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Paul Nielsen

Defending Vista (USA Today rebuttal)

Yesterday, USA Today ran a story criticizing Vista

I wasn't impressed.

The summary of the story is: Many corporations haven't upgraded their line of business computers because some say Vista is slow.

One punch quote reads, "Adds analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies, "I have Vista on a notebook with 2 gigabytes of memory and a decent-size processor, and with Vista on there, it just doesn't work. It takes over 10 minutes just to open a Word document"

Let's take a closer look:

Dedicated line-of-business computers, such as hospital monitoring machines, POS machines, or manufacturing inventory tracking machines, run a single app all day long. They run fine with XP, a single processor, and limited maintenance. This is not the desktop power-user machine that Vista is intended for. It's like complaining that the new Lexus cars aren't selling well when counting cars used as taxis. By mixing the desktop OS and the line of business computer OS, the story lacks logic.

And what's up with Roger Kay of Endpoint Tech ? 10 MINUTES to open a word doc. Wow. He either exaggerates a wee byte or his machine needs a major cleaning. Something just doesn't sound right. Rog, be a real geek and fix your machine!

The truth is that Vista is fast. How do I know? because as I'm writing SQL Server 2008 Bible, I typically run Word, Excel (for my page count outline), a 1Gb VPC for SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2005 and SSMS, Media Player (too cheap to get an iPod), Outlook, and IE all at the same time and it's snappy - real snappy. Opening a doc, starting a new album, switching to the VPC, running a SQL query, it's all pretty much instant. To be any faster, it would have to read my mind and know where I'm about to click. The only thing that's slow on my machine is SQL Server on-line help.

My notebook is a 15 month old Dell 620 - 2.33 GHz Dual Core 2 4Gb RAM 7200rpm 200Gb drive. I run with the notebook monitor and an extended 24" monitor at the highest resolution.

Disclaimer: The only hiccup was when I tried to go a bit too clean and I broke the Verizon broadband card driver which required a rebuild to fix.

So here's the real catch that the tech media seems to miss - Norton AntiVirus will make any machine run several times slower. Add to that a couple anti-spyware checkers and a ton of extra garbage and yes, you can force any OS to its knees with all the extra sludge.

Here's how I keep my Vista running:

  • Nod32. It's the only AV I'd use. It has the smaller performance and memory footprint of any AV, yet it catches the most viruses. When I switched from Norton to nod32 a few years ago my machine instantly felt 4 times faster. (I know a little about viruses, I co-wrote Inside Norton AntiVirus with Peter Norton a while back.)
  • Windows Defender for additional anti-spyware.
  • PerfectDisk for weekly defrag and smart placement. I don't use the Windows defragger, and I'd never use a constant in-the-background defragger.
  • CCleaner to remove all the small files left behind.
  • I run Vista x64. The drivers are cleaner and it feels faster and more stable than Vista 32 bit. But when I last tired Vista 32 bit it was when Vista first came out and maybe the drivers weren't fully baked.
  • VPC. I never run CPTs on my host OS. Ever.
  • AutoUpdate - I let Microsoft apply every update and I check for new hardware drivers every couple of months.
  • I'm playing with Readyboost, but I can't notice any difference.
  • I just checked - my current Vista Reliability Index is indeed 10.0

Why do I love Vista?

  • I like the improved UI to search for files, and work with directories. The new Explorer is simply wonderful. I posted a screencast on it a while ago on
  • I like the seemless way Vista works with an extended desktop.
  • I like the popup view of the minimized window that lets me pick the right minimized window faster. I find I don't use the Aero scrolling floating 3D windows to look for a window.
  • I like the look and feel of the Aero UI.
  • While this isn't strictly Vista, now that I'm used to it, I like the Office 2007 Ribbons.
  • Considering that I typically run about 10 apps at once, I think I'm more productive with Vista than I was with XP. Which is why Vista is a power user OS and not a single app line of business computer OS.
  • I run with the larger fonts and Vista is significan;ty smoother and more consistent with the larger font option. It looks great and is alwasy easy on the eyes.

