Initial experiences of running Windows Vista on my everyday PC

I’ve written a bit about Windows Vista previously, but haven’t really used it much until recently due to a lack of decent hardware (I did have it running on a 1.5GHz Pentium 4M notebook PC with 256MB of RAM, but the RAM was a severe bottleneck).

Since converting my corporate Windows XP SP2 build to a virtual machine, I’ve been able to rebuild my work notebook to run Vista (beta 2 – build 5384) and although the processor is only marginally faster (1.8GHz Pentium 4M) it has 1GB of RAM as well as Bluetooth and an Intel Centrino chipset, making it a decent test platform for all but the Aero “glass” and other 3D effects.

I’ve also installed Office 2007 beta 2 (about which I raved after having just seen a demonstration a few weeks ago) and overall, I’m very impressed with the whole Vista and Office experience (the notes in this blog post cover about a month’s worth of usage).

Firstly, installation – I didn’t time it but it seemed faster than XP (and was certainly faster than previous releases of Windows Vista). After a few preliminary questions and copying the files from the DVD, the actual configuration only seemed to take a few minutes. Installing Office 2007 also seemed faster than my experiences with Office 2003.

Although it was very fast, I’ve had to turn off hibernation (indeed any form of advanced power management) because I found that the machine was unable to resume from a sleep/hibernate mode – but that could be because I have an unknown component in Device Manager for which I cannot find appropriate drivers – I suspect that the Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S7010D is not on the Vista hardware list and whilst XP drivers will work for items such as the Bluetooth card, missing core chipset functionality is bound to affect stability (I’ve also just seen Steve Lamb’s blog post on how to restore the display on Windows Vista following hibernation which might be the answer to my problem).

Although I initially dismissed it as a gimmick, I’m finding the Windows Sidebar to be very useful. I’m also getting used to the size of the desktop icons but still don’t like the black/grey taskbar and menu, the colors for which doesn’t appear to be customisable but then again I could always go back to the Windows Standard theme (or dinosaur mode).

The new search feature on the main menu (is it still called the Start menu?) is very useful (it also doubles up as the run command) and I’ve not found user access control to be as intrusive as I expected – in fact, I run as an unprivileged user and the ability to run elevated when necessary (e.g. to add a printer) is working very well.

Using the Vista machine during my recent holiday, digital photo work seemed much faster than XP (rotating 33 6-megapixel images just a few seconds). I also saw a useful feature whereby hovering the mouse over a picture in gallery produced a larger thumbnail but I can’t find that option now. On the flip side, I’ve experienced a few Windows Explorer crashes whilst copying pictures from compact flash to disk – something which shouldn’t really be a problem.

Stacking content (e.g. photos by date taken) also seems a little hit and miss although this relies on having indexed the content and as I’ve only had the laptop on for a few minutes at a time over the last couple of weeks it might not have completed yet.

Some others have questioned the reliability of this Windows Vista build but I have to say its working pretty well for me – not quite production-ready yet, but it is still a beta. In any case, Microsoft has released another build (5456) to testers, although they do note that “while we believe this build to be generally better than beta 2, it is an interim build and has not been through a rigorous test pass”.

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