Windows Vista

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Software

Windows Vista
(Part of the Microsoft Windows family)

Screenshot of Windows Vista
Web site:
Release information
Release date: January 30, 2007 info
Current version: RTM (Build 6000) ( November 8, 2006) info
Source model: Closed source
License: Microsoft EULA
Kernel type: Hybrid kernel
Support status
Released on November 8, 2006 to manufacturing. Released on November 17, 2006 to MSDN subscribers. Will be released on November 30, 2006 for volume license customers and January 30, 2007 for worldwide retail availability.
Further reading
  • Features new to Windows Vista
  • Security and safety features new to Windows Vista
  • Development of Windows Vista
  • Criticism of Windows Vista

Windows Vista is the name of the latest release of Microsoft Windows, a line of graphical operating systems used on personal computers, including home and business desktops, notebook computers, and media centers. Prior to its announcement on July 22, 2005, Vista was known by its codename Longhorn. On November 8, 2006, Windows Vista development was completed and is now in the release to manufacturing stage; Microsoft has stated that the scheduled release dates are currently November 30, 2006 for volume license customers and worldwide availability on January 30, 2007. Windows Vista English Edition was released to MSDN subscribers on November 16, 2006, These release dates come more than five years after the release of Windows XP, Microsoft's current consumer and business operating system, making it the longest time span between major releases of Windows.

According to Microsoft, Windows Vista contains hundreds of new features, some of the most significant of which include an updated graphical user interface and visual style dubbed Windows Aero, improved searching features, new multimedia creation tools such as Windows DVD Maker, and completely redesigned networking, audio, print, and display sub-systems. Vista also aims to increase the level of communication between machines on a home network using peer-to-peer technology, making it easier to share files and digital media between computers and devices. For developers, Vista introduces version 3.0 of the .NET Framework, which aims to make it significantly easier for developers to write high-quality applications than with the traditional Windows API.

Microsoft's primary stated objective with Vista, however, has been to improve the state of security in the Windows operating system. One of the most common criticisms of Windows XP and its predecessors has been their commonly exploited security vulnerabilities and overall susceptibility to malware, viruses and buffer overflows. In light of this, then Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced in early 2002 a company-wide ' Trustworthy Computing initiative' which aims to incorporate security work into every aspect of software development at the company. Microsoft claimed that it prioritized improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 above finishing Windows Vista, significantly delaying its completion.

During the course of its development, Vista has been the target of a number of negative assessments by various groups. Criticism of Windows Vista has included protracted development time, more restrictive licensing terms, the inclusion of a number of new Digital Rights Management technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital media, and the usability of new features such as User Account Control.


Microsoft started work on their plans for "Longhorn" in May 2001, prior to the release of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. It was originally expected to ship sometime late in 2003 as a minor step between Windows XP and "Blackcomb" (now known as Windows "Vienna"). Indeed, Longhorn, Vista's original codename, was an allusion to this plan. While Whistler-Blackcomb is a large ski resort in British Columbia, Longhorn Saloon & Grill is the name of an après bar between the two mountains that Whistler's visitors pass to reach Blackcomb. Gradually, "Longhorn" assimilated many of the important new features and technologies slated for "Blackcomb", resulting in the release date being pushed back a few times. Many of Microsoft's developers were also re-tasked with improving the security of Windows XP. Faced with ongoing delays and concerns about feature creep, Microsoft announced on August 27, 2004 that it was making significant changes. "Longhorn" development basically started afresh, building on the Windows Server 2003 codebase, and re-incorporating only the features that would be intended for an actual operating system release. Some previously announced features, such as WinFS and NGSCB, were dropped or postponed, and a new software development methodology called the "Security Development Lifecycle" was incorporated in an effort to address concerns with the security of the Windows codebase.

