January 29, 2007 7:07 AM PST

Buying Vista? Get a guarantee

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Before spending the money for Windows Vista, set to debut this week, is there any guarantee that the software you buy will run as advertised on your PC? Not exactly, analysts say.

Microsoft does offer its Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor 1.0, which scans computers for Vista readiness, indicates which of four versions will adequately run and makes upgrade recommendations, should hardware need help. CNET and other tech sites also offer free tools to analyze a PC's Vista readiness and version compatibility. Still, such tools won't absolutely certify that consumers will be able to run the version of Vista they pay for, analysts say.

"Just because a machine came back Vista-positive, I am not ready to make the assumption that all the features of Vista will run on this machine," said Michael Cherry, lead analyst for Windows and Mobile at Directions on Microsoft. His advice: "If it says (a PC) will run Vista, you still want to think about which features are important, and in talking to a vendor, you want to get an assurance that the unit (you are buying) will, in fact, accomplish those things you want."

While Microsoft's tool, and others like it, provide a general indication of whether a computer is Vista-compatible, they do not let users probe to see if specific features--such as Vista's new graphical interface or BitLocker drive encryption--will work, Cherry said.

Customers who pay about $233 for an upgrade copy of Vista Ultimate (or about $399 for the full version), for instance, could essentially end up running the equivalent of Vista Home Basic ($100 to $199) if Vista's installation software finds that the computer doesn't have the hardware to run specific Ultimate features optimally, Cherry said.

Microsoft's list of requirements for optimally running Vista Ultimate, the fullest version, or other versions, is long and detailed.

Vista buyers who find that their computer is not completely Vista-compatible will have few options. They can choose to spend additional money on upgrades to their computer, install fewer Vista features than they paid for or purchase a new PC that is fully compatible.

Cherry recommends against modifications and says consumers should instead purchase a new machine.

Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner, agrees: "Joe Consumer is not generally equipped to upgrade an operating system. This is not a trivial matter." The market researcher estimates that roughly 40 percent of the 320 million consumer PCs worldwide running a previous version of Windows can run some version of Vista.

However, "some portion of that (percentage) will need at least memory upgrades," Silver said. Moreover, he estimates that only about 15 percent of those PCs are ready to run Vista Premium and take full advantage of the software. But it's hard to predict how each individual PC will fare during Vista installation.

"Intel-based Macs sold in the last year will probably be able to run some flavor of Vista, but Apple does not have Vista drivers yet, and they are not supporting it. We just don't know yet," he said.

And if frustrated consumers change their minds, simply returning Vista for a refund is not an option at many retailers. Most typically do not allow consumers to return opened packages when it comes to software. But Vista is unique: because many consumers may not know if their computer is completely Vista-compatible until they try to install it, some retailers are making exceptions.

CONTINUED: Retailers get proactive…
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Vista and Best Buy
Best Buy is definitely not a place that anyone who isn't computer literate should be going right now. This past weekend they had people in place in a local Best Buy trying to insist that you absolutely need Vista. There were 3 Windows XP machines left, and if they had their way customers would have avoided them and waited until Tuesday.

This whole thing is really pathetic. With all of the known compatibility and speed issues, this forcing Vista on people is really a huge disservice to the customers!
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Disservice to comp users
Vista is a huge disservice to computer users no matter how you look at it!
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Link Flag
Could you
I was wondering if you could let me know just what those
compatibility and speed issues are? I know that McAffe AV
personal editions won't work - but thats a result of them locking
down the kernel to provide better security (something OS X and
linux do as well). I also know some fo the speed issues people
were seeing were based on using old or non optimized beta
video drivers.

There are also a couple of issues with software vendors that
wrote the software badly (insisting on writing files to what have
always been considered 'protected' folders) but most of these
can be resolved by using the XP compatibility mode.

So I'm wondering what compatibility and speed issues you know
Posted by rapier1 (2722 comments )
Link Flag
that long list of requirements
This is the requirements for Vista Premium and Ultimate
*1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor¹).

Pretty much a given in even $399 walmart specials.

* 1 GB of system memory.

This may require an upgrade. I think most people have at least
512MB so the ugrade shoudln't be too traumatic.

* Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of
graphics memory (minimum)², Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per

This is the only requirement that seems to be detailed or long.
However, most any video card released in the past 3 years
should be able to meet this.

* 40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space.

