Top 10 Reasons People Hate Windows Vista

Recently, I wrote an article regarding the idea of Skipping Windows Vista.

Since then, what was once one of many possible ideas has built momentum toward becoming the plan dictated by conventional wisdom.

While this bandwagon may have already gained too many passengers and too much speed to stop now, one can’t help but wonder exactly what the problem is with Vista. Ask around and you will get the same answer over and over.

“People hate Vista.”

As someone who continues to analyze the question of Vista in the context of the value of doing a workstation OS migration along with a server OS migration (XP to Vista and Server 03 to 08), I know that the success of any project is often determined by the reactions of users. So, what is it exactly, that people hate about Vista. Here are the Top 10 things people hate about Microsoft’s Windows Vista.


Top 10 Things People Hate About Vista

1. We Fear Change

A great deal of the griping about Vista comes from the simple fact that it is different. Users complained bitterly about “losing” files which were simply placed in a different location. Let’s face it, putting anything and everything inside My Documents was starting to wear out its welcome, and while power users may have been well aware that My Documents was under the Documents and Settings folder, not everyone really ever grasped that. The new file locations make sense once you are willing to learn something new.

2. User Account Control (UAC)

The biggest single problem with the image of Vista has been the User Account Control. It may also cause the greatest leap forward in computer security and software quality since the invention of the PC. The truth is that for years now, some vendors have thrown together drivers and programs without much thought to writing good software. The theory was to just get something working and then ship it out the door.

For better or worse, Microsoft had gotten Windows XP to the point where virtually worthless code could still function without adversely affecting too many users or systems. However, there were significant security issues with this model. Virtually every program or driver required Admin privileges to be installed, and with various hooks and processes reaching deep into the core of the OS, stability and security issues were constantly arising.

Unfortunately, the UAC carried the design flaw of asking “Are You Sure,” over and over to the user who eventually gave up reading any of the boxes. Even worse, the UAC grabbed full control of the computer and forced users to interact with it. Users never like to be forced to do anything, even if it is for their own good.


3. Slower Not Faster

Chalk this one up to a corporate blunder. Microsoft was trying to be the good guy to the vendors and companies it works with. Unfortunately, this made it the bad guy to the users of the Vista OS. Systems running anything near the minimum specifications for Vista did see a pretty big performance hit. Still users with more powerful systems complain that XP is faster. Sure it is. It does less. That isn’t rocket science.

However, I think everyone agrees that it is time for Microsoft to spend a little more time optimizing its code, and a little less time “integrating” every new technology into the OS so it can’t be required to remove it.


4. Hogs Memory

When Vista first came out, it was common practice among IT savvy people of all levels to monitor a system’s memory usage. If memory usage spiked up with the installation of a new program, one could assume that program was not well coded and wasted system resources.

However, Vista had a new memory management paradigm. The idea was, why not use all of the memory that is there. Free memory is wasted memory — was the mantra. In fact, this is a great idea and can substantially improve performance. The problem is that people didn’t understand that there was a new memory model in effect, so it looked like Vista was “hogging” all of that memory. This plus #4 equaled more than a few people screaming about bloat and inefficiency.


5. Constant Hard Drive Activity

Whether it’s the constantly blinking hard drive light, or actually being able to hear a high speed drive spin up, it doesn’t take long to notice that Vista is constantly accessing your hard disk. It takes even less time to jump to the conclusion that Vista is too big and inefficient to load itself and run programs without making tremendous use of the swap file and other disk based storage.

In reality, this activity is a byproduct of the new memory model which attempts to always take advantage of all available memory. In order to do this, the OS has to load something into memory to fill the space. It also has to take something out of memory and put it back on the hard drive when a new program or process starts that needs to use some of that “full” memory. If you aren’t aware of what is going on, it does seem like the hard drive is being used too often.


6. Drivers, Drivers, Drivers

If anything did more damage to Vista in user’s minds than the UAC, it was the seemingly nightmarish lack of drivers for various hardware. Microsoft took the blame for this one, when in reality the hardware vendors were to blame.

Vista was never a secret, nor was its new, improved, more stable driver model. Vendors literally had years to build drivers for Vista, but drivers don’t make money, or buzz, or press, so they were ignored until it was too late. The vendors, of course, quickly took to blaming Vista for “breaking” their drivers.


7. Games

There can be debate among reasonable men, the extent to which Microsoft should be held accountable for its operating system’s ability to play video games. With a half-dozen gaming consoles, including Microsoft’s own Xbox, one might consider that it isn’t Vista’s job to play high-end games. The Gamers of the world politely (and not so politely) disagree.

Any true power gamer has long since replaced several components of any computer system from the vendor, even so-called gaming systems. Spend five minutes on any gaming forum and you’ll see posts ranging from over-clocking hardware, to upgrades that require a soldering iron. Over the years, these communities have learned to stretch their gaming power to the limits without breaking XP. That experience, of course, is missing on Vista. Tricks that once produced additional power, now produce crashes.


8. Can’t See The Improvements

Many of Vista’s improvements are under the hood. Better security, improved stability, tighter driver models, better memory usage, automatic hard drive defragmenting, an I/O model that allows for lower priorities for “behind the scenes” tasks — are all leaps forward in OS architecture. But, none of them are really visible to Joe User who has to wonder what they paid extra for when their PC came loaded with Vista.


9. Forced Upgrade

No manufacturer can be expected to sell last year’s model forever, but when Microsoft announced that it would no longer allow people to purchase Windows XP, it seemed like the company was bullying users into using a product that they didn’t want. The problem was exacerbated when Microsoft let loose Service Pack 3 which solidified the idea in many user’s head that XP was still a “current” operating system and the only reason Microsoft wouldn’t let them buy it was dollars.

What many people fail to understand is just how long after a product stops selling that Microsoft must support it. The cut-off for XP was more about starting the clock ticking down on XP support, than about forcing users to buy Vista.


10. Windows XP Was a Really Good OS

Much of Vista’s criticism comes in the form of “XP is better. Whether this is true or not, it shows that users have come to both understand, and respect Windows XP. Over the years, various patches, updates and three service packs have turned it into a solid workhorse that can be counted on by home users and corporations alike who with millions of installed systems, are not surprisingly reluctant to undertake the huge task of replacing that systems.

Windows XP was not universally loved when it was first released either. As a computer consultant at the time, I can remember the multitude of complaints and criticisms then as well. The difference was that Windows XP replaced Windows 95/98 which was never a very good operating system. The migration to XP came with the idea that at least it wasn’t Windows 95. This time, it’s different. People look at Windows XP and see a perfectly good if dated operating system.

Windows 7 is apparently coming as fast as Microsoft can get it here, but as early looks have shown, Windows 7 is the next version of Vista, not the next version of XP. In the end, it seems Vista will be Microsoft’s OS of the future, it just might have a new name.

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