Q: Should I upgrade to Windows Vista?

A: This is a very common question lately, as the newest version of Windows, “Vista”, was just released to the public late last month. While I could go on and on about the details of Vista and why or why not you should upgrade, I’ll keep it brief.

Basically, if your computer is NOT critical to your business, personal, or family use, and you want to try out the new features, then feel free to upgrade to Vista. Of course, make sure you have enough RAM, a fast enough processor, and a powerful enough video card to take advantage of all of Vista’s new features.

However, like most users, if your computer is too critical to risk significant downtime, then I strongly advise that you stay away from Vista for at least a year, if you upgrade at all. I can sum up the reasons for this in three main points:
First, Vista is the most significant upgrade to Windows since Windows 95. So many new technologies are incorporated into Vista that the odds of bugs and compatibility problems are greatly increased. This is especially likely given Microsoft’s track record at putting out new software.

Second, Vista’s hardware requirements are significantly greater than that of Windows XP. While many recent vintage computers meet Microsoft’s minimum requirements for Vista, many experts seriously doubt that the minimum requirements will give a reasonable user experience. To experience all of Vista’s new features, the great majority of computers in the public today will need a significant RAM upgrade, as well as an upgraded video system.

Thirdly, the jury is still out whether all the new features in Vista will really benefit users. Many features are low-level, behind the scenes improvements that most users won’t understand yet alone perceive any difference. The most talked about and noticeable new features are cosmetic in nature. While this can generate a lot of “wow” factor, it can also create a learning curve for all users, experienced or novice.

When factoring all the costs associated with the upgrades against any possible benefit to Vista, it is very tough to recommend upgrading at all. By the time most users wait a year or two, it will make more sense to buy a new computer with Vista on it, than to upgrade their old computers.

The bottom line is that most users should wait to upgrade to Vista, and then make the decision to upgrade or simply buy a new computer.

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