People have been whining excessively these pasts months about Vista, how it’s not ready, how it’s annoying with all the security popups, how it requires way to much in the way of hardware.
I’m here to tell you that the reports of the hardware requirements being overly needy are exaggerated to point of the ridiculous. I’ve been playing around with Windows Vista beta 2 these past couple of weeks, and have been installing on a variety of machine configurations. Not only did I have zero problems getting the beast to run, it ran without a hitch at all times. My biggest problem was with IE7 crashing time and time again but I’m guessing that the problem lies within IE7 itself and not in the OS, otherwise I would have seen this behavior from other programs as well but they have all behaved nicely, even Office 2007 beta 2 which I’m running exclusively at the moment.
Now what I’ve found on the hardware front is that most people will be able to benefit from the nice new Aero interface. Basically everyone will have a CPU and hard drive fast enough for Vista, the main problem lies with the graphics adapter and the RAM.
I’m glad to report that I’ve been successful in installing and running Aero on everything from a Radeon 9700 Mobility, Radeon 9550, to NVidia's nForce430 with integrated graphics. These adapters are either a couple of years old or very low spec so I don’t really see a huge problem in this department. If you’ve bought a computer within the last year I’d say that you are pretty much good to go. Also worth of note is that the UI team has a sleek alternative graphics mode ready for the users who don’t own a PC with the required hardware. You get something which looks more like Windows XP but still a bump up from what we’re used to. The one problem I foresee with Aero is that people who have the right hardware but are right on the border of what Vista requires will not have Aero enabled by default. A new hardware rating concept has been introduced and more other than not the rating doesn’t actually reflect what the machine is actually able to do so you need to enable glass yourself which I bet most regular users won’t be able to do. Of course the rating may be immature still and it needs some fine tuning as the rest of the OS, but Microsoft really need to get this right so the common folk can take full advantage of not only their shiny new OS but their hardware as well. It looks like Microsoft is aware of this though.
Memory is an area which people have largely ignored but I see this as being one of the areas which will really cause some havoc. In the past I’ve always equipped machines with 1 GB of memory but it looks like that won’t be enough for Vista. I’m typing this on my main Vista installation and have a gadget up in the sidebar which displays RAM usage. At the moment it shows 75% usage with only Outlook 2007 running in the background and the program that I’m typing this post in the foreground. To me this indicates that you will need 2 GB for regardless of how you use your computer. Windows XP is fine with 512 MB for the average user but it seems that Vista will need four times the memory to achieve the same level of responsiveness that we see in Windows XP. With that being said I am running with only a single GB of RAM and the experience is smooth but from time to time a lot of swapping will occur slowing the OS down to a crawl.
In conclusion you need to be aware of the fact the Windows Vista is still in beta. Yes the OS is feature complete but a lot is still happening in the fine tuning department. The number of security dialog popups is one area where the team is rethinking the way they go about authenticating that a real user is clicking the buttons. Another area is performance: You can be sure that we will see Vista performing better on lower end hardware by the time it ships due to optimizations done in this last phase of development. The difference in performance between build 5384 and 5456 is clear evidence of the fact.
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in any way.