Windows Vista is here.

After using it for two months and studying hard, here are some of the conclusions I’ve reached.

  • Windows Vista is a wonderful operating system. There are genuine improvements in appearance and security; there are important new features for searching, for photos and media, and more; and it is sufficiently compatible with Windows XP that most things will work immediately and you’ll be able to start using it with confidence.
  • Windows Vista requires a significant jump in processor power, memory (1Gb minimum, 2Gb recommended), and video card support (128Mb minimum, 256Mb recommended) – the first such jump in several years. Your new computers will cost more than a Windows XP computer.
  • For many reasons, I don’t want anyone to upgrade a computer to Windows Vista. Ever. Buy a new computer with Vista installed on it.
  • Look, I mean it. I’m not going to help with failed upgrades, I’m not going to feel sorry for your lost data, I’m not going to join your whining about how it’s all Microsoft’s fault. Don’t attempt to upgrade to Vista.
  • Windows Vista will break things. Some hardware you own now – printers, scanners, handhelds – might not work. You’ll install programs that won’t work or will crash. Each addition to the computer will be a little experiment in finding updates or downloading new drivers or purchasing newer program versions.
  • There are two reasons for this – one good, one bad. The good reason is that Vista’s security improvements require a different approach to writing software and supporting hardware. Responsible manufacturers will be rewriting their programs for good reasons, and the only cost to you will be the need to track down that improved software. The system will be far more stable as a result.
  • The bad reason is that hardware and software manufacturers have been making (and will continue to make) crappy stuff that doesn’t work right. Vista will make that more apparent. Some manufacturers won’t update their programs for Vista because they’re lazy or incompetent, or because it’s a convenient excuse to force you to buy a new version. Blame them, not Vista.

Many of you are considering new computers to replace 3-5 year old Windows XP computers that have become noticeably slower in the last year. My current recommendations are:

HOME USERS: Buy Windows Vista with your next computer; there’s no particular reason to delay and some good reasons to be excited and order right away. Order the “Home Premium” version of Vista; if you’re only offered the “Home Basic” version, be prepared to upgrade immediately to the “Home Premium” version. (The upgrade will be easy – it’s done online with a few clicks for $79.)

BUSINESS USERS: We will be moving very slowly and cautiously, and probably not ordering Windows Vista for six months or so. (Dell will be offering Windows XP as an option on new systems through its Small Business division for another year.) You’re using programs to run your business that will have to be researched for Vista compatibility. You must have the Business version of Vista; if you buy a computer with a Home version, your only option will be a $159-$199 upgrade to Vista Ultimate.

I’m excited about Vista; I’m enjoying using it and I’m looking forward to supporting it. Read as much as you can find, expect some frustration and confusion to accompany all the new toys, and go buy a new home computer!

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