For years, I’ve been one of your biggest fans. And why not? You’ve given me a career selling and supporting your products. You’ve put food on my table and countless trade show t-shirts on my back. It’s been a whole lot of fun, but that fun came to an end when you released Windows Vista. Why? Because Windows Vista is just broken.
My personal computer is an old Northwood Pentium 4 processor with HT. It’s got 2GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon x1300 pro video card and around 500Gb worth of space spread out among several hard drives. It’s pretty dated, to be sure. But it should be plenty powerful enough for a desktop operating system, right?
Apparently not. Here’s a short list of my woes with Vista:
Virtual PC: My Bittorrent setup wasn’t compatible with Vista, so I downloaded Virtual PC 2007. I installed Windows XP on a virtual machine and got everything set up just the way I like it: the OS stripped down as much as possible, autologin enabled, and a batch file that starts PeerGuardian and uTorrent at boot. The only problem? The virtual machine hogged up between 30-60% of my CPU cycles, even sitting at idle. That’s right, if the virtual machine is booted up, but not doing anything, it was using an average of 45% of my CPU cycles. When I went back to XP, I decided that it was simply easier to install Virtual PC 2007 and reuse the existing virtual machine (rather than install all the BT apps on my system). Under Windows XP, Virtual PC 2007 uses around 5-15% of my CPU cycles, with around 9% or 10% being the average. I hardly even notice that it’s there!
Outlook: If there’s one program I use dozens of times a day, every day, it’s Microsoft Outlook. In fact, I’d just be lost without Outlook. But under Vista, using Outlook was a nightmare: you’d click on a message and wait… and wait… and wait… usually around 30 seconds, but sometimes up to a minute, before the message would appear in the reading pane. So I would delete that message… and wait… and wait… and wait… for another 30 seconds to a minute for the next message to appear. I’d delete that message, too and wait… and wait… and wait… for the next message to come up. This wouldn’t be so bad if I only had 3 or 4 emails in my inbox. But I subscribe to around 20 RSS feeds and a few mailing lists, so at any given time I usually have 700 new messages waiting on me. Things were so bad under Vista that I’d usually get sick of waiting for Outlook and open Internet Explorer and use OWA instead. I often could delete a message in Outlook, wait several seconds, open Internet Explorer, manually type the address to my Exchange server into the address bar, login to OWA, and read a few messages… before Outlook had recovered from deleting that message! Using Outlook 2007 under Windows XP is like using a whole new program. Don’t get me wrong, Outlook still chokes on large HTML emails. But generally speaking, it’s much snappier in XP than Vista.
AutoGK: A friend of mine lent me her copy of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I ripped it using DVD Decrypter, then set up AutoGK to encode it using the “2 CD” setting, with everything else set to “Auto”. The total time to encode the film under Vista: 14 hours, 53 minutes, 29 seconds. When I reinstalled XP, I ripped my own copy of The Bourne Identity. Using the same settings, my total encode time under Windows XP: 2 hours, 47 minutes, 51 seconds. Interestingly, the Vista encode was done with all other applications closed, while the XP encode was done with Outlook and the aforementioned virtual machine open.
Word: Under Vista, it took Word 2007 around 50 seconds to open to my computer. Under XP, I hardly see the splash screen.
Explorer: I just loved Windows Explorer under Vista. There were dozens of tweaks that made Vista so much easier to use, and even prettier to look at. Sadly, actually using Explorer under Vista was a pain in the ass. Click on a disk and wait… wait… wait… before the contents were shown. Open another drive that you want to move some files to and wait… wait… wait… for the subfolders to be listed.
Network\Disk Throughput: God forbid I actually wanted to move files from point A to point B in Vista. Copying an album of mp3s from my Vista desktop to my file server could take 20 minutes, whereas under XP it’d take less than a minute. Even copying files from one disk to another on my local machine took long enough to go downstairs and make a pot of coffee. I have a robocopy batch file that mirrors my MP3 drive to a drive on my file server. Under XP, files copied so fast that I couldn’t really read robocopy’s progress meter; under Vista, I could sometimes count to 5 as the progress meter went from 34.6 to 34.7% complete.
Boot times: It took Vista more than twice as long to boot my computer as XP does.
Hibernation is missing: Hibernating my computer was never a problem under XP. Once in a blue moon, the machine would BSOD when trying to load the hibernation state, but this was pretty rare. Under Vista, it’s not even an option. After spending an entire evening trying to re-enable it using powercfg, I just gave up. As far as I can tell, there’s not even a way to force hibernation with the GUI like there was in XP. Good job, folks!
Aero Glass: Sadly, none of the above was fixed by turning Aero Glass off. I ran the non-Aero version of Vista for three or four days before deciding to go back to XP. My experience was no better; in fact, it was worse, given that I still had all of the above problems but none of the UI sexiness than Vista offered.
I’m sure that, given time, I could think of a dozen other problems I had under Vista. Notice, for example, that I didn’t mention anything about programs being incompatible with Vista. It’s hardly Microsoft’s fault that the Apple programmers couldn’t get a version of iTunes out the door that worked worth a damn in Vista. But still, having dozens of the programs I’ve used without issue for years under XP not work in Vista isn’t helping my experience.
Perhaps Service Pack 1 will address some of these issues. Maybe my computer’s just too old for Vista. But when I use Vista on my computer, it feels like I’m running XP on a 200mHz Pentium I with 64MB of RAM. The exact same hardware under XP feels like a damn supercomputer in comparison.