC is so corrupt that it
cannot start up normally from the hard disk.
Windows Mail: A replacement for Outlook Express that
includes a new mail store that improves stability,
and features integrated Instant Search. It has the Phishing
Filter like IE7 and Junk mail filtering that is enhanced through
regular updates via Windows Update.
Windows Calendar is a new calendar and task
Windows Photo Gallery, a photo and movie library
management application. WPG can import from digital cameras, tag
and rate individual items, adjust colors and exposure, create
and display slideshows (with pan and fade effects) , and burn
slideshows to DVD.
Windows DVD Maker, a companion program to Windows
Movie Maker that provides the ability to create video DVDs based
on a user's content. Users can design a DVD with title, menu,
video, soundtrack, pan and zoom motion effects on pictures or
Windows Media Center, which was previously
exclusively bundled as a separate version of Windows XP, known
as Windows XP Media Center Edition, has been incorporated into
the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.
Games and Games Explorer: Games included with Windows
have been modified to showcase Vista's graphics capabilities.
New games are Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans and Purble Place. A
new Games Explorer special folder holds shortcuts and
information to all games on the user's computer.
Windows Mobility Center is a control panel that
centralizes the most relevant information related to mobile
computing (brightness, sound, battery level / power scheme
selection, wireless network, screen orientation, presentation
Windows Meeting Space replaces NetMeeting. Users can
share applications (or their entire desktop) with other users on
the local network, or over the Internet using peer-to-peer
technology (higher versions than Starter and Home Basic can take
advantage of hosting capabilities, limiting previous to "join"
Shadow Copy automatically creates daily backup copies
of files and folders. Users can also create "shadow copies" by
setting a System Protection Point using the System Protection
tab in the System control panel. The user can be presented
multiple versions of a file throughout a limited history and be
allowed to restore, delete, or copy those versions. This feature
is available only in the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate
editions of Windows Vista and is inherited from Windows Server
Windows Update: Software and security updates have
now operating solely via a control panel instead of as a web
application. Windows Mail's spam filter and Windows Defender's
definitions are updated automatically via Windows Update. Users
that choose the recommended setting for Automatic Updates will
have the latest drivers installed and available when they add a
Parental controls: Allows administrators to control
which websites, programs, and games each standard user can use
and install. This feature is not included in the Business or
Enterprise editions of Vista.
Windows SideShow: Enables the auxiliary displays on
newer laptops or on supported Windows Mobile devices. It is
meant to be used to display device gadgets while the computer is
on or off.
Speech recognition is integrated into Vista.
It features a redesigned user interface and configurable
command-and-control commands. Unlike the Office 2003 version,
which works only in Office and WordPad, Speech Recognition in
Windows Vista works for any accessible application. In addition,
it currently supports several languages: British and American
English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Traditional and
Simplified) , and Japanese.
New fonts, including several designed for screen reading,
and improved Chinese (Yahei, JhengHei) , Japanese (Meiryo) and
Korean (Malgun) fonts. See . ClearType has also been enhanced
and enabled by default.
Problem Reports and Solutions, a control panel which
allows users to view previously sent problems and any solutions
or additional information that is available.
Improved audio controls allow the system-wide volume or
volume of individual audio devices and even individual
applications to be controlled separately. New audio
functionalities such as Room Correction, Bass Management,
Speaker Fill and Headphone virtualization have also been
Windows System Assessment Tool is a tool used to
benchmark system performance. Software such as games can
retrieve this rating and modify its own behavior at runtime to
improve performance. The benchmark tests CPU, RAM, 2-D and 3-D
graphics acceleration, Graphics Memory and Hard disk space.
Windows Ultimate Extras: The Ultimate Edition of
Windows Vista provides access to extra games and tools,
available through Windows Update. This replaces the Microsoft
Plus! software bundle that was sold alongside prior versions of
Disk Management: A utility to modify hard disk drive
partitions, including shrinking, creating and formatting new
Performance Diagnostic Console includes various tools
for tuning and monitoring system performance and resources
activities of CPU, disks, network, memory and other resources.
It shows the operations on files, the opened connections, etc.
