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Windows Vista

Windows Vista is a line of operating systems developed by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, Tablet PCs, and media center PCs. Prior to its announcement on July 22, 2005, Windows Vista was known by its codename Longhorn. Development was completed on November 8, 2006; over the following three months it was released in stages to computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers, and retail channels. On January 30, 2007, it was released worldwide, and was made available for purchase and download from Microsoft's website. The release of Windows Vista came more than five years after the introduction of its predecessor, Windows XP, the longest time span between successive releases of Microsoft Windows.

Windows Vista contains many changes and new features, including an updated graphical user interface and visual style dubbed Windows Aero, improved searching features, new multimedia creation tools such as Windows DVD Maker, and redesigned networking, audio, print, and display sub-systems. Vista also aims to increase the level of communication between machines on a home network, using peer-to-peer technology to simplify sharing files and digital media between computers and devices. Windows Vista includes version 3.0 of the .NET Framework, which aims to make it significantly easier for software developers to write applications than with the traditional Windows API.

Microsoft's primary stated objective with Windows Vista, however, has been to improve the state of security in the Windows operating system. One common criticism of Windows XP and its predecessors has been their commonly exploited security vulnerabilities and overall susceptibility to malware, viruses and buffer overflows. In light of this, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced in early 2002 a company-wide "Trustworthy Computing initiative" which 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.

While these new features and security improvements have garnered positive reviews, Vista has also been the target of much criticism and negative press. Criticism of Windows Vista has targeted high system requirements, its 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 compatibility with certain pre-Vista hardware and software, and the number of authorization prompts for User Account Control. As a result of these and other issues, Windows Vista has seen adoption and satisfaction rates lower than Windows XP.

Development

Microsoft began work on Windows Vista, known at the time by its codename Longhorn in May 2001, five months before 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 to build updates to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to strengthen security. 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.

Microsoft had claimed that Windows Vista had cost 6 billion dollars to develop.

New or improved features

End-user 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 versions, including new transparencies, live thumbnails, live icons, and animations, thus providing a new level of eye candy. Laptop users report, however, that battery life is shortened with the feature enabled.
  • 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 pane has been removed, integrating the relevant task options into the toolbar. A "Favorite links" pane has been added, enabling one-click access to common directories. The address bar has been replaced with a breadcrumb navigation system. The preview pane allows users to see thumbnails of various files and view the contents of documents. The details pane 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 Pearl.
  • 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 Windows 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 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 application.
  • Windows Photo Gallery, a photo and movie library management application. It can import from digital cameras, tag and rate individual items, adjust colours 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 slides.
  • 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 settings, etc.).
  • 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, Starter and Home Basic editions are limited to "join" mode only)
  • 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 2003.
  • Windows Update: Software and security updates have been simplified, 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 who choose the recommended setting for Automatic Updates will have the latest drivers installed and available when they add a new device.
  • 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. 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 incorporated.
  • 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, via Windows Update, access to some additional features. These are a collection of additional MUI language packs, Texas Hold 'Em (a Poker game) and Microsoft Tinker (a strategy game where the character is a robot), BitLocker and EFS enhancements which allow users to backup their encryption key online in a Digital Locker, and Windows Dreamscene, which enables the use of videos in MPEG and WMV formats as the desktop background. On April 21, 2008, Microsoft launched two more Ultimate Extras; three new Windows sound scheme, and a content pack for Dreamscene. Various DreamScene Content Packs have been released since the final version of DreamScene was released.
  • Reliability and Performance Monitor 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.
  • Disk Management: The Logical Disk Manager in Windows Vista supports shrinking and expanding volumes on-the-fly.

Core technologies

Windows Vista is intended to be a technology-based release, to provide a base to include advanced technologies, many of which are related to how the system functions and thus not readily visible to the user. An example is the complete restructuring of the architecture of the audio, print, display, and networking subsystems; although the results of this work are 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) 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 to allow Windows Vista to make intelligent decisions about what content should be present in system memory at any given time. It uses almost all the extra RAM as disk cache. In conjunction with SuperFetch, an automatic built-in Windows Disk Defragmenter makes sure that those applications are strategically positioned on the hard disk where they can be loaded into memory very quickly with the least amount of physical movement of the hard disk’s read-write heads.

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. Earlier versions of Windows typically needed third-party wireless networking software to work properly, but this is not the case with Vista, which includes more comprehensive wireless networking support.

