Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows Vista

Vista Editions | Vista Hardware | Customizing & Tweaking Vista
Vista Security & Patches | Learning More

Windows Vista Editions

Comparing Vista Editions

There are four editions of Vista:

  • Home Basic (intended for only the most basic computer uses: email/web browsing/photos) — not recommended.
  • Home Premium (recommended for most home desktop and mobile PCs)
  • Ultimate (all the bells and whistles: for your power user)
  • Business (aimed at the needs of small businesses)

Downgrade Rights

Downgrade rights for Windows Vista Business and Ultimate versions to Windows XP is no longer listed by Microsoft (it was up to the vendor to provide that option) and is not recommended since support for XP has ended. See Understanding Downgrade Rights for details.

Windows Vista Hardware

Installing Windows Vista

Microsoft has instruction on how to Install, upgrade, & activate Windows Vista.

Vista More Demanding of Hardware

Windows Vista is particularly demanding and few computers built before 2007 will run Vista satisfactorily without being significantly upgraded. Hardware requirements are generally much higher to perform the same functions as a comparable system running Windows XP (or even Windows 7).

In most cases you are better off upgrading to Windows 7 if your computer will support it.

System Requirements

You'd best look at new hardware if you want to optimize your experience with Windows Vista. See the general notes about Windows hardware requirements.

Vista provides an advantage where you are using the 64-bit version with large amounts of memory (8 GB or more). 32-bit systems only provide a small amount of enhanced memory (nominally 4 GB of which many 32-bit systems only see 3.5 GB), making the advantages over XP, in this respect, minimal.

Hardware Upgrades Probably Necessary

The most likely upgrades needed to satisfy Vista's demands include:

  • a significantly improved video card for most systems
  • a doubling or more of RAM: 1 GB minimum, 2 GB recommended. (Vista Basic states a minimum of 512 MB RAM but it will be extremely slow and unresponsive.)


ReadyBoost is a new feature on Vista that allows you to enhance built-in RAM with external devices like USB flash drives. Not all devices are capable of providing the speed needed for ReadyBoost and it is most pronounced in systems with Vista's minimum of 512 MB RAM (not recommended).

Upgrading from XP

Vista is a poor choice if you're considering upgrading from Windows XP. Vista requirements are much higher and Windows 7 may run better on hardware that will support Vista.

If you have a basic XP system, you're more likely to be satisfied only if you purchase a new computer.

Vista Compatibility Resources No Longer Available

Many Microsoft resources, including the Vista Upgrade Advisor, are no longer available.

Vista “Basic” Crippled

Vista Home Basic was a sell-out to hardware vendors with computers lacking the capacity to run Vista (the hardware was designed for XP but Microsoft was determined to kill XP off). If your computer came with Vista Home Basic, you'll have to look at alternatives to Windows for satisfaction. Linux is recommended.

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Tweaking & Customizing Windows Vista

Tweaking Settings

This involves changing the way Windows does certain tasks, such as not placing the "shortcut to" in the name of new shortcuts. You can tell a shortcut by the little arrow placed on the icon (although you can remove that as well).

Broadband and Networking Tweaks

  • Tweaking broadband and network settings is not recommended in Windows Vista.

Windows Registry

Changing the Look

Windows Vista introduced the Windows Aero translucent glass design and larger "live" icons which captured people's imagination. This is much more demanding of video hardware and can affect performance in marginal systems where Aero is usually disabled.

Recovery Resources

If you're having trouble with Vista, try these resources:

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Windows Vista Security

Windows Vista greatly increased the security of Windows with bitlocker drive encryption, encrypting file system, shadow copy and the notoriously annoying User Account Control.

Significant changes to the operating system were undertaken to help reduce vulnerabilities long entrenched in Windows. This meant that legacy utilities and security software no longer ran on Vista (new versions were developed to remedy this).

Unfortunately, Microsoft chose not to allow Vista users to upgrade Internet Explorer past version 9. Another reason not to use Internet Explorer as your default browser and not at all on anything but sites known to be safe (very hard for many users to determine).

Vista Service Pack 1 & 2

Support for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) ended on July 12, 2011.

Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) provides customer and partner feedback-driven fixes into a single service pack.

As with most service packs, Vista SP2 should be installed unless you have a compelling reason not to. Using Windows Update, only the necessary patches are downloaded and installed.

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Updated: March 24, 2016

Windows Vista -- not quite there

About Windows Vista

Released January 30, 2007, Vista was poorly received by reviewers and businesses. The most attractive feature was the new Aero transparency.

…there's nothing wrong with Windows Vista. But there's no one compelling feature within Windows Vista that cries out to switch over…. As for security, Microsoft's biggest improvements in Windows Vista are within the Enterprise or 64-bit editions, versions most home users will not be running. —CNET Reviews


Vista sales terminated in October 22, 2010 (October 22, 2011 for sales of PCs with Windows preinstalled).

Vista's end of mainstream support expired on April 10, 2012 and end of extended support is April 11, 2017. Learn more about Microsoft's end-of-support date policies.

Microsoft's Windows Vista Support

Microsoft's Vista support pages have mostly disappeared as the focus moves to Windows 8.1, but there is still minimal information remaining. If you land on a Windows 8.1 page, try searching for Vista-related topics or look to see if there is a tab allowing you to move between the different versions of Windows.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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