Part of the Microsoft Windows family
RTM: November 8, 2006; Vol. Lic.: November 30, 2006; Retail: January 30, 2007 (info)
Closed source / Shared source
Windows Update, Windows Server Update
Windows Vista is intended to be a technology-based release, to
provide a solid base to include advanced technologies, many of which
are related to how the system functions, and hence not readily
visible to the user. An example of this is the complete
restructuring of the architecture of the audio, print, display, and
networking subsystems; while the results of this work will be
visible to software developers, end-users will only see what appear
to be evolutionary changes in the user interface.
Vista includes technologies such as ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive
which employ fast flash memory (located on USB drives and hybrid
hard disk drives respectively) to improve system performance by
caching commonly-used programs and data. This manifests itself in
improved battery life on notebook computers as well, since a hybrid
drive can be spun down when not in use. Another new technology
called SuperFetch utilizes machine learning techniques to analyze
usage patterns in order to allow Windows Vista to make intelligent
decisions about what content should be present in system memory at
any given time.
As part of the redesign of the networking architecture, IPv6 has
been fully incorporated into the operating system, and a number of
performance improvements have been introduced, such as TCP window
scaling. Prior versions of Windows typically needed third-party
wireless networking software to work properly; this is no longer the
case with Vista, as it includes more comprehensive wireless
For graphics, Vista introduces a new Windows Display Driver
Model, as well as a major revision to Direct3D. The new driver model
facilitates the new Desktop Window Manager, which provides the
tearing-free desktop and special effects that are the cornerstones
of Windows Aero. Direct3D 10, developed in conjunction with major
display driver manufacturers, is a new architecture with more
advanced shader support, and allows the graphics processing unit to
render more complex scenes without assistance from the CPU. It
features improved load balancing between CPU and GPU and also
optimizes data transfer between them.
At the core of the operating system, many improvements have been
made to the memory manager, process scheduler, heap manager, and I/O
scheduler. A Kernel Transaction Manager has been implemented that
gives applications the ability to work with the file system and
registry using atomic transaction operations.
Improved security was a primary design goal for Vista.
Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing initiative, which aims to improve
public trust in its products, has had a direct effect on its
development. This effort has resulted in a number of new security
and safety features.
User Account Control is perhaps the most significant and visible
of these changes. User Account Control is a security technology that
makes it possible for users to use their computer with fewer
privileges by default. This was often difficult in previous versions
of Windows, as the previous "limited" user accounts proved too
restrictive and incompatible with a large proportion of application
software, and even prevented some basic operations such as looking
at the calendar from the notification tray. In Windows Vista, when
an action requiring administrative rights is requested, the user is
first prompted for an administrator name and password; in cases
where the user is already an administrator, the user is still
prompted to confirm the pending privileged action. User Account
Control asks for credentials in a Secure Desktop mode, where the
entire screen is blacked out, temporarily disabled, and only the
authorization window is active and highlighted. The intent is to
stop a malicious program misleading the user by interfering with the
authorization window, and to hint to the user the importance of the
Internet Explorer 7's new security and safety features include a
phishing filter, IDN with anti-spoofing capabilities, and
integration with system-wide parental controls. For added security,
ActiveX controls are disabled by default. Also, Internet Explorer
operates in a "protected mode" which operates with lower permissions
than the user and it runs in isolation from other applications in
the operating system, preventing it from accessing or modifying
anything besides the Temporary Internet Files directory.
Microsoft's anti-spyware product, Windows Defender, has been
incorporated into Windows, providing protection against malware and
other threats. Changes to various system configuration settings
(such as new auto-starting applications) are blocked unless the user
Another significant new feature is BitLocker Drive Encryption, a
data protection technology included in the Enterprise and Ultimate
editions of Vista that provides encryption for the entire operating
system volume. Bitlocker can work in conjunction with a Trusted
Platform Module chip (version 1.2) that is on a computer's
motherboard, or with a USB key.
A variety of other privilege-restriction techniques are also
built into Vista. An example is the concept of "integrity levels" in
user processes, whereby a process with a lower integrity level
cannot interact with processes of a higher integrity level and
cannot perform DLL–injection to a processes of a higher integrity
level. The security restrictions of Windows services are more
fine-grained, so that services (especially those listening on the
network) have no ability to interact with parts of the operating
system they do not need to. Obfuscation techniques such as address
space layout randomization are used to increase the amount of effort
required of malware before successful infiltration of a system. Code
Integrity verifies that system binaries haven’t been tampered with
by malicious code.