So has Vista replaced XP? Clearly not. But it's not because Vista isn't a superior OS, it's because of inaccurate press, poor drivers, dedicated machines, and Norton AV.

Ok, you can blast away now.

Published Thursday, May 1, 2008 11:15 AM by Paul Nielsen
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Adam Machanic said:

You have 4 GB of RAM.  That makes -all- the difference.  I have 2 GB.  Just booting up Vista, I am left with 600 MB physical.  And Vista does strange things with RAM.  Just opening IE, not going to any Web pages, that number drops to 400 MB.  Which means that my 512 MB VPC won't open if I have any other programs running.

SP1 has considerably improved the number of crashes and failures I saw when I first installed Vista, but I am still not especially pleased with a lot of the experience, and would not recommend it today to any of my customers.  Perhaps after SP2, or when computers start routinely shipping with larger amounts of RAM.  I just priced some PCs from Dell and they're still defaulting to 1GB.  Trying to run Vista on there would be an exercise in futility and extreme frustration.

May 1, 2008 12:45 PM

Alisha said:

I also run NOD32 and Windows Defender on 64bit Vista with 4GB RAM (Dual channel) on a 2.6GHz Dual Core. It is faster than XP was. But my index is only 3.0, yet, like you, Vista is fast (even with Aero)! I can run so many programs (Flash 8 and Photoshop CS2 frequently used) at the same time and it doesn't slow down.

I started with 2GB of RAM and Vista was still fast for me (I just wanted more RAM for Photoshop/Flash). To the quote about a Word document taking over 10 minutes to open? How large was the document anyway? Had to have been an exaggeration.

Vista also manages the memory better than XP, so I can leave my computer on without noticing a slow-down the next time I use it. (One less program running: FreeRAMXP) I also like how Vista starts up faster than XP did.

I just don't see why so many people are complaining about Vista (especially the ones who have never used it). For those who have tried: do not upgrade from XP and have more than 1GB of RAM! (I need more than 1GB of RAM even on XP to run the programs I need for work.)

May 1, 2008 1:23 PM

Aaron Fischer said:

I have a p4 laptop with 2gig of ram vista runs like a champ.  It does have a high end video card

May 1, 2008 1:47 PM

Jeff Barnes said:


I have been running 32-bit Vista for months with no complaints.  Granted, I have 4GB RAM, but I wanted a larger amount since I use it for development, and I might eventually swap to 64-bit, but the lack of adequate drivers is still too painful to me.  It is not uncommon for me to have many applications running at any given time, and I've never had a problem with the OS appearing to be "slow".  Overall, the OS works great for me and I like it a lot more than XP.  

Personally, I think the annoyance of UAC is often over-exaggerated as well.  Perhaps, I am exceptionally forgiving, but it doesn't intrude upon me often enough for me to consider it to be bothersome.  Given the fact that I feel relatively comfortable without running any AV now, I can deal with a few prompts from time to time as a tradeoff for the performance improvement.

And, about the document loading statement...

There is no way that it was taking over 10 minutes for a Word document to open unless it was an extraordinary situation that he failed to disclose.  In my opinion, one of the reasons there is so much perceived negativity around Vista is due to so many negative articles with inaccurate information.  The average person would read a statement like that and not even question it.

May 1, 2008 1:53 PM

unclebiguns said:

I have not run Vista, but those I know who have it like it.  I will agree with you about Norton AV.  That's the first thing I uninstall from anyone's PC when they complain about it being slow.  Then I put on AVG Free edition.  I'll have to check out Nod32.

May 1, 2008 2:23 PM

Paul Nielsen said:


also, 2 comments disappeared. I didn't remove them. any ideas?

May 1, 2008 2:36 PM

noeldr said:

<a href =""> What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away.<a>

May 1, 2008 2:54 PM

noeldr said:

Not sure what "protection" changed the link I posted. Here is the "raw" version:

What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away


May 1, 2008 2:58 PM

AaronBertrand said:

Jeff, I agree with your last paragraph wholeheartedly.  I can just picture the guy tapping his thumbs after waiting 35 seconds for his 12GB Word document full of pictures to load, and equating that to 10 minutes for shock value.