For graphics, Vista introduces a new Windows Display Driver Model and 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 and I/O scheduler. The Heap Manager implements additional features such as integrity checking in order to improve robustness and defend against buffer overflow security exploits, although this comes at the price of breaking backward compatibility with some legacy applications. A Kernel Transaction Manager has been implemented that enables applications to work with the file system and Registry using atomic transaction operations.

Security-related technologies

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, with a view to stopping malware from making unauthorized changes to the system. 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—such as installing/uninstalling software or making system-wide configuration changes—is performed, 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. Regular use of the computer such as running programs, printing, or surfing the Internet does not trigger UAC prompts. User Account Control asks for credentials in a Secure Desktop mode, in which 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 prompt.

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 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 gives consent.

Whereas prior releases of Windows supported per-file encryption using Encrypting File System, the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Vista include BitLocker Drive Encryption which can protect entire volumes, notably the operating system volume. However, BitLocker requires approximately a 1.5-gigabyte partition to be permanently unencrypted and to contain system files in order for Windows to boot. This is a potential security issue, because third party applications (or even the operating system) may intentionally or unintentionally write sensitive data to the partition and the data will not be encrypted. BitLocker can work in conjunction with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) cryptoprocessor (version 1.2) embedded in a computer's motherboard, or with a USB key. However, as with other full disk encryption technologies, BitLocker is vulnerable to a cold boot attack, especially where TPM is used as a key protector without a boot PIN being required too.

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.

The 64-bit versions of Vista require that all device drivers be digitally signed, so that the creator of the driver can be identified.

Business technologies

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 Windows Imaging Format (WIM) is the cornerstone of Microsoft's new deployment and packaging system. WIM files, which contain a HAL-independent 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 customize images.
  • 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 languages.
  • 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 also included.
  • 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. It is not possible to change the language, even for all users, in Windows Vista Home.
  • Wireless Projector support

Developer technologies

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 components:

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 and CAPI.

There are some issues for software developers using some of the graphics APIs in Vista. Games or programs which are built solely on the Windows Vista-exclusive version of DirectX, version 10, cannot work on prior versions of Windows, as DirectX 10 is not available for previous Windows versions. Also, games which require the features of D3D9Ex, the updated implementation of DirectX 9 in Windows Vista are also incompatible with previous Windows 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 flavors: 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 Vista-compatible ICDs. However, hardware overlay is not supported, because it is considered as an obsolete feature in Vista. ATI and NVIDIA strongly recommend using compositing desktop/Framebuffer Objects for same functionality.

Removed features

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 color schemes which have been part of Windows since the Windows 3.x era. The "Hardware profiles" startup feature has also been removed, 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. The IPX/SPX Protocol has also been removed, although it can be enabled by a third-party plugin.

Editions

Windows Vista ships in six editions. These 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, and contains applications for creating and using multimedia. The home editions cannot join a Windows Server domain. For businesses, there are two editions. Windows Vista Business is specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses, while Windows Vista Enterprise is only available to customers participating in Microsoft's Software Assurance program. Windows Vista Ultimate contains the complete feature-set of both the Home and Business (combination of both Home Premium and Enterprise) editions, as well as a set of Windows Ultimate Extras, and is aimed at enthusiasts.

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 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.

Visual styles

Windows Vista has four distinct visual styles. Windows Aero:
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 are stored in video memory to facilitate tearing-free movement of windows. As such, Windows Aero has significantly higher hardware requirements than its predecessors. The minimum requirement is for 128 MB of graphics memory, 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(DWM); 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: Windows Classic resembles Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, does not use the Desktop Window Manager, and does not require a WDDM driver. As with previous versions of Windows, this visual style supports color schemes, which are collections 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/Windows Me.

Hardware requirements

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 and later 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 Windows 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 needing a CD-ROM or customers who wish for a 64-bit install media are able to acquire this media through the Windows Vista Alternate Media program. The Ultimate edition includes both 32-bit and 64-bit media. The digitally downloaded version of Ultimate includes only one version, either 32-bit or 64-bit, from Windows Marketplace.

Windows Vista system requirements
"Vista Capable" "Vista Premium Ready"
Processor 800 MHz 1 GHz
Memory 512 MB RAM 1 GB RAM
Graphics card DirectX 9.0 capable DirectX 9.0 capable and WDDM 1.0 driver support
Graphics memory 32 MB RAM 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 capacity 20 GB 40 GB
HDD free space 15 GB 15 GB
Other drives DVD-ROM DVD-ROM
Audio Audio output Audio output

Service Packs

Microsoft occasionally releases service packs (SPx) for its Windows operating systems to fix bugs and also add new features.

