It is time for the next round of the Vista vs. XP match. In my view, Vista won the first two rounds (Security and Manageability) by knocking out XP within the first few seconds. If this were a boxing match, XP would have been counted out already. But because we are fair sportsmen, let’s give the old champion another chance to regain its title. As before, the text in italics summarizes Kennedy’s arguments.
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With Vista, Microsoft introduced some enhancements under the hood that improve reliability. Examples include improved heap management, power management and support for low priority I/O tasks. During day-to-day operations, however, these new features don’t have much impact (expect low I/O priority). When it comes to stability, Windows XP SP2 has proven to be rock solid, and SP3 might even improve the situation. Vista has little room to score in this area.
I have few objections to this claim. Windows XP is indeed a rock solid operating system. Do you remember when stability was Windows' opponents' number one complaint? That must have been in another century!
There is no doubt that Vista is less reliable than XP. It is still a young operating system and all the compatibility issues and badly programmed device drivers certainly do their part to make Vista seem less stable than XP; so it will take some time for Vista to catch up with XP in this area. We all expected that, but it doesn’t mean that Vista is an unstable operating system. At least since the release of SP1, Vista is certainly ready for prime time.
Kennedy’s view of the enhancements under the hood are correct, too. I’d like to add one important improvement though. It is WDDM, the new display driver model. WDDM has a couple of new capabilities but when it comes to reliability most important is the fact that part of the display driver is running in user mode. There is still is a part that runs in kernel mode, but the user mode driver does most of the calculation. This improves reliability of the graphics system because if the display driver hangs, it won’t crash your whole system. Other features Kennedy forgot to mention is the new Reliability and Performance Monitor which allows IT pros to track down problems, improved responsiveness during installations, and the Startup Repair Tool which helps you to recover an unbootable system.
I have to say a word about Kennedy’s claim that these improvements have no real impact. It might be true that, on its own, each of the new features has only little impact on our daily work. I think it is not a valid argument to pick just a few improvements, which, by themselves, are not reason enough to move to Vista, to conclude that XP is the better option. If an ice cream seller counted only the few cents he earned with the last few ice cream cones he just sold, he probably would close his shop immediately. But he doesn’t, because he knows that those cents will add up by the end of the day. Or, to return to his boxing analogy, we should count all the direct hits to see who is the better fighter.
Anyway, this round goes to XP, even though Vista survived without severe injuries. However, I predict that if we compare both operating systems again in one year, then Windows Vista will be the more reliable OS. The more hardware and software vendors focus on Vista the more stable it will be. Its numerous tiny reliability improvements will make it the better choice in the long run.
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We should also not forget that there is Vista x64, which is more reliable than Vista x86 because it requires signed drivers and comes with the Kernel Patch Protection feature. In most cases the famous blue screen is caused by buggy drivers or by a kernel that was modified by ISVs. So if you have the guts to move to Vista x64, you will get an operating system that is more reliable than Windows XP.