NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2006
Is Windows Vista for You? Which Edition?
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)


By the time you read this, the first computers with factory installed Windows Vista should be appearing on the market. Retail versions of Vista are planned to be on the shelves in late January for those who want to upgrade their current operating systems or build a new computer with Microsoft’s latest and greatest. Vista is Microsoft’s long awaited replacement for the five year old Windows XP, which until now had been Microsoft’s premier operating system. XP has been available in several editions, such as Home, Professional, Media Center, and a handful of other editions. Vista will initially be available in four editions, some of which will run on either the contemporary 32 bit computers, or on the newer 64 bit systems.

Recent purchasers of new computers with XP installed who purchased their new machines on or after October 26, may be eligible for a free or reduced cost upgrade to Vista. Most of the computers eligible for the upgrade will typically carry a sticker stating that the computers are “Windows Vista Capable”, or “Vista Premium Ready”, and may be manufactured by one of the major name brand makers, or may be assembled by local PC builders. It should be noted that while all “Vista Capable” computers can run Vista, the hardware installed in the computer and the edition of Vista installed will dictate what features are available and functional on the new computer. The edition of Vista being made available as an upgrade will depend on the hardware and version of XP installed on the new computer, with Vista Home Basic currently being the most common Vista edition offered as an upgrade.

Many of us with older computers may be interested in the new enhanced security and other features integral with Vista, and may want to consider an upgrade to Vista. Before anyone upgrades an older computer to Vista, it would be wise to download and run Microsoft’s free “Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor” available at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/upgradeadvisor. Many of us in the industry all too well remember the abundant horror stories recounting the difficulties that users had when upgrading older computers to the then-new XP, where printers, scanners, modems, peripherals, and software sometimes would not work after the upgrade to XP. In attempt to allay fears of Vista, and to advise the user of what to expect if Vista is installed, Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor will run a detailed analysis on the present computer, including the hardware components in the system, any connected peripherals, and the major software titles on the computer. The Upgrade Advisor will also recommend which edition of Vista will best run on the computer, considering all of the factors analyzed.

I thought that my main computer, a fairly recent name brand computer with a fast processor, a lot of memory, a big hard drive, and a very good video card would be capable of running the higher editions of Vista, but the Advisor informed me otherwise. According to the Advisor, my current computer can run the Vista Home Basic edition, the minimal version of Vista that will be available, which will lack the “bells and whistles” of the higher editions. The Upgrade Advisor informed me that while my computer meets the basic requirements of Vista, it is incapable of running many of the enhanced features available in the higher editions. I was also informed that my V.92 modem and my flatbed scanner are incompatible with Vista, and at present there are no drivers available for them that will allow them to work with Vista. There was even a concern expressed by the Advisor that my current sound card may or may not work with Vista. The good news is that almost all of my other hardware and peripherals, including my printer and fancy monitor will work with Vista. The software component of Advisor informed me that several of my utilities may not work with Vista, but most of my other programs will work after the upgrade.

Vista will initially be distributed in four distinct editions, Home Basic (the one Advisor says I can install), Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate. Home Basic is “basic” in that it includes the minimum set of Vista features. All versions include the basic Vista security and usability enhancements and features, as well as Microsoft’s new anti-spyware product Windows Defender, and an improved version of Windows Firewall. All versions also include Internet Explorer 7, and an instant search feature.

For home users who want more features and potential, the Home Premium edition may be a good choice. In addition to Defender and Firewall, Home Premium also includes Microsoft’s new Aero, which it touts as an enhanced 3D desktop experience. I have tried Aero and it is very attractive and fun to use, but requires a far more powerful video card and processor than what is currently installed on most computers. Home Premium also includes the features that had previously been included in the predecessor XP Media Center and Tablet editions, which makes Home Premium a good choice for those purchasing a new laptop or tablet PC with the hardware capable of running Home Premium. The media center capability allows for an enhanced multimedia experience utilizing audio and video, as well as TV and interconnectivity with an Xbox 360. The Tablet PC features will run on tablets that meet the new hardware requirements. Business users may find the Vista Business edition appropriate. It has many of the same features as Home Premium, except it lacks the media center and multimedia capability, but adds more business specific functionality. Business incorporates integral protection and warning against hardware failures, as well as significant backup features. Business networking is provided for, as well as a “remote desktop” feature, which offers enhanced connectivity. For the user who wants it all, Microsoft obliges with its Vista Ultimate edition, which includes all of the features of both Home Premium and Business editions, as well as additional functionality and features. Ultimate includes Microsoft’s BitLocker hard drive encryption utility at the system level, which will protect the data from intrusion if the computer is ever lost or stolen. For those most concerned with security, BitLocker may be a key component of a data security plan.

Vista may be used as an excuse to rationalize the purchase of a new computer, as most computers already in use can run little more than the Home Basic edition, and even at that there likely will be some incompatibilities with current hardware and software that runs fine under XP. I was recently asked a question, that if I were to buy a new computer, would I prefer XP or Vista. I have used both (I was a Vista beta tester), and I can say that I would prefer Vista. For home use, I would prefer Home Premium. If I really had a choice, and could afford the high-level hardware requirements, Ultimate edition would be my ultimate choice. Goodbye XP; you have been my friend for the past five years. Our relationship had sometimes been a little rough, but you usually carried me through the hard times. Hello Vista; I look forward to a long and productive relationship.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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