Service Pack 1

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. The initial deployment of the service pack caused a number of machines to continually reboot, rendering the machines unusable. This caused Microsoft to temporarily suspend automatic deployment of the service pack until the problem was resolved. The synchronized release date of the two operating systems reflected the merging of the workstation and server kernels back into a single code base for the first time since Windows 2000. MSDN subscribers were able to download SP1 on February 15, 2008. SP1 became available to current Windows Vista users on Windows Update and the Download Center on March 18, 2008. Initially, the service pack only supported 5 languages, English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. Support for the remaining 31 languages was released on April 14, 2008.

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 domain-joined machines, JavaScript parsing in Internet Explorer, 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 Tunneling Protocol. Booting a system using Extensible Firmware Interface on x64 systems is also being introduced; this feature had originally been slated for the initial release of Vista but was delayed due to a lack of compatible hardware at the time.

Two areas have seen changes in SP1 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 SP1 "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 (see Kernel Patch Protection).

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. SP1 includes a kernel (6001) that matches the version shipped with Windows Server 2008.

The Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) is being replaced by the Group Policy Object Editor. An updated downloadable version of the Group Policy Management Console was released soon after the service pack.

SP1 enables support for hotpatching, a reboot-reduction servicing technology designed to maximize uptime. It works by allowing Windows components to be updated (or "patched") while they are still in use by a running process. Hotpatch-enabled update packages are installed via the same methods as traditional update packages, and will not trigger a system reboot.

Service Pack 2

Based on KB948465, Windows Vista SP2's information is expected to be available soon.

Criticism

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 Vista's pricing. When asked by Gizmodo at CES 2008 what Microsoft product could have used more polish before release, Microsoft founder Bill Gates himself replied, "Ask me after we ship the next version of Windows. Then I'll be more open to give you a blunt answer. Hardware requirements: While Microsoft claimed "nearly all PCs on the market today [2005] 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 U.K. newspaper The Times in May 2006, the full set of features "would be available to less than 5 percent of Britain’s PC market", however, this prediction was made several months before Vista was released. This continuing lack of clarity eventually led to a class action against Microsoft as people found themselves with new computers that were unable to use the new software to its full potential despite the assurance of "Vista Capable" designations. The court case has made public internal Microsoft communications that indicate that senior executives have also had difficulty with this issue. For example, his laptop's lack of an appropriate graphics chip so hobbled Vista features that vice president Mike Nash commented "I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine. Licensing and cost: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 of 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 transferable (although whether this conflicts with the right of first sale has yet to be decided clearly legally). 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: Windows Vista supports additional forms of digital rights management protections. One aspect of this is the Protected Video Path, which is designed so that "premium content" from HD DVD or Blu-ray Discs may mandate that the connections between PC components be encrypted. 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. Drivers for such hardware must be approved by Microsoft; a revocation mechanism is also included which 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" being a particular worry; if triggered, the entire graphic subsystem performs a reset) and vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks. However despite several requests for evidence supporting such claims Peter Gutman has never supported his claims with any researched evidence. 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 content). User Account Control: Although UAC is considered an important part of Vista's security infrastructure, as it blocks software from silently gaining administrator privileges without the user's knowledge, it has been widely criticized for generating too many prompts, even for regular tasks like installing software or renaming folders in protected areas. This has led many users to consider it annoying and tiresome, with some consequently either turning it off or putting it in auto-approval mode. Responding to this criticism, Microsoft altered the implementation to reduce the number of prompts with SP1. Though the changes have resulted in some improvement, it has not alleviated the concerns completely.

Reception

The adoption of Vista has been generally low, due to largely poor reviews and harsh criticism. PC World rated it as the biggest tech disappointment of 2007, and it was rated by InfoWorld as #2 of Tech's all-time 25 flops. The market share for Windows Vista, taking the latest statistic, was 17.85% as of September 2008. This figure combined with World Internet Users and Population Stats yields a user base of roughly 260 million.

Within its first month, 20 million copies of Vista were sold, double the amount of Windows XP sales within its first month in October 2001, five years earlier. In China, only 244 genuine copies were sold within the first two weeks, leading authorities to believe that software piracy left many copies unaccounted for. However, 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 Windows 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. Due to Vista's relatively low adoption rates and continued demand for Windows XP, Microsoft continued to sell Windows XP until June 30, 2008 instead of the previously planned date of January 31, 2008. There have been reports of Vista users downgrading their operating systems, as well as reports of businesses planning to skip Vista, though some recommend that small businesses should indeed migrate to Vista as a stepping-stone in transforming computers and technologies. A study conducted by ChangeWave in March 2008 shows that the percentage of corporate users who are "very satisfied" with Vista is dramatically lower than other operating systems, with Vista at 8%, compared to the 40% who say they are "very satisfied" with Windows XP.