You can't even get 40GB drives anymore.

* DVD-ROM Drive³.


* Audio output capability.

Ummm.... yeah, thats a tough requirement

* Internet access capability.

Again, this is essentially a given

The requirements aren't that difficult to meet.

The Vista Home requirements are very minor
*A modern processor (at least 800MHz¹).
* 512 MB of system memory.
* A graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.

So I'm sorry if you can't run this on a 8 year old PC you picked
up for $50 at a yard sale. I wonder if these people will also be
pissed off that they won't be able to play Oblivion or Age of
Posted by rapier1 (2722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about embedded Intel graphics chips?
On mainstream office workstations where the video adapter is Intel's on board graphics chip with shared video/system ram, will Vista's advance graphic capabilities work on a machine built within the last 2-3 years?
Posted by mike.gw (942 comments )
Link Flag
Requirements to run or to run well?
What would be interesting is comparing the performance of a system with these minimum requirements using both Vista and then XP.

Then again, acceptable performance is really in the mind of the user. I know people who ran XP on a minimum spec computer, and were oblivious to how painful it was.

So I do have to wonder if these are just what's needed to get up and running, or will it be running well?
Posted by PCsRfun (64 comments )
Link Flag
I'd never buy an operating system upgrade
It's a bad investment to buy Vista for any computer. You'd be better off selling the computer you have on eBay and buying a new one that comes with Vista. I'm not in a hurray to get Vista. I assume it will make my computer act like it just lost 1 GHz of speed and half of it's ram.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You echo my sentiments.
I'm waiting 3-4 months for the dust to settle down... Then I'm buying a Vista laptop.
Posted by Fictia (32 comments )
Link Flag
I never do upgrades until...
Two years into the life of the product. Why?

I had a laptop back in '01 that ran windowsME. The version I got of ME was the last build and was pretty stable, although it didn't like odd number ram amounts (I had 64megs plus a 128meg stick in it, making 192 megs, minus the vidram setting was like 187, which it didn't care for). XP came out and I learned from my friends that they regretted upgrading, not because their system couldn't handle it but because it was buggy. By the time I bought this computer XP was on SP2 and it's been the most stable and useful OS I've used to date.

Now, this time I'm not even concerned about upgrading... I'd have to get a new scanner/printer combo, for starters, since mine isn't supported even with the correct drivers :/, and I know from experience that vista wont be stable enough to do what I'm doing right now with XP for quite a while.
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
Link Flag
Not true for all people
I have a Core 2 Duo system. Would buying Vista be a worse investment than buying a new system with it for someone like me? No.

If you want to run Vista and your computer is relatively recent, then I would suggest that buying a new computer doesn't make much sense. Just buying the OS is better off. Besides, doing this leaves you the option of dual booting or reinstalling your old OS if you are currently using an OEM version.

The same goes for Mac OS X 10.5 when it comes out. It would make more sense to just buy the upgrade than to replace my Macbook, would it not?
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
'course, if you buy/bought a Mac...
...you wouldn't have these problems, Period.

(and as a bonus, you get the same eye-candy Vista Ultimate sports, better stability, less malware, and all w/o the "...will this PC run it?" jitters).

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yep, Life is Good.
No text needed.
Posted by dansterpower (2511 comments )
Link Flag
Of course...
You would still not be able to run over half the software that windows does.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
I wonder
if Intel Macs are Vista compatible - or what the Vista Upgrade Advisor would say..

Oddly amongst the software NOT compatible with Vista is the veritable Microsoft Messenger.

Personally I would have thought it fairly essential for Microsoft to make their Operating Systems compatible with their own software, but apparently not.

Whilst I wouldn't buy a Mac, because they're overpriced and Apple are one of the worst companies ever when it comes to customer support and relations (a quick look at their long list of record label style lawsuits against their own customers is quite telling) - I find it odd that Microsoft consider their operating system more important than the actual computer.

In the words of one reviewer, from The Register, they consider the purpose of the computer is to drive their OS. If the computer is incompatible, it's the computer's fault for having bad hardware, not their fault for having bad software.

He suggest that Microsoft needs to learn the are in the business of selling Operating Systems, not Operated Systems.

The reality is that it appears hardware manufacturers have been particularly slack in delivering Vista compatible drivers for their products - in particular Intel motherboards don't appear to be very useful.

