Why I downgraded from Vista to XP
More like an upgrade?
I blogged a while back on how a Vista upgrade effectively rendered my old desktop machine useless for business purposes (see Retiring Leonardo from last year). I got a lot of feedback at that time as many people out there were obviously trying to get a handle on the viability of upgrading older kit.
While this debate continues, the related question has now arisen of whether even some PCs pre-installed with Vista are capable of running it adequately. Based on my own experience, this is a very pertinent question to ask if you are considering buying anything with less than a 1.8 Ghz Core2 Duo processor with 2Gb of memory - the current minimum spec I work on for serious business use. Yet there are lots of Vista machines out there on the market that are significantly less powerful than this.
Without getting into the rights or wrongs of this state of affairs, if you are unlucky enough to be struggling with Vista on a lower spec machine, you may be interested in a recent experience I had which was a bit of a wakeup call – not just in terms of the physical performance side of things, but also on the broader question of the value of Vista from an end user perspective in a business environment.
A few months ago, I needed to replace my notebook. As a notebook to me is companion to my desktop rather than my main machine, I wasn’t looking for anything very powerful – size, weight and battery life were much more important considerations. So, after a happy couple of hours cruising up and down all of the hi-tech shops in London’s Tottenham Court Road trying all the latest kit, I opted for a Sony TZ Series – about 1.2 kilos in weight, fantastic screen, reduced size but really nice keyboard, embedded cellular modem, and lots of other good stuff.
The machine came with Windows Vista Business Edition pre-installed and when I was playing with it in the shop, it was pretty responsive – the 1.2Gz Core2 Duo processor seemed to be up to the job. When I got the machine back to the ranch and loaded everything onto it, though, I have to admit to being a little disappointed with speed. Nevertheless, it was good enough, so I just got on with using it.
Over the course of the next four months, however, the performance gradually degraded and the user experience became awful. It eventually got to the stage where it was talking 12 minutes to boot and about 6-7 minutes to shut down, with very sluggish performance in between and frequent hangs requiring a forced shutdown (which in itself was probably making matters worse).
When researching the problem on the Web, it was clear that I was not the only one to be experiencing issues with Vista on the TZ Series, and the more I read, the more the answer to my problems became obvious – ‘downgrade’ the machine to Windows XP. A few forum entries mentioned a kit on the Sony website designed to allow you to do this, with all of the relevant drivers and utilities, and a set of instructions to guide you through the process. I duly downloaded this, followed the instructions, and it just worked. The longest part was installing and patching XP itself (which you have to buy separately, by the way – your Vista licence doesn’t cover it*).
The end result is fantastic. The word ‘downgrade’ seems totally inappropriate – in fact, it feels like the machine has gone through a significant upgrade. It now boots in well under two minutes (with all the same applications loaded as before), is highly resilient (has gone through a lot of sleep/wake cycles without crashing once) and, interestingly, many of the Sony utilities work much more naturally (I suspect they were designed for XP in the first place then ported to Vista).
The one thing I was a bit worried about was going back to XP from a usability and functionality perspective having got so used to Vista, but I was surprised to find that the experience was actually quite a positive one. Everything seemed more crisp, immediate and uncluttered and so far, the only thing I have missed is the enhanced application switching mechanism in Vista, i.e. the Alt-Tab and Windows-Tab functionality. That’s a minor sacrifice for the other benefits, though, and it only took me an hour or two to get used to the old mechanism again.
The switch back to XP was such a breath of fresh air that I have also ‘downgraded’ the desktop machine I am using at the moment. On a reasonable spec PC you don’t see the same increase in actual performance, but the XP interface still feels a lot cleaner and snappier (at least to me). Having both machines running the same OS obviously has its advantages too.
Now before everyone goes rushing out to downgrade their Vista machines based on this little story, it would be irresponsible of me not to point out that during my research, I read accounts from many happy Vista users, lots of which seemed to be getting on fine with the TZ and similarly spec’d machines. I would suspect the number and range of applications you work with has a bearing on this - remember I said that the TZ felt fine when I was just playing with OS with no applications installed before buying it. It could also, of course, be that people just accept the out-of-the-box experience as normal and don’t really question whether they are getting the best performance from their hardware. All I can say is that the downgrade was definitely the right thing for me, and is something to consider if you find yourself in a similar situation.
In the meantime, we continue to experiment with various desktop options here at Freeform Dynamics, and those looking at alternatives may be interested a post from my colleague Jon Collins entitled Why I’ve replaced Vista with Linux.