Although business adoption of Vista has been far higher than Apple or Linux platforms, it has been slower than expected; while businesses do tend to delay upgrading their operating systems, there have been reports of businesses who were considering upgrading to Vista prior to its release now intending to skip Vista entirely due to upgrade costs and the estimated release of Windows 7 in late 2009 (as of May 27, 2008). 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 using Vista. ChangeWave also reported that 53% of new business computers bought in the next quarter will be equipped with Windows XP as opposed to 20% of businesses buying computers equipped with Vista. Furthermore, while a large number of businesses have already bought licenses to run Windows Vista, many of these companies are delaying deployment. There have been a number of organizations who have denounced Vista due to its problems. For example, in October 2007, The Dutch Consumers' Association called for a boycott of Windows Vista after Microsoft refused to offer free copies of Windows XP to users who had problems with Vista.

Amid the negative reviews and reception, there has also been significant positive review of Vista, most notable from among PC gamers and the advantages brought about with DirectX 10, which allows for better gaming performance and more realistic graphics, as well as support for many new capabilities brought about in new video cards and GPUs.

On February 29, 2008, Microsoft announced that it will lower the price of the Vista operating system sold at retail outlets in order to aid in its adoption. These price cuts only apply to the retail versions sold in shops, which account for less than 10% of total Vista sales. Vista Ultimate, for example, will see a 20% drop in its price, from to $319.

On July 17, 2008, Microsoft announced that it had sold 180 million licenses, which would amount to between 36 and 57 billion dollars in gross retail sale price using February 29, 2008 price tags of the various versions. Initial development of the software was claimed to be 6 billion dollars.

On July 30, 2008, Microsoft indicated that Vista is appearing to be causing a shift in the PC industry to move from 32-bit to 64-bit PCs. The installed base of 64-bit Windows Vista PCs, as a percentage of all Windows Vista systems, has more than tripled in the U.S. in the previous three months, while worldwide adoption had more than doubled during the same period. Another view showed that 20% of new Windows Vista PCs in the U.S. connecting to Windows Update in June were 64-bit PCs, up from just 3% in March. Put more simply, usage of 64-bit Windows Vista is growing much more rapidly than 32-bit. Based on current trends, this growth will accelerate as the retail channel shifts to supplying a rapidly increasing assortment of 64-bit desktops and laptops. It is believed that the falling price of RAM and increased use of multitasking are reaping benefits from Windows SuperFetch, which accelerates performance with the installation of more RAM allowed by a 64-bit PC.

Competition with Windows XP

According to a marketing manager working for HP Australia, Windows XP is still being chosen over Windows Vista for the majority of business computer sales. As all customers of OEM versions of Vista Business and Ultimate are eligible for a free downgrade to Windows XP Professional, these Windows XP licenses are sold as Vista Business licenses, thus increasing Vista's sales figures. Some computer manufacturers have chosen to ship Windows XP restore disks along with new computers with Vista Business and Ultimate editions pre-installed, as well as new computers with XP instead of Vista.

The "Mojave Experiment"

In July 2008, Microsoft introduced a web-based advertising campaign called "The 'Mojave Experiment'", that depicts a group of people who are asked to evaluate the newest operating system from Microsoft, calling it Windows 'Mojave'. Participants are first asked about Vista, if they have used it, and their overall satisfaction with Vista, on a scale of 1 to 10. They are then shown a demo of some of the new operating system's features, and asked their opinion and satisfaction with it on the same 1 to 10 scale. After respondents rate "Mojave", they are then told, that they were really shown a demo of Windows Vista. The object was to test "A theory: If people could see Windows Vista firsthand, they would like it." According to Microsoft, the initial sample of respondents rated Vista an average of 4.4 out of 10, and Mojave received an average of 8.5, with no respondents rating Mojave lower than they originally rated Windows Vista before the demo. However, during the experiment, users did not have access to information such as hardware compatibility, licensing terms, and system requirements of Mojave, which are some of the most criticized aspects of Windows Vista.

See also

Notes and references

External links

Microsoft

Reviews and screenshots

Criticism

Security vulnerabilities

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