May 25, 2006 9:15 PM PDT

Microsoft to refine Vista's PC-rating tool

SEATTLE--Microsoft is retooling a PC-rating feature in Windows Vista following criticism from hardware makers and others, a situation that suggests the next-generation operating system may not yet be ready for mass consumption.

The critique is that the current version of the Windows System Performance Rating feature could be "misleading," Brad Goldberg, general manager for Windows at Microsoft, said in an interview at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here.

Vista rates PC

The feature first appeared in a recent Vista preview release and is designed to help consumers when they first buy a PC and to determine which software and hardware works with a system. It looks at the processor, hard disk drive, memory and graphics capabilities and gives each a score, as well as a prominently displayed overall score.

"We have gotten feedback that this (overall) number alone is misleading," Goldberg said. "We're looking at the right way to surface the information?We're working on the user interface so that it is clearer."

The scoring system uses numbers between 1 and 5. The overall score maps to the lowest of the sub-scores. This means that if a PC has a processor that scores a 5, the highest possible score, but a lousy graphics card, with a 1, the overall score will be a 1.

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Chipmaker Via Technologies is one of the companies that talked to Microsoft about the new feature. "This is something very new and could be very good or potentially misleading," said Keith Kowal, a marketing manager at the Taipei-based company.

Windows System Performance Rating is not an exhaustive benchmark, said Clarice Simmons, a program manager at Advanced Micro Devices, another company that provided feedback on the feature to Microsoft. "People don't know what it means?It is a very high-level indication of what your system can do," she said.

There were some surprised faces at AMD when Microsoft first made the rating feature available, Simmons said. For example, most of company's processors fall into only two scores and get either a 5 or a 3, she said. Also, AMD noticed that the Microsoft test isn't always in line with industry standard benchmarks, which it should be, Simmons said.

Yet AMD is happy with Microsoft's efforts to simplify the PC buying experience, she added.

Windows System Performance Rating uses some of the functionality also found in the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, a Microsoft tool released last week that checks whether a PC can run Vista. The feature is also related to a checker in Vista that determines whether advanced features, such as the Aero user interface, are enabled.

"They are going to tune it and adjust the system so that it is better," Simmons said. She expects to hear more about the feature, including a new name and how Microsoft and partners should market it, at an event for Microsoft partners in mid-June, she said.

Retooling the rating feature is just part of product development, Microsoft's Goldberg said. "Those are the types of things in any product in the beta cycle that we're looking at here, just like other features in the product."

Vista, the successor to the Windows XP operating system, is slated to be broadly available in early 2007.

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I never got it to complete without crashing...
So maybe they can improve on that. The system it was tested on is a Dell OptiPlex 620MT.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
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It worked for me
I tried this on my old Intel 845 chipset mother board and it completed and it provided lots of information, but it did not crash. The tool identified the video needed upgrading.
Posted by dbarjim (7 comments )
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I have three systems - only one passed as top all around
What's strange is that the system which this program says will be able to run all of Vista's best features is the oldest of the three systems at 2 1/2 years. Of course it does have the one high-end video card which is where both of my newer systems fail.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
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Thank you Dell
Our entire fleet of new Dell Optiplex GX520's have all passed with flying colors (Our students will be over-joyed!). Our testing of the new addition to the Microsoft family has also been going swimmingly as well. We are anxiously awaiting the final release.

M$ roxorz muh boxorz!
Posted by Mr. Network (92 comments )
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Thank you AMD
My 3 Athlon MBs all passed.
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
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One older computer vs this brand new one
With a HD upgrade, I *might* be able to run Vista. On my brand new one I am currently typing on, not a chance even with a larger hd. Not happy here.

Maybe the best I can hope for is Redmond will come out with a Vista Light for systems that are great systems, but not super high end!
Posted by Anysia (104 comments )
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Thats what I get for not proofing before hitting submit.

I can't run Vista on my brand new machine unless I get an Bios update/upgrade so I can jack the memory to 128megs, and also get a larger hd installed. My older machine, I will need a bigger harddrive as it seems the 2.8GHz and 1.5 gigs memory is fine, as are the video drivers.

15 gigs free hd space is going to be my problem if I can't get new hds for either of my Acers (Extensa and Aspire)
Posted by Anysia (104 comments )
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The onboard video cards better be good!
with vista comming out on board video better have 512megs of ram or more.

people are tired of seeing their on board video HAVING SHARED MEMORY SLOWING THE ENTIRE SYSTEM DOWN.

Any more updates to the rumor that future video cards would be made to be an external device?
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
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