As part of the redesign of the network stack, Windows Firewall
has been upgraded, with new support for filtering both incoming and
outgoing traffic. Advanced packet filter rules can be created which
can grant or deny communications to specific services.
While much of the focus of Vista's new capabilities has been on
the new user interface, security technologies, and improvements to
the core operating system, Microsoft is also adding new deployment
and maintenance features.
The WIM image format (Windows IMage) is the cornerstone of
Microsoft's new deployment and packaging system. WIM files,
which contain an image of Windows Vista, can be maintained and
patched without having to rebuild new images. Windows Images can
be delivered via Systems Management Server or Business
Desktop Deployment technologies. Images can be customized
and configured with applications then deployed to corporate
client personal computers using little to no touch by a system
administrator. ImageX is the Microsoft tool used to create and
Windows Deployment Services replaces Remote Installation
Services for deploying Vista and prior versions of Windows.
Approximately 700 new Group Policy settings have been added,
covering most aspects of the new features in the operating
system, as well as significantly expanding the configurability
of wireless networks, removable storage devices, and user
desktop experience. Vista also introduced an XML based format (ADMX)
to display registry-based policy settings, making it easier to
manage networks that span geographic locations and different
Services for UNIX has been renamed "Subsystem for UNIX-based
Applications," and is included with the Enterprise and Ultimate
editions of Vista. Network File System (NFS) client support is
Multilingual User Interface - Unlike previous version of
Windows which required language packs to be loaded to provide
local language support, Windows Vista Ultimate and Enterprise
editions support the ability to dynamically change languages
based on the logged on user's preference.
Wireless Projector support
Business customers who are enrolled in the Microsoft Software
Assurance program are offered a set of additional tools and services
collectively known as the "Desktop Optimization Pack". This includes
the Microsoft SoftGrid application virtualization platform, an asset
inventory service, and additional tools for maintaining Group Policy
settings in a fashion similar to a revision control system.
Windows Vista includes a large number of new application
programming interfaces. Chief among them is the inclusion of version
3.0 of the .NET Framework, which consists of a class library and
Common Language Runtime. Version 3.0 includes four new major
Windows Presentation Foundation is a user interface
subsystem and framework based vector graphics, which makes use
of 3D computer graphics hardware and Direct3D technologies. It
provides the foundation for building applications and blending
together application UI, documents, and media content. It is the
successor to Windows Forms.
Windows Communication Foundation is a
service-oriented messaging subsystem which enables applications
and systems to interoperate locally or remotely using Web
Windows Workflow Foundation provides task automation
and integrated transactions using workflows. It is the
programming model, engine and tools for building
workflow-enabled applications on Windows.
Windows CardSpace is a component which securely
stores digital identities of a person, and provides a unified
interface for choosing the identity for a particular
transaction, such as logging into a website.
These technologies are also available for Windows XP and Windows
Server 2003 to facilitate their introduction to and usage by
developers and end users.
There are also significant new development APIs in the core of
the operating system, notably the completely re-architected audio,
networking, print, and video interfaces, major changes to the
security infrastructure, improvements to the deployment and
installation of applications ("ClickOnce" and Windows Installer 4.0)
, new device driver development model ("Windows Driver Foundation")
, Transactional NTFS, mobile computing API advancements (power
management, Tablet PC Ink support, SideShow) and major updates to
(or complete replacements of) many core subsystems such as Winlogon
There are some issues for software developers using some of the
graphics APIs in Vista. Games or programs which are built solely on
Vista's version of DirectX, 10, cannot work on prior versions of
Windows, as DirectX 10 is not backwards-compatible with these
versions. According to
a Microsoft blog, there are three choices for OpenGL implementation
on Vista. An application can use the default implementation, which
translates OpenGL calls into the Direct3D API and is frozen at
OpenGL version 1.4, or an application can use an Installable Client
Driver (ICD) , which comes in two flavours: legacy and
Vista-compatible. A legacy ICD disables the Desktop Window Manager,
a Vista-compatible ICD takes advantage of a new API, and is fully
compatible with the Desktop Window Manager.
At least two primary vendors, ATI and NVIDIA provided full
However, hardware overlay is not supported, because it is considered
as an obsolete feature in Vista. ATI and NVIDIA strongly recommend
using compositing desktop/FBOs for same functionality.