After "Longhorn" was named Windows Vista, an unprecedented beta-test program was started, which has involved hundreds of thousands of volunteers and companies. In September 2005, Microsoft started releasing regular Community Technology Previews (CTP) to beta testers. The first of these was distributed among 2005 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference attendees, and was subsequently released to Microsoft Beta testers and Microsoft Developer Network subscribers. The builds that followed incorporated most of the planned features for the final product, as well as a number of changes to the user interface, based in large part on feedback from beta testers. Windows Vista was deemed feature-complete with the release of the "February CTP", released on February 22, 2006, and much of the remainder of work between that build and the final release of the product focused on stability, performance, application and driver compatibility, and documentation. Beta 2, released in late May, was the first build to be made available to the general public through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program. It was downloaded by more than five million people. Two release candidates followed this in September and October, both of which were made available to a large number of users.

While Microsoft had originally hoped to have the operating system available worldwide in time for the 2006 holiday season, it was announced in March 2006 that the release date would be pushed back to January 2007, so as to give the company – and the hardware and software companies which Microsoft depends on for providing device drivers – additional time to prepare. Through much of 2006, analysts and bloggers had speculated that Windows Vista would be delayed further, owing to anti-trust concerns raised by the European Commission and South Korea, and due to a perceived lack of progress with the beta releases. However, with the November 8, 2006 announcement of the completion of Windows Vista, Microsoft's most lengthy operating system development project in the company's history has come to an end.

New and improved features

Windows Vista has a long list of new features, changes, and improvements. Recent development builds of Windows Vista, Microsoft employee blogs, and published documentation (including a near-complete list of features in the Windows Vista Product Guide) have collectively identified most of the features that Microsoft intends to include when the product is released.

