8 Months with Vista

I’ve been using Windows Vista for about 8 months now on my HP nc8430 laptop. It started out a bit rocky, but now I wish I had Vista at home.

When I first installed it, I performed an upgrade to my XP installation. It went as smooth as can be, though it took an awfully long time. I found out later that it was actually moving files around to new directories (Documents and Settings became Users, for example). I decided I wanted to add an additional GB of RAM. Someone gave me a stick that was leftover from some other laptops that got upgrades. It seemed to work out fine when I installed it for a while, but then things got a bit wacky. My computer became basically unusable. I tried pulling it out, but the damage was done. I guess Vista didn’t like it because I decided I wasn’t going to leave it in and performed a full format and install from scratch. This install was the fastest Windows install I had every seen. In half an hour, I had a fully functional installation and none of the issues that I had from that memory remained.

I began installing drivers and applications that I used regularly. The only one that gave me any issue was Dreamweaver MX. It always set off the UAC (which I’ll go into more later) and it always required me to reset the path to my saved site because it is on a network drive. This was fixed when I installed the latest version of Dreamweaver (CS2 or CS3 I believe).

UAC, or User Account Control, isn’t as bad as people say. If you’re a power user, administrator, or just like to play with settings, you’ll run into it regularly. If you’re just an average user, you probably won’t see it much. I see it all the time because Active Directory controls set it off and I’m always resetting passwords for people. Other than that, it’s not a big deal and I really don’t mind. I left it on to see how annoying it would get, and it’s nowhere near annoying as the Apple ads would lead you to believe.

Now, the only issue I saw with running Vista was that my RAM was always sitting at about 50-60% usage. This is because of the indexing of files. It gives it up when other programs need it, so I don’t really mind. The thing that annoyed me, though, was that my computer took forever to startup. I found out later that this was due to the driver for the fingerprint reader and HP’s ProtectTools Security Manager (it ended up losing my identity for my domain account and I had to login to my other account to uninstall those drivers and the ProtectTools). After getting rid of that HP stuff, it started up a whole lot faster. I imagine HP has some work to do on the Vista tools and drivers.

Some features of Vista that I really like include the desktop search, the crash protection (when an application crashes, it won’t take the OS with it), the new networking center, Aero (it’s sexy, I like eye candy, what can I say?), and the new Start Menu setup. I don’t like that it uses so many resources and think MS could have worked on that a bit. I am also not a huge fan of Media Player 11, though it does its job and nicely organizes music.

Of all the different versions of Windows I’ve used (starting around 3.1 for Workgroups and using every one of them through Vista, including NT 4.0, and 2000), this is my favorite. It seems to work the best, even though my laptop only has 1 GB of RAM, and it seems pretty stable (though I have heard the networking stack is not so stable). If you’re getting a new computer and it comes with Windows, don’t question whether or not you should make the switch. Just do it, but don’t get a computer with less than 1 GB of RAM (though at this point, I’d probably recommend 2 GB for longevity).

Now I just need to upgrade Susan’s computer so I can put Vista on that and Ubuntu on my own (she won’t switch to Linux, and I have some Windows apps that I can’t live without… like Quicken, because GnuCash just doesn’t seem like it’d make a good replacement for me).

Next I’ll write about my experience switching to Office 2007 and fun with ribbons!

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