Some notable Windows XP features and components have been
replaced or removed in Windows Vista, including Windows Messenger,
the network Messenger Service, HyperTerminal, MSN Explorer, Active
Desktop, and the replacement of NetMeeting with Windows Meeting
Space. Windows Vista also does not include the Windows XP "Luna"
visual theme, or most of the classic colour schemes which have been
part of Windows since the Windows 3.x era. The "Hardware profiles"
start-up feature has been removed as well, along with support for
older motherboard technologies like the EISA bus, APM and Game port
support (though game port support can be enabled by applying an
older driver). IP over
FireWire (TCP/IP over IEEE 1394) has been removed as well.
Some traditional features of Windows have been either eliminated
or severely crippled. For example, Wordpad will no longer open or
save files in .doc format, Windows Sound Recorder has had much of
its functionality removed, and the old Windows image viewer has been
replaced with Windows Photo Gallery, which cannot open .gif files
and so .gif files can only be viewed through Internet Explorer.
Windows Pinball (3-D Space Cadet) is gone. WinHlp32.exe, used to
display 32-bit .hlp files (help pages), is no longer included in
Windows Vista as Microsoft considers it obsolete,
though it is available as a separate download. Microsoft prohibits
software manufacturers from re-introducing the .hlp help system with
their products. Finally, Telnet.exe is no longer installed by
default, but is still included as an installable feature.
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These editions are roughly divided into two target markets, consumer
and business, with editions varying to cater for specific
sub-markets. For consumers, there are four editions, with three
available for developed countries. Windows Vista Starter edition is
limited to emerging markets. Windows Vista Home Basic is intended
for budget users with low needs. Windows Vista Home Premium covers
the majority of the consumer market. Windows Vista Ultimate contains
the complete feature-set and is aimed at enthusiasts. For
businesses, there are two versions. Windows Vista Business is
specifically designed for small business,
while Windows Vista Enterprise, the premium business edition
is only available to customers participating in Microsoft's Software
All editions except Windows Vista Starter support both 32-bit
(x86) and 64-bit (x64) processor architectures.
In the European Union, Home Basic N and Business N versions are
also available. These versions come without Windows Media Player,
due to EU sanctions brought against Microsoft for violating
anti-trust laws. Similar sanctions exist in South Korea.
Dell and Microsoft partnered up to support (PRODUCT) RED.
Microsoft released the Windows Vista Ultimate (PRODUCT) RED that
exclusively will come together with Dell (PRODUCT) RED Computers.
Windows Vista has four distinct visual styles.
Vista's premier visual style, Windows Aero, is built on a
new desktop composition engine called Desktop Window Manager.
Windows Aero introduces support for 3D graphics (Windows Flip
3D) , translucency effects (Glass) , live thumbnails, window
animations, and other visual effects, and is intended for
mainstream and high-end graphics cards. To enable these
features, the contents of every open window is stored in video
memory to facilitate tearing-free movement of windows. As such,
Windows Aero has significantly higher hardware requirements than
its predecessors. 128 MB of graphics memory is the minimum
requirement, depending on resolution used.
Windows Aero (including Windows Flip 3D) is not included in the
Starter and Home Basic editions.
Windows Vista Standard
This mode is a variation of Windows Aero without the glass
effects, window animations, and other advanced graphical effects
such as Windows Flip 3D. Like Windows Aero, it uses the Desktop
Window Manager, and has generally the same video hardware
requirements as Windows Aero. This is the default mode for the
Windows Vista Home Basic Edition. The Starter Edition does not
support this mode.
Windows Vista Basic
This mode has aspects that are similar to Windows XP's
visual style with the addition of subtle animations such as
those found on progress bars. It does not employ the Desktop
Window Manager; as such, it does not feature transparency or
translucency, window animation, Windows Flip 3D or any of the
functions provided by the DWM. The Basic mode does not require
the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) for display drivers,
and has similar graphics card requirements to Windows XP. For
computers with graphics cards that are not powerful enough to
support Windows Aero, this is the default graphics mode.
Windows Classic has the look and feel of Windows 2000 and
Windows Server 2003, does not use the Desktop Window Manager,
and does not require a WDDM driver. As with prior versions of
Windows, this visual style supports "color schemes," which are a
collection of color settings. Windows Vista includes six classic
color schemes, comprised of four high-contrast color schemes and
the default color schemes from Windows 98 and Windows 2000.
Computers capable of running Windows Vista are classified as
Vista Capable and Vista Premium Ready.