End-user features

  • Windows Aero: a new hardware-based graphical user interface, named Windows Aero – an acronym (possibly a backronym) for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open. The new interface is intended to be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing than previous Windows, including new transparencies, animations and eye candy.
  • Windows Shell: The new Windows shell is significantly different from Windows XP, offering a new range of organization, navigation, and search capabilities. Windows Explorer's task pane has been removed, integrating the relevant task options into the toolbar. A "Favorite links" pane has been added, enabling one-click access to common directories. The address bar has been replaced with a breadcrumb navigation system. The Start menu has changed as well; it no longer uses ever-expanding boxes when navigating through Programs. Even the word "Start" itself has been removed in favour of a blue Windows Orb.
  • Windows Search (also known as Instant Search or search as you type): significantly faster and more thorough search capabilities. Search boxes have been added to the Start menu, Windows Explorer, and several of the applications included with Vista. By default, Instant Search indexes only a small number of folders such as the start menu, the names of files opened, the Documents folder, and the user's e-mail.
  • Windows Sidebar: A transparent panel anchored to the side of the screen where a user can place Desktop Gadgets, which are small applets designed for a specialized purpose (such as displaying the weather or sports scores). Gadgets can also be placed on other parts of the Desktop, if desired. The technology bears some resemblance to the older Active Channel and Active Desktop technologies introduced with Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2.5, but the gadgets technology is more versatile, and is not integrated with the Internet Explorer browser in the same way as Active Desktop.
  • Windows Internet Explorer 7: new user interface, tabbed browsing, RSS, a search box, improved printing, Page Zoom, Quick Tabs (thumbnails of all open tabs), a number of new security protection features, and improved web standards support.
  • Windows Media Player 11, a major revamp of Microsoft's program for playing and organizing music and video. New features in this version include word wheeling (or "search as you type"), a completely new and highly graphical interface for the media library, photo display and organization, and the ability to share music libraries over a network with other Vista machines, Xbox 360 integration, and support for other Media Centre Extenders.
  • Backup and Restore Centre: Includes a backup and restore application that gives users the ability to schedule periodic backups of files on their computer, as well as recovery from previous backups. Backups are incremental, storing only the changes each time, minimizing the disk usage. It also features CompletePC Backup which backs up an entire computer as an image onto a hard disk or DVD. CompletePC Backup can automatically recreate a machine setup onto new hardware or hard disk in case of any hardware failures.
  • Windows Mail: A replacement for Outlook Express that includes a completely replaced mail store that improves stability, and enables real-time search. New Junk mail filtering.
  • Windows Calendar is a new calendar and task application.
  • Windows Photo Gallery, a photo and movie library management application. WPG can import from digital cameras, tag and rate individual items, adjust colors and exposure, create and display slideshows (with pan and fade effects), and burn slideshows to DVD.
  • Windows DVD Maker, a companion program to Windows Movie Maker, which provides the ability to create video DVDs based on a user's content.
  • Windows Meeting Space is the replacement for NetMeeting. Users can share applications (or their entire Desktop) with other users on the local network, or over the Internet using peer-to-peer technology.
  • Windows Media Centre, which was previously exclusively bundled as a separate version of Windows XP, known as Windows XP Media Centre Edition, will be incorporated into the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.
  • Games: Every game included with Windows has been rewritten to take advantage of Vista's new graphics capabilities. New games include Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans and Purble Place. The Games section will also hold links and information to all games on the user's computer. One piece of information that will be shown is the game's ESRB rating.
  • Previous Versions automatically creates backup copies of files and folders, with daily frequency. Users can also create "shadow copies" by setting a System Protection Point using the System Protection tab in the System control panel. The user can be presented multiple versions of a file throughout a limited history and be allowed to restore, delete, or copy those versions. This feature is available only in the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and is inherited from Windows Server 2003.
  • The Windows Mobility Centre is a new control panel that centralizes the most relevant information related to mobile computing (e.g. brightness, sound, battery level / power scheme selection, wireless network, screen orientation, presentation settings, etc.).
  • Windows Update: Software and security updates have been simplified, now operating solely via a control panel instead of as a web application. Mail's spam filter and Defender's definitions will also be automatically updated via Windows Update.
  • Parental controls: Allows administrators to control which websites, programs, and games each standard user can use and install.
  • Windows SideShow: Enables the auxiliary displays on newer laptops or on supported Windows Mobile devices. It is meant to be used to display Device gadgets while the computer is on or off.
  • Speech recognition is fully integrated into Vista, which can be "trained" to understand a user's voice, to activate commands in any Windows application, and to enable voice dictation. It supports multiple languages.
  • Many new fonts, including several designed especially for screen reading, and new high-quality Chinese (Yahei, JhengHei), Japanese (Meiryo) and Korean (Malgun) fonts. See Windows Vista typefaces. ClearType has also been enhanced and enabled by default.
  • Touchscreen support will be included as part of Tablet PC, which will be incorporated as a standard component.
  • Problem Reports and Solutions, a new control panel which allows users to see previously sent problems and any solutions or additional information that is available.
  • Improved audio controls allow the system-wide volume or volume of individual audio devices and even individual applications to be controlled separately.
  • Full Symbolic links support has been made available for the first time to Windows users in Vista.
  • System Performance Assessment is a benchmark used by Windows Vista to regulate the system for optimum performance. Games can take advantage of this feature, reading the data produced by this benchmark in order to fine-tune the game details. The benchmark tests CPU, RAM, Graphics acceleration (2D and 3D) and disk access.
  • Enable advanced performance for hard disks and a PC with a power supply - When the option is enabled, the HDD operates in write-back cache mode, in which all the data that gets written to the drive is first stored in the cache, and then later written to the disk. Both writes and reads are cached in this case. With it disabled, the HDD operates like Windows XP, in write-through cache mode, in which all data that gets written to the drive is immediately written to the disks and also stored in the cache. Writes are not cached, but reads are.

Core technologies

Windows Vista is intended to be a technology-based release, to provide a solid base to include advanced technologies, many of which will be related to how the system functions, and hence not readily visible to the user. An example of this is the complete restructuring of the architecture of the audio, print, display, and networking subsystems; while the results of this work will be clearly visible to software developers, end-users will only see what appear to be evolutionary changes in the user interface.

Vista includes technologies such as ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive which employ fast flash memory (located on USB drives and hybrid hard disk drives respectively) to improve system performance by caching commonly-used programs and data. This manifests itself in improved battery life on notebook computers as well, since a hybrid drive can be spun down when not in use. Another new technology called SuperFetch utilizes machine learning techniques to analyze usage patterns in order to allow Windows Vista to make intelligent decisions about what content should be present in system memory at any given time.