Not much help if you integrated network card doesn't work - can't very well download a driver if you depend on it for internet access, assuming that such a driver even exists. The same applies to their motherboard chipset and usb device drivers.

Its also disappointing to see the lack of compatibility with Creative products and even nVidia (until very recently) didn't have a driver the "Upgrade Advisor" recognised.

This presents big problems for Microshaft. Having already scheduled their first service pack for the second half of 2007 (yes, this year) because they are fully aware how many businesses will pass go until such a service pack exists, it appears they have also shot themselves in the foot with this so called advisor.

Basically it advises you not to get Vista at all, unless you own a Dell or Gateway, in which case you're probably ok.

So instead of being a rather blatent marketing ploy to sucker stupid people into spending money they don't need to - they've produced something that tells people not to do so until Microsoft have finally produced a product compatible with the actual hardware people own.

It takes arrogance of almost Apple proportions to assume that it's the responsibility of their customers to provide compatible hardware, rather than theirs to provide compatible software.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Link Flag
Re: 'course, if you buy/bought a Mac...
Penguinisto: Huh? Frequently software upgrades drop support for older hardware, even on Mac. Panther dropped support for beige G3s. Tiger doesn't support some other older Macs. What's your point? While I admire Mac and their operating system, it doesn't eliminate upgrade issues.
Posted by lcxyzzy (1 comment )
Link Flag
Not a Solution
Simply saying 'buy a mac' doesn't solve the problem for most people. Sure, a cetain percentage of the world could use a mac as effectivly as a PC...but rememeber: MANY GAMES AND SOFTWARE DO NOT WORK ON A MAC.

Reply with a more helpful comment next time.
Posted by Professor Cornbread (51 comments )
Link Flag
Looking at my Mac right now I'm not seeing the same eye candy.
Just that awful brushed chrome. But really, don't get so hung up
on the eye candy as the Aero interface is just a design spec built
on top of the presentation layer. The new prsentation layer is
where things are actually much more interesting allowing a
significant advance over PL in OS X for visualization tasks.

My big problem with OS X is that the network stack is horrible.
Its basically based on the best technology around in 2000 and
hasn't change much since. The only thing they did was add SACK
support. Seriously, on a stock install look at your recvspace and
sendspace... Thats just pitiful.

I do think OS X is the best devel platform around though. Mstly
because its a ver good interface on top of a functional unix core.
If I could get that interface on a linux system I'd be even happier
Posted by rapier1 (2722 comments )
Link Flag
The problem is in the pricing...
The confusion is all about the mighty dollar. Thing is that some version of Vista will run on your PC; even if you turn all the features off until it is basically XP. However, MS really wants to squeeze money out of you, so why not charge for this feature or this one... If they just made one version of Vista for one price and it scaled according to your PC, then there would be no confusion. And in the end, they would sell MORE COPIES! All this just so they can get people to buy the top level version for no reason.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't know about 10 years old, but 7 yeah, it works
I'm running Vista on a machine I bought in 2000. Wasn't exactly high end at the time. I put a new graphics card in it which ran about 70 bucks and it already 1 GB RAM that I put in when I installed XP. Vista runs as well on the machine as XP.
Posted by pctec100 (105 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apparently not many are buying
Must have been lonely for the M$ fanboys last night. Seems not too many customers are biting and getting a copy of Vista. They threw a party and nobody came, big surprise. M$ has cut their own throats with the way the are marketing Vista, the price, the licensing schemes, the activation schemes, and with the system requirement to get it to work. This is going to be the biggest debacle in the software industry to date. They created a security monster with previous OS's and now want us to buy a their new OS because it isn't as bad as their old OS'es. I for one will wait until I get new hardware and then get the upgrade in the process... and that won't be for a while.
Posted by C_G_K (169 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Check again...
Every Best Buy, Futureshop, and any other software retailer in Toronto was completely sold out of Vista... I had to purchase the damn thing online and download it!
Posted by TheShane (55 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft should be ashamed trying to pass this piece of crap off as a new OS rather than a crappy service pack,it's off to Linux land this cowboy goes,bye bye Microsoft,DMA,Activation and all the rest of that garbage you've bloated Windows with and hello open Suse
Posted by wizardb (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
typical crappy ms service
they made it, spent billions developing it, marketing it, but can't design a tool that tells you definitively if it will work. They are the worst
Posted by anselansel (4 comments )
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