A Vista Capable or equivalent PC is capable of running all
editions of Windows Vista although some of the special features and
high end graphics options may require additional or more advanced
hardware. A Vista Premium Ready PC can take advantage of
Vista's "high-end" features.
Windows Vista's "Basic" and "Classic" interfaces work with
virtually any graphics hardware that supports Windows XP or 2000;
accordingly, most discussion around Vista's graphics requirements
centers on those for the Windows Aero interface. As of Windows Vista
Beta 2, the NVIDIA GeForce 6 series and later, the ATI Radeon 9500
and later, Intel's GMA 950 integrated graphics, and a handful of VIA
chipsets and S3 Graphics discrete chips are supported. Although
originally supported, the GeForce FX 5 series has been dropped from
newer drivers from NVIDIA. The last driver from NVIDIA to support
the GeForce FX series on Vista was 96.85.
Microsoft offers a tool called the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor
to assist XP and Vista users in determining what versions of Windows
their machine is capable of running. Although the installation media
included in retail packages is a 32-bit DVD, customers without a
DVD-ROM or customers who wish for a 64-bit install media are able to
acquire this media through the Windows Vista Alternate Media
Windows Vista system requirements
Vista Premium Ready
512 MB RAM
1 GB RAM
DirectX 9 capable
DirectX 9 capable GPU with Hardware
Pixel Shader v2.0 and WDDM 1.0 driver support
128 MB RAM supports up to 2,756,000
total pixels (e.g. 1920 × 1200) or 512 MB+ for greater
resolutions such as 2560x1600
HDD free space
Service Pack 1
Microsoft occasionally releases service packs for its Windows
operating systems to fix problems and add features. Windows Vista
Service Pack 1 (SP1) was released on February 4, 2008 alongside
Windows Server 2008 to OEM partners after a five-month beta test
period. Service Pack 1 will be available to current Windows Vista
users mid-March.  A whitepaper
published by Microsoft near the end of August 2007 outlined the
scope and intent of the service pack, identifying three major areas
of improvement: reliability and performance, administration
experience, and support for newer hardware and standards.
One area of particular note is performance. Areas of improvement
include file copy operations, hibernation, logging off on
network file share browsing,
Windows Explorer ZIP file handling,
and Windows Disk Defragmenter.
The ability to choose individual drives to defragment is being
reintroduced as well.
Service Pack 1 introduces support for some new hardware and
software standards, notably the exFAT file system,
802.11n wireless networking,,
IPv6 over VPN connections,
and the Secure Socket Tunnelling Protocol. An updated version of
Windows Installer is included that provides support for
multi-package transactions and embedding the user interface of a
child Windows Installer package inside a parent installation
session. Booting a
system using Extensible Firmware Interface on x64 systems is also
this feature had originally been slated for the initial release of
Vista but was delayed due to a lack of compatible hardware at the
Two areas have seen changes in Service Pack 1 that have come as
the result of concerns from software vendors. One of these is
desktop search; users will be able to change the default desktop
search program to one provided by a third party instead of the
Microsoft desktop search program that comes with Windows Vista, and
desktop search programs will be able to seamlessly tie in their
services into the operating system.
These changes come in part due to complaints from Google, whose
Google Desktop Search application was hindered by the presence of
Vista's built-in desktop search. In June 2007, Google claimed that
the changes being introduced for Service Pack 1 "are a step in the
right direction, but they should be improved further to give
consumers greater access to alternate desktop search providers."
The other area of note is a set of new security APIs being
introduced for the benefit of antivirus software that currently
relies on the unsupported practice of patching the kernel.
An update to DirectX 10, named DirectX 10.1,
makes mandatory several features which were previously optional in
Direct3D 10 hardware. Graphics cards will be required to support
DirectX 10.1. Service
Pack 1 includes a kernel (6001) that matches the version shipped
with Windows Server 2008.
Support for the Group Policy Management Console is being removed;
a replacement is planned for release the same time frame as the
release of the service pack.
Windows Vista has received a number of negative assessments.
Criticism targets include protracted development time, more
restrictive licensing terms, the inclusion of a number of
technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital
media, and the
usability of the new User Account Control security technology.