As part of the complete redesign of the networking architecture, IPv6 has been fully incorporated into the operating system, and a number of performance improvements have been introduced, such as TCP window scaling. Prior versions of Windows typically needed third-party wireless networking software to work properly; this is no longer the case with Vista, as it includes more comprehensive wireless networking support.

For graphics, Vista introduces a new Windows Display Driver Model, as well as major revision to Direct3D. The new driver model facilitates the new Desktop Window Manager, which provides the tearing-free desktop and special effects that are the cornerstones of Windows Aero. Direct3D 10, developed in conjunction with major display driver manufacturers, is a new architecture with more advanced shader support, and allows the graphics processing unit to render more complex scenes without assistance from the CPU. It features improved load balancing between CPU and GPU and also optimizes data transfer between them.

At the core of the operating system, many improvements have been made to the memory manager, process scheduler, heap manager, and I/O scheduler. A Kernel Transaction Manager has been implemented that gives applications the ability to work with the file system and registry using atomic transaction operations.

Security-related technologies

Improved security was the primary design goal for Vista. Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing initiative, which aims to improve public trust in its products, has had a direct effect on the development of Vista. Security-related technologies include:

  • User Account Control (UAC) is a new security technology that allows Windows to operate effectively as a "standard" user with fewer privileges. This was often a difficult thing to do in previous versions of Windows, because the previous "limited" user accounts proved too restrictive and incompatible with a large proportion of application software. When an action requiring administrative rights is requested, the user will first be prompted to confirm their action (or be asked for an administrator password if they are not themselves an administrator). UAC asks for credentials in a Secure Desktop mode, where the entire screen is blacked out and temporarily disabled, to present only the elevation UI. This is to prevent spoofing of the UI or the mouse by the application requesting elevation and for preventing application-based Shatter attacks. UAC also provides files and registry virtualization. IE7 Protected Mode relays on UAC.
  • Integrity mechanism restrict write access to securable objects by lower integrity processes, much the same way that user account group membership restricts the rights of users to access sensitive system components.
  • User Interface Privilege Isolation (UIPI) prevents processes from sending selected window messages, hook and attach to processes running with higher integrity.
  • Windows Firewall with Advanced Security: Supports filtering both incoming and outgoing traffic. It's also possible to create advanced packet filter rules. Rules can be configured for services by its service name chosen by a list, without needing to specify the full path file name.
  • Windows Defender: Microsoft's Anti-spyware product has been incorporated into Windows, offering protection against spyware and other threats. Changes to various system configuration settings (such as new auto-starting applications) are blocked unless the user gives consent. The new version uses Windows Automatic Updates to receive definition updates, also works properly with standard user accounts, and has integration with IE and Windows Mail so that downloads and mail attachments are scanned when they are downloaded, which reduces the risk of accidentally downloading malicious software.
  • BitLocker Drive Encryption is a data protection feature that provides encryption for the entire OS volume that will only be included in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Vista. Bitlocker can work in conjunction with a Trusted Platform Module chip that is on a computer's motherboard.
  • Windows Service Hardening prevents Windows Services from doing operations on file systems, registry or networks which they are not supposed to by automatically running each service in a separate user account, thereby preventing entry of malware by piggybacking on system services.
  • Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) to prevent Return-to-libc buffer overflow attacks.
  • Windows Filtering Platform enables software such as firewall products to perform activities such as packet inspection. Anti-virus software can also use the file system mini filter to participate in file system activities.
  • Kernel Patch Protection protects the integrity of the kernel for the 64-bit version from malicious attacks and from inadvertent reliability problems that result from patching. This is not actually a new security feature in Windows Vista; it was first supported on the x64 (AMD64/EM64T) CPU architecture versions of Microsoft Windows including Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Kernel Patch Protection monitors if key resources used by the kernel or kernel code itself has been modified and will initiate a shut down of the system if unauthorized patches of certain data structures or code are detected. Kernel Patch Protection has been designed to protect against threats such as rootkits, although it cannot currently prevent attacks exploiting hardware-based virtualization; this was demonstrated by the Blue pill.
  • Code Integrity (CI) protects Windows Vista by verifying that system binaries haven’t been tampered with by malicious code and by ensuring that there are no unsigned drivers running in kernel mode on the system. CI starts as Windows starts up. The boot loader checks the integrity of the kernel, the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), and the boot-start drivers. After these binaries have been verified, the system starts and the memory manager calls CI to verify any binaries that are loaded into the kernel’s memory space. The binaries are verified by looking up their signatures in the system catalogs. Aside from the kernel memory space, CI verifies binaries loaded into a protected process and system installed dynamic libraries that implement core cryptographic functions.
  • Internet Explorer 7's new security and safety features include a phishing filter, IDN with anti-spoofing technology, and better integration of system-wide parental controls. For added security, ActiveX controls are disabled by default. Also, Internet Explorer operates in a "protected mode" sandbox which operates with lower permissions than the user, preventing it from accessing or modifying anything besides the Temporary Internet Files directory. Also, for better security, Internet Explorer is no longer integrated with the explorer shell (local files typed in IE are opened using the explorer shell and Web sites typed in the explorer shell are opened using the default web browser).
  • Added new SSL and TLS extensions, which enable the support of both AES and new ECC cipher suites. The support for AES is not available in Microsoft Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003.

