Windows Vista is the latest version of Microsoft's Windows operating system. The business version was released at the end of 2006, while the consumer version shipped on January 30, 2007.
The Vista operating system includes an updated look from Windows XP, referred to as the "Aero" interface. The desktop, windows, icons, and toolbars have a smoother 3D look, similar to the Mac OS X interface. These graphics are generated using the new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics subsystem included with Windows Vista. Other improvements include faster-indexed file searching (which can locate text within files), built-in Web services called the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), support for the new XML Paper Specification (XPS) document format, numerous security improvements, and more multimedia capabilities built into the operating system.
Windows Vista was code-named "Longhorn" for much of the development process. The operating system was originally slated to ship in 2003 as an update to Windows XP, but Microsoft decided to make additional updates to the operating system and scheduled it for release in 2005. Several delays pushed back the release date to 2006 and eventually to the beginning of 2007. In order to ship the consumer version by early 2007, the new file system called Windows Future Storage, or WinFS, was left out of the release. Microsoft plans to incorporate the WinFS file system in a future update.
Overall, Vista is a major upgrade to the Windows operating system (which is a good thing, since it has been over five years since Microsoft's last major OS release). The interface feels more modern, file navigation has been improved and system security has been designed to be stronger than Windows XP.
If you plan to purchase Windows Vista for your system, you can choose one of five options:
- Business - designed for small business users and streamlined for work-oriented tasks
- Enterprise - meant for large, global organizations with complex IT infrastructures
- Home Basic - the most basic version of Vista designed for the average home user
- Home Premium - a more robust home version that includes extra security and multimedia features
- Ultimate - includes all the features from the Home Premium and Business versions of Vista
The absolute minimum system requirements for Vista are:
- 800 MHz processor
- 512 MB of RAM
- 20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
- Super VGA graphics support
- CD-ROM drive
However, Microsoft recommends the following system requirements:
- 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- 1 GB of RAM
- 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
- DirectX 9 graphics support with a WDDM Driver
- 128 MB (minimum) of video RAM
- Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
- 32 bits per pixel
- DVD-ROM drive
- Audio Output
- Internet access
Because many of Vista's new features require the recommended system requirements, it may be best to upgrade your operating system only if your computer meets or exceeds the recommended specifications. Otherwise, waiting to buy a new machine with Windows Vista installed is probably the best choice.