Reviewers have also noted some similarities between Vista's Aero
interface and that of Apple's Aqua interface for the Mac OS X
operating system. Moreover, some concerns have been raised about
many PCs meeting "Vista Premium Ready" hardware requirements and
While Microsoft claimed "nearly all PCs on the market today
 will run Windows Vista",
the higher requirements of some of the 'premium' features, such
as the Aero interface, have impacted many upgraders. According
to The Times in May 2006, the full set of features "would be
available to less than 5 percent of Britain’s PC market".This
continuing lack of clarity eventually led to a class action
against Microsoft as people found themselves with new computers
that were unable to run the new software despite assurances.
Slow file operations
When released, Vista performed file operations such as
copying and deletion more slowly than other operating systems.
Large copies required when migrating from one computer to
another seemed difficult or impossible without workarounds such
as using the command line. This inability to perform basic file
operations efficiently attracted strong criticism.
After six months, Microsoft confirmed the existence of these
problems by releasing a special performance and reliability
update, which was
later disseminated through Windows Update, and is included in
Service Pack 1.
Licensing and cost
The introduction of additional licensing restrictions has
been criticized. Criticism of upgrade licenses pertaining to
Windows Vista Starter through Home Premium was expressed by Ars
Technica's Ken Fisher, who noted that the new requirement of
having a prior operating system already installed was going to
cause irritation for users who reinstall Windows on a regular
basis. It has been
revealed that an Upgrade copy Windows Vista can be installed
clean without first installing a previous version of Windows. On
the first install, Windows will refuse to activate. The user
must then reinstall that same copy of Vista. Vista will then
activate on the reinstall, thus allowing a user to install an
Upgrade of Windows Vista without owning a previous operating
system. As with
Windows XP, separate rules still apply to OEM versions of Vista
installed on new PCs: Microsoft asserts that these versions are
not legally transferrable (although whether this conflicts with
the right of first sale has yet to be decided clearly in the
courts). The cost
of Windows Vista has also been a source of concern and
commentary. A majority of users in a poll said that the prices
of various Windows Vista editions posted on the Microsoft Canada
website in August 2006 make the product too expensive.
A BBC News report on the day of Vista's release suggested that,
"there may be a backlash from consumers over its pricing plans -
with the cost of Vista versions in the US roughly half the price
of equivalent versions in the UK."
Digital rights management
Another common criticism concerns the integration of new
forms of digital rights management into the operating system,
specifically the introduction of the Protected Video Path. This
architecture is designed such that "premium content" from HD DVD
or Blu-ray discs may mandate that the connections between PC
components be encrypted. Devices such as graphic cards must be
approved by Microsoft. Depending on what the content demands,
the devices may not pass premium content over non-encrypted
outputs, or they must artificially degrade the quality of the
signal on such outputs or not display it all. There is also a
revocation mechanism that allows Microsoft to disable drivers of
compromised devices in end-user PCs over the Internet.
Peter Gutmann, security researcher and author of the open source
cryptlib library, claims that these mechanisms violate
fundamental rights of the user (such as fair use) ,
unnecessarily increase the cost of hardware, and make systems
less reliable, (the "tilt bit" is a particular worry; if
triggered, the entire graphic subsystem performs a reset) and
vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks.
Proponents have claimed that Microsoft had no choice but to
follow the demands of the movie studios, and that the technology
will not actually be enabled until after 2010;
Microsoft also noted that content protection mechanisms have
existed in Windows as far back as Windows Me, and that the new
protections will not apply to any existing content (only future
User Account Control
Concerns have been raised about the new User Account Control
(UAC) security technology. While Yankee Group analyst Andrew
Jaquith believes that critical security vulnerabilities may be
"reduced by as much as 80%," he also noted that "while the new
security system shows promise, it is far too chatty and
This statement was made over six months before Vista was
actually released. When Windows Vista was released in November
2006, Microsoft had reduced the number of operating system tasks
that triggered UAC prompts, and added file and registry
virtualization to reduce the number of legacy applications that
trigger UAC prompts.
Despite reductions in UAC prompts they still are triggered by
many programs, particularly programs not designed for Windows
Software Protection Platform
Vista includes an enhanced set of anti-piracy technologies,
based on Windows XP's WGA, called Software Protection Platform (SPP).
A major component of this is a new reduced functionality mode,
which Vista enters when it detects that the user has "failed
product activation or of that copy being identified as
counterfeit or non-genuine",
which is described in a Microsoft white paper as follows: "The
default Web browser will be started and the user will be
presented with an option to purchase a new product key. There is
no start menu, no desktop icons, and the desktop background is
changed to black. [...] After one hour, the system will log the
user out without warning".