Business technologies

While much of the focus of Vista's new capabilities has been on the new user interface, security technologies, and improvements to the core operating system, Microsoft is also adding new deployment and maintenance features to make a compelling case for businesses still running Windows NT, 2000, and XP desktops.

  • The WIM image format (Windows IMage) is the cornerstone of Microsoft's new deployment and packaging system. WIM files, which contain an image of Windows Vista, can be maintained and patched without having to rebuild new images. Windows Images can be delivered via Systems Management Server or Business Desktop Deployment technologies. Images can be customized and configured with applications then deployed to corporate client personal computers using little to no touch by a system administrator. ImageX is the Microsoft tool used to create and customize images.
  • Windows Deployment Services replaces Remote Installation Services for deploying Vista and prior versions of Windows.
  • Approximately 800 new Group Policy settings have been added, covering most aspects of the new features in the operating system, as well as significantly expanding the configurability of wireless networks, removable storage devices, and user desktop experience.
  • Services for UNIX has been renamed "Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications", and is included with the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Vista. Network File System (NFS) client support is also included.
  • Wireless Projector support

Developer technologies

Windows Vista includes a large number of new application programming interfaces. Chief among them is the inclusion of version 3.0 of the .NET Framework, which consists of a class library and Common Language Runtime. Version 3.0 includes several new technologies:

The Windows Presentation Foundation or WPF, formerly code-named Avalon: a new user interface subsystem and framework based on Direct3D (DirectX), and vector graphics, which will make use of 3D computer graphics hardware and Direct3D technologies. See Windows Graphics Foundation. It provides the foundation for building applications and blending together application UI, documents, and media content.
The Windows Communication Foundation or WCF, formerly code-named Indigo: a service-oriented messaging subsystem which will enable applications and systems to interoperate locally or remotely using Web services.
The Windows Workflow Foundation or WF: was announced in August 2005, and allows task automation and integrated transactions using workflows. It is the programming model, engine and tools for building workflow enabled applications on Windows.
Windows CardSpace or WCS, formerly code-named InfoCard, is a software component which securely stores digital identities of a person, and provides a unified interface for choosing the identity for a particular transaction, such as logging into a website.

These technologies will also be available for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to facilitate their introduction to and usage by developers and end users.

There are also significant new development APIs in the core of the operating system, notably the completely re-architected audio, networking, print, and video interfaces, major changes to the security infrastructure, improvements to the deployment and installation of applications (" ClickOnce" and Windows Installer 4.0), new device driver development model (" Windows Driver Foundation"), Transactional NTFS, mobile computing API advancements (power management, Tablet PC Ink support, SideShow) and major updates to (or complete replacements of) many core subsystems such as Winlogon and CAPI.