May 1, 2008 3:19 PM

Paul Nielsen said:

Regarding the 10 min doc guy, go his link,  he's an oft quoted PC pundit. He should know better.

May 1, 2008 3:36 PM

Geoff said:

I have to say when time came to get a new computer I chose a Mac and am not disappointed in the least. This was after years of Windows/PC use. I'm sure Vista is fine. But 1) most people will just take whatever AV software is on it. 2) 4GB of RAM is a lot for people if that's what it takes.

Complaining about the drivers doesn't make Vista any better. The fact is they made an OS reliant on outside drivers. You are only good as your weakest link. And the OS relies on outside drivers of varying quality.

May 1, 2008 3:37 PM

AaronBertrand said:

Also don't forget that in 32-bit Vista at least, 4GB of RAM is 1GB too many.  At least the last time I looked around I could not find a way to enable all 4GB of RAM on my XPS.

May 1, 2008 3:45 PM

Alisha said:

@AaronBertrand: 32-bit Vista runs with 2GB of RAM perfectly. I think most people just go up to 4GB either because they wanted that amount from the start or because they use software that takes up a lot, like me. I run VMWare daily for work and it's set for using 1GB, so I need that amount for when I'm running VMWare, Photoshop and Flash simultaneously.

I agree with Jeff Barnes, UAC isn't that annoying. If anyone has ever used a firewall that asks you for allowing or denying access to a connection, it's kind of like that, but not as often.

When I was getting a new computer, it came with Vista and I was disappointed. That disappointment came from all the complaints I kept hearing from other people. I gave Vista a chance and am very happy with it. I don't ever want to go back to XP.

May 2, 2008 9:27 AM

AaronBertrand said:

Yes Alisha, I know that 2GB is probably enough for a lot of people.  But for those of us with 4GB, I wonder how many people truly realize that only 3GB is used.  What I'm suggesting is, don't go out and buy 4GB of RAM unless you know for sure your system will be able to use it all... in a lot of cases, the 4th GB will go to waste.

May 2, 2008 12:19 PM

Steve Dassin said:

'Steve Ballmer: Microsoft 2008 MVP Summit'

"Windows Vista, a work in progress. (Applause.) Seriously, a very important piece of work, and I think we did a lot of things right, and I think we have a lot of things we need to learn from. Certainly, you never want to let five years go between releases. And we just sort of kiss that stone and move on, because it turns out many things become problematic when you have those long release cycles. The design point, what you should be targeting, we can never let that happen again. We had some things that we can't just set the dial back that

I think people wish we could. Vista is bigger than XP, it's going to stay bigger than XP. We have to make sure it doesn't get bigger still, and that the performance, and the battery and the compatibility we're driving on the things that we need to drive hard to improve. And yet we did take some important big steps forward with Vista."

This is what I would call an acknowledgment that the glass is at least half filled. That MS is aware of the importance of both halves. And that MS understands that it has a problem with its kool-aid.

Vista has already been 'branded' negatively in the market. It's very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. As it is in politics if your opponent gets to define your thingie you lose. If you define

your own thing first you win. MS was first to market but second to define it. They lose the perception game. Of course the reality can be a whole different matter but as most voters are not Mensa candidates, neither are most pc users. On the bright side if any company understands marketing it's MS:) I'd be curious what others think Ballmer was trying (or not trying) to say here. :)

He also echoed a current theme in the MS view of development:

"The way in which we program is downright primitive. We program almost the same way today that we did 15 years ago. How do we ever bring software development up to semantic levels, so we're not banging away, banging away, instruction by instruction, by instruction. How do you express intent?"

Did anyone think to ask him to elaborate. Where does the sql language fit in this view? Or does it? :)



May 3, 2008 12:13 AM
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About Paul Nielsen

Paul Nielsen believes SQL is the romance language of data. As such he’s a hands-on database developer, Microsoft SQL Server MVP, trainer, and author of SQL Server Bible series (Wiley). As a data architect, he developed the concepts of Smart Database Design and Nordic – an open source O/R dbms for SQL Server. He lives in Colorado Springs.

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