Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows Vista

Support ended April 11, 2017

I no longer develop this legacy resource.


Vista Editions | Vista Hardware | Customizing & Tweaking Vista
Vista Security & Patches | Recovery | About Vista

Windows Vista desktop showing start menu.

Microsoft's Vista Support Ended

Microsoft's support for Vista ended April 11, 2017. Vista is unsafe to use and will become increasingly so.

An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Windows Update. These include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. Windows Update also installs the latest software updates to improve the reliability of Windows—new drivers for your hardware and more.

You Need to Find an Alternative NOW

You can't continue to run Windows Vista with it connected to the Internet. You need to:

The various options are discussed in Replacing Windows: Upgrading when support ends.

Going Permanently Offline

If you continue to use Vista, you'll need to take it permanently offline. You can continue to use Vista for word processing, home theatre, music, etc. as long as you're depending upon CDs and DVDs or existing stored content. Be sure to unplug network cables and disable wireless connectivity.

However, being offline has some disadvantages.

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Windows Vista Editions

Comparing Vista Editions

There are four editions of Vista:

Windows Vista Hardware

Installing Windows Vista

Microsoft's instruction on how to install, upgrade, & activate Windows Vista are no longer available.

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, although support for Windows 7 is now relatively short (January 14, 2020).

System Requirements

Be sure your hardware is adequate to optimize your experience with Windows Vista. As noted above, Windows 7's requirements are lighter. 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:


ReadyBoost is a feature 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).


Vista is a poor choice if you're considering upgrading. 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

Most 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 designed for XP but lacking the capacity to run Vista (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 although current versions can run slowly on Home Basic hardware.

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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

Editing the Windows Registry directly is for advanced users. Be sure to backup your registry before making changes.

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 such as in Vista Basic.

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 (no longer available) — another reason not to use Internet Explorer.

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.

Note: Vista support has expired and is no longer safe to use online, even with SP2 installed.

Recovering Windows Vista

While not as advanced as Windows 7's, Vista recovery options are much better than earlier versions of Windows.

Create a System Repair Disc

Windows Vista has a specific system repair disc available from NeoSmart:

These resources may help you recover your Vista system:

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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 on April 11, 2017. Learn more about Microsoft Lifecycles.

Microsoft's Vista Support

Microsoft's Vista support pages have disappeared as the focus moved to Windows 8.1 then Windows 10.

If you land on a Windows 10 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.

Related Resources

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Updated: May 2, 2020