There are some issues for software developers using some of the graphics APIs in Vista. Games or programs which are built on Vista's version of DirectX, 10, will not work on prior versions of Windows, as DirectX 10 is not backwards-compatible with DirectX 9. According to a Microsoft blog, there are three choices for OpenGL implementation on Vista. An application can use the default implementation, which translates OpenGL calls into the Direct3D API and is frozen at OpenGL version 1.4, or an application can use an Installable Client Driver (ICD), which comes in two flavours: legacy and Vista-compatible. A legacy ICD, the kind already provided by independent hardware vendors targeting Windows XP, will disable the Desktop Window Manager, noticeably degrading user experience under Windows Aero. A Vista-compatible ICD takes advantage of a new API, and will be fully compatible with the Desktop Window Manager. At least two primary vendors, ATI and NVIDIA, are expected to provide full Vista-compatible ICDs in the near future.

Deprecated features

Some notable Windows XP features and components have been replaced or removed in Windows Vista. Perhaps the most significant of these is the removal of Windows Messenger, the network Messenger Service, HyperTerminal, MSN Explorer, and the replacement of NetMeeting with Windows Meeting Space. Windows Vista also does not include the Windows XP "Luna" visual theme, or most of the classic colour schemes which have been part of Windows since the Windows 3.x era. The "Hardware profiles" startup feature has been removed as well, along with support for older motherboard technologies like the EISA bus and APM. WinHlp32.exe, used to display 32-bit .hlp files, is no longer included in Windows Vista as Microsoft considers it obsolete. This has resulted in a number of older programs not being able to display Help when running on Vista. In addition, Microsoft prohibits software manufacturers from re-introducing it with their products. However, WinHlp32.exe can still be installed manually from Microsoft's Download Centre.

telnet.exe is no longer installed by default, but is still included as an installable feature.

Postponed features

During the course of development, a number of features that had been announced or discussed publicly are no longer slated to be included with the initial release of Windows Vista.

  • Due to scheduling issues, the Windows PowerShell, code-named Monad, will not be included in Windows Vista. However, it is available as a separate download .
  • Owing to significant difficulties in getting third-party developers to support the system (particularly due to the lack of support for writing for the Trusted Operating Root using .NET managed code), the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base architecture was abandoned for Windows Vista. Some aspects of the NGSCB initiative, such as support for Trusted Platform Module chips, are still present, though its role is now limited to being a provider of cryptographic functions which will support BitLocker Drive Encryption.
  • Support for Intel's Extensible Firmware Interface was originally slated to be included with Vista, but has been removed due to what Microsoft has described as a lack of support on desktop computers. The UEFI 2.0 specification (which replaces EFI 1.10) was not completed until early 2006, and as of mid-2006, no firmware manufacturers have completed a production implementation. Microsoft has stated that it intends on incorporating 64-bit UEFI support into a future update to Vista, but 32-bit UEFI will not be supported.
  • PC-to-PC Sync, a technology for synchronizing folders on multiple computers using peer-to-peer technology, was removed due to quality concerns. Microsoft plans to release it after Vista's release.

Visual styles

Windows Vista has four distinct visual styles.

Windows Aero
Vista's premier visual style is built on a new desktop composition engine called Desktop Window Manager. Windows Aero introduces support for 3D graphics (Windows Flip 3D), translucency effects (Glass), window animations and other visual effects, and is intended for mainstream and high-end graphics cards. To enable these features, the contents of every open window is stored in video memory to facilitate tearing-free movement of windows. As such, Windows Aero has significantly higher hardware requirements than its predecessors. 64 MB of graphics memory is the minimum requirement, depending on resolution used. Windows Aero (including Windows Flip 3D) is not planned for inclusion in the Starter and Home Basic editions, and requires Windows Genuine Advantage to be passed.
Windows Vista Standard
This mode is a variation of Windows Aero without the glass effects, window animations, and other advanced graphical effects such as Windows Flip 3D. Like Windows Aero, it uses the Desktop Window Manager, and has generally the same video hardware requirements as Windows Aero. This is the default mode for the Windows Vista Home Basic Edition. The Starter (developing markets) edition does not support this mode.
Windows Vista Basic
This mode has aspects that are similar to Windows XP's visual style with the addition of subtle animations such as those found on progress bars. It does not employ the Desktop Window Manager; as such, it does not feature transparency or translucency, window animation, Windows Flip 3D or any of the functions provided by the DWM. The Basic mode does not require the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) for display drivers, and has similar graphics card requirements to Windows XP. For computers with graphics cards that are not powerful enough to support Windows Aero, this is the default graphics mode.
Windows Classic
An option for corporate deployments and upgrades, Windows Classic has the look and feel of Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, does not use the Desktop Window Manager and does not require a WDDM driver. As with prior versions of Windows, this theme supports "Color schemes" which are a collection of color settings. Windows Vista includes six classic color schemes, comprised of four high-contrast colour schemes, as well as the default colour schemes from Windows 95 and Windows 2000.