This has been criticised for being overly draconian,
especially given reports of "false positives" by SPP's
at least one temporary validation server outage.
Microsoft removed the reduced functionality mode in Service Pack
1 in favour of prominent notices on systems not found to be
Public reception and sales
Before the release of Windows Vista, expectations for the new
operating system were high, fueled by both promises of new features,
better security, and a better user interface, as well as the five
year period since the release of Windows XP. Large numbers of
businesses and consumers planned on upgrading to Vista. However,
after its release, it was met with harsh criticism for low hardware
support, high system requirements, relatively poor performance, and
for not making big enough improvements since the release of XP. This
prompted many users and businesses to hold off on upgrading to Vista
and even caused some to replace Vista installations with XP. These
results further led to low adoption levels of Windows Vista and
generally poor public review, as reflected by its title from PC
World as the biggest tech disappointment of 2007
and from InfoWorld as #2 of Tech's all-time 25 flops.
The actual usage share, as measured through web browser user agent
strings, show Vista to have approximately 6.9% of the desktop OS
market as of December 2007,
which has since increased to 8.294%.[citation
Due to the large growth of the PC market since the release of
Windows XP, initial sales of the operating system set a new high.
Within its first month, 20 million copies of Vista were sold, double
the amount of XP sales within its first month in October 2001, five
years earlier. That
said, as a factor of the new market, Vista sales were not high. For
example, rival operating system Mac OS X Leopard's first month's
sales also doubled over the number of sales from the release of Mac
OS X Jaguar five years earlier in August 2002.
However, in the case of Jaguar-to-Leopard sales, as opposed to
XP-to-Vista sales, users had less pressure to upgrade due to the
intermediate releases of both Mac OS X Panther and Tiger. PC World
reports that adoption of Windows Vista is going at a much slower
rate compared to the adoption of Windows XP. Within the first year
of its release, the percentage of XP users visiting PC World's
website reached 36%; in the same time frame, however, Windows Vista
adoption reached only 14%, with 71% of users still running XP.
Electronista reports that in 2007, Vista sales were outdone by XP
sales. At the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show, Bill Gates announced
that they had sold 100 million copies of Vista, while
InformationWeek notes a Gartner assessment that there have been over
250 million total PC sales (not counting separate license purchases)
during Vista's first year.
Electronista also notes that Vista's growth rate is actually slower
than what was with XP, saying that 89 million copies of XP were sold
in its first year despite having an overall PC market half the size
as in 2007.
Due to Vista's poor reception and continued demand for Windows
XP, Microsoft is allowing continued sales of Windows XP.
An unorthodox number of Vista users have downgraded their operating
systems, with many having reverted their own Vista installs or even
installing XP (or other operating systems) onto computers which were
preloaded with Vista, and many computer manufacturers have even
begun shipping XP restore disks along with new computers,
as well as new computers with Linux pre-installed. A study conducted
by ChangeWave in January 2008, shows that the percentage of
customers who are "very satisfied" with Vista is dramatically lower
than other operating systems, with Vista Home Basic at 15% and Vista
Home Premium 27%, compared to the approximately 52% who say they are
"very satisfied" with Windows XP and the 81% for Mac OS X Leopard.
ChangeWave also reported that 83% of those intending to purchase
Macs said that they "are choosing Macs because of Leopard and their
distaste for Vista".
The above ChangeWave study also showed a decrease in the
percentage of businesses intending to buy Windows-based PC, down
from 96% to 93% between November 2005 and November 2007, partly due
to Vista's reception, as well. Business adoption of Vista has been
slower than anticipated, with the vast majority still favouring
Windows XP and even waiting for Windows 7, Microsoft's next version
of Windows scheduled for release in 2010.
According to InformationWeek, in December 2006, 6% of business
enterprises were expected to employ Vista within the first year, yet
as of October 2007, only about 1% of enterprise PCs were actually
Furthermore, while a large number of businesses have bought licenses
to run Windows Vista, many of these companies are holding off
Some organizations have denounced Vista due to its problems. For
example, in October 2007, The Dutch Consumers Association called for
a boycott of Windows Vista after the software giant refused to offer
free copies of Windows XP to users who had problems with Vista.
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