Finally, as I type this, I have a brand new MacBook sitting next to me here on my desk, and over the coming few weeks I am going to be looking at the practicalities of using the Mac in a Windows-dominated mainstream business environment, so watch this space for experiences with that.
* The right to downgrade Vista depends which edition you have. Vista Ultimate and Business may be downgraded within the terms of the Microsoft EULA at no additional cost, but this right does not apply to other editions of the software.
Thanks for that amazing detailed insight as to why Vista is no good - guess the issue is resolved.
just out of interest I looked at that site - it has a MASSIVE 11 posts on the vista forum! Not to mention the first post is some guy PRAISING it
You might as well type 'I hate linux' or 'I hate OSX' into google - neither of them are universally loved.
I hate Vista - 818,000 (approx 88mil users worldwide)
I hate Linux - 289,000 (difficult to estimate but best guesses place it between 8-13mill)
I hate OSX - 1,740,000 (approx 25mil users worldwide)
So more than twice as many people hate OSX although it's users only number a 3rd that of Vista (very simplified I know, but you get the idea) and based on extimated desktop install percentages a higher percentage hate linux
I agree Vista is truly rubbish.
I've known this for for quite some time.
The sad reality for Microsoft is that 99% of home pc's are nothing more than Internet terminals and holidays snapshot viewers and there are better internet terminals and holiday snapshot viewers than Vista.
@Your a minority
> I think you will find that the majority is the people who actually like it but are not on some forum or news blog trying to convince you its good.
Theoretically true, although it's strange that the forum-related majority are all reporting the same sort of problems with Vista and often with much information - as opposed to the 'it sux' type of nonsense (best ignored with any OS). Perhaps it's just a conspiracy, or all the posts I've seen in various places are written by one person...
> Your a minority, plain and simple.
ITYM "you're" - it's a contraction of "you are". The use of "your" would be in something like "Your installation of Vista is worthless", for example.
> Linux is not desktop ready for adverage joe. [they need to] learn how to run command line bullshit to install a piece of software, or compile it for their hardware, when they could just as easily click a file and have it install.
Oh dear. The usual rubbish trotted out by those who've not been near a Linux distribution in years. You really should look at KUbuntu, where several thousand free applications can be installed by clicking on an icon. Just like the other Linux distributions.
re:Vista for business
RE your problem with the GPO, don't know if you know this or have tried it already but to make policies work from Server 2000/2003 you need to update the schema.
While logged onto a Vista workstation as an administrator run gpmc.msc
This should pick up your policies from your schema master server and allow you to make Vista specific changes. Make the changes and it will apply them domain wide, but until you run Server 2008 some options will only be available to you if you make the changes on a Vista PC although they will be applied globally.
This page should help
Hope this helps
Vista for business
Hey guys, just though I woul dhave my say on this subject.
OK so I work in a school in the UK and we currently have over 700 Desktop machines (lowest spec is P4 with HT clocked at 2.4 with 512 RAM).
We also have over 70 Laptops (specs range from 1.2 Celerons with 256 RAM to 2.4 core2duo with 2GB RAM).
We have 6 IT suites and we tried Vista business out on our oldest room, the P4's. Now Vista itself installed fine using RIS and the room was running at a very comfortable speed, we knew it was slower but not by much.
We thought it was fantastic and we then went back to our office and proceeded to push out the GPO settings from one of our 2003R2 domain controllers to this room. This is where the problems started!
Vista seems to have a real problem picking up GPO and it got very annoying.
Personally I have been running Vista at home for about a year now and I have to say I love it. As an OS it has been brilliant, I have never once thought about reverting to the now ageing (all be it amazingly stable and reliable) XP pro and I do not intend to.
As a home user I think it is a great OS with fantastic media and gaming capabilities and open office and office 2003 run excellently on it.
On a network is where is seems to have the problems.
You know the funniest thing though is that in our school whenever a user logs onto our network they get what is called the iDesk (a small piece of software which my boss has written) which has a few links on it for useful websites and the exchange email system we use. This wonderful little toy which is used by everyone in the school runs using active desktop. Now I never thought I would say this, but, THEY HAVE REMOVED ACTIVE DESKTOP FROM VISTA!
I am actually upset about them removing it, even though I spent years cursing it for crashing and causing system hangs in 98, 2K & XP but why would they remove something so simple hahaha.
Anyway thats my experience with Vista so far (both business and home flavours).
Hope I don't upset too many poeple for having my own opinion because thats what seems to happen here lol.