"Windows Aero" style. "Windows Vista Standard" is similar in appearance but without the glass effects around windows.

"Windows Vista Basic" visual style.

"Windows Classic" visual style.

Hardware requirements

According to Microsoft, computers capable of running Windows Vista are classified as Vista Capable and Vista Premium Ready. A Vista Capable or equivalent PC needs to have at least 800 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM and a DirectX 9 class graphics card, and will not be capable of supporting the high end Vista graphics, including the Aero user interface. A Vista Premium Ready PC will take advantage of Vista's "high-end" features but will need at least a 1.0 GHz processor, 1 GB main memory, and an Aero-compatible graphics card with at least 128 MB graphics memory and supporting the new Windows Display Driver Model. The company also offers a Release Candidate of Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor from its Web site to determine the ability of a PC to run Vista in its various guises. The utility runs on Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Microsoft lists some Vista capable hardware on their web site. The "Vista Premium Ready" laptops they specify have Intel Core 2 Duo T5500 or above CPUs and 1 GB memory.

While Microsoft specifies 1 GB of main memory (RAM), Nigel Page of Microsoft has indicated that 2 GB is the ideal configuration for 64-bit Vista which processes data chunks that are double the size for those for 32-bit Vista, hence requiring double the memory.

Windows Vista's "Basic" and "Classic" interfaces will work with virtually any graphics hardware that supports Windows XP or 2000; accordingly, most discussion around Vista's graphics requirements centers on those for the Windows Aero interface. As of Windows Vista Beta 2, the NVIDIA GeForce FX family and later, the ATI Radeon 9500 and later, Intel's GMA 950 integrated graphics, and a handful of VIA chipsets and S3 Graphics discrete chips are supported. Though some XGI Technology Volari chips were DirectX 9 (including the Volari V3XT which was available in PCI cards), with XGI's exit from the graphics card business it appears none of its chips are supported as of Vista Beta 2.

Microsoft has not specifically stated whether an AGP or PCI Express (PCIe) video card is a requirement for Windows Aero, but they recommend PCIe video due to their greater bandwidth. There are some PCI cards available that are compatible with Windows Vista as well. After testing with release candidates, it has been proven that Windows Aero performs smoothly on DirectX 9 AGP video cards.

Windows Vista system requirements
Vista Capable Vista Premium Ready
Processor 800 MHz 1 GHz
Memory 512 MB RAM 1 GB RAM
Graphics Card DirectX 9 capable DirectX 9 capable GPU with Hardware Pixel Shader v2.0 and WDDM Driver support
Graphics Memory N/A 128 MB RAM supports up to 2,756,000 total pixels (e.g. 1920 × 1200) or 512 MB+ for greater resolutions such as 2560x1600
HDD capacity 20 GB 40 GB
HDD free space 15 GB 15 GB
HDD type Normal Normal, but hybrid flash memory/hard disk drive recommended
Other drives N/A DVD-ROM

Editions and pricing

Windows Vista will ship in six editions. All editions will be available in both 32-bit ( x86) and 64-bit ( x64) architectures, except Windows Vista Starter which will only be available for 32-bit architectures. Microsoft maintains a detailed Product Guide that describes the various editions of Windows Vista, including detailed comparison charts of all features.

On September 5, 2006, USD pricing was announced for the four editions they plan on making available through retail channels. New license and upgrade license SKUs of each edition will be made available.

Windows Vista editions and pricing
Edition Description Pricing (USD) Retail box
Retail Upgrade
Windows Vista
Much like Windows XP Starter Edition, this edition will be limited to emerging markets such as India, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, and Indonesia, mainly to offer a legal alternative to using unauthorized copies. It will not be available in the United States, Canada, or Europe. It will have many significant limitations, such as only allowing a user to launch three applications with a user interface at once, not accepting incoming network connections, a physical memory limit of 256 MB, and will run only in 32-bit mode. Additionally, only Duron, Sempron and Geode processors from AMD, and Intel's Celeron and Pentium III processors are supported. No pricing announced No box shot available
Windows Vista
Home Basic
Similar to Windows XP Home Edition, Home Basic is intended for budget users not requiring advanced media support for home use. The Windows Aero theme with translucent effects will not be included with this edition. Home Basic will support up to 8 GB of physical memory. $199.00 $99.95
Windows Vista
Home Premium
Containing all features from Home Basic, this edition will also support more advanced features aimed for the home market segment, such as HDTV support and DVD authoring. Extra premium games, mobile and tablet PC, network projector, touchscreen, and auxiliary display (via Windows SideShow) support, and a utility to schedule backups are also included. Home Premium also supports up to 2 physical processors, and 10 simultaneous peer network connections (compared to 5 in Home Basic). The version of Meeting Space included will also allow for interaction (in Home Basic, you may only view meetings), but Remote Desktop sessions may only be received, not controlled, in this edition. This edition is comparable to Windows XP Media Centre Edition and Tablet PC Edition. Home Premium will support up to 16 GB of physical memory. $239.00 $159.00
Windows Vista
Comparable to Windows XP Professional, and aimed at the business market. Includes all the features of Home Premium with the exception of Windows Media Centre, Parental Controls, and Windows DVD and Movie Maker. Includes the IIS web server, fax support, file system encryption, system image backup and recovery, offline file support, a full version of Remote Desktop, ad-hoc P2P collaboration capabilities, Previous Versions (Windows ShadowCopy), and several other business features not in Home Premium. Business supports 128 GB of memory. $299.00 $199.95
Windows Vista
This edition is aimed at the enterprise segment of the market, and is a superset of the Business edition. Additional features include multilingual user interface support, BitLocker Drive Encryption, and UNIX application support. This edition will not be available through retail or OEM channels, but through Microsoft Software Assurance. Part of Software Assurance enterprise licensing N/A
Windows Vista
This edition combines all the features of the Home Premium and Enterprise editions, a game performance tweaker ( WinSAT), and "Ultimate Extras". Microsoft has so far had little to say regarding Ultimate Extras, but they are expected to include special online services for downloadable media, as well as additional customer service options. The Ultimate edition is aimed at high-end PC users, gamers, multimedia professionals, and PC enthusiasts. $399.00 $259.00


  1. "Home Basic N" and "Business N" editions of Windows Vista will additionally be available in the European Union. These editions will ship without Windows Media Player, according to the EU sanctions brought against Microsoft for violating anti-trust laws.
  2. An "Express Upgrade" program is available for providing free or low-cost upgrades for people who purchase computers with Windows XP between October 26, 2006 and March 15, 2007. The precise costs vary between OEM manufacturers; Dell, for example, will offer free upgrades from Windows XP Professional to Windows Vista Business, while upgrades from Windows XP Home to Windows Vista Home Basic will cost $45 USD.
  3. Around the end of August, a number of web sites were reporting that "additional license" SKUs will be available as well with a 10% discount off the retail price; this was based on pricing information that appeared on; the pricing information for these additional license SKUs was removed shortly afterwards. Microsoft has not commented publicly on the availability or pricing of additional licenses for Windows Vista.
  4. All editions of Windows Vista will ship on the same DVD. It is the license key purchased that determines which version will be installed. After the product key is entered, the user will choose whether to install the 32-bit or 64-bit version of that edition (except for Starter edition). The features of the Home Premium and Ultimate editions may be "unlocked" at any time by purchasing a one-time upgrade license through a Control Panel tool called Windows Anytime Upgrade. The Business edition will also be upgradable to Ultimate. Such licenses will be sold by Microsoft's partners and OEMs, but not directly by Microsoft.


All retail editions of Windows Vista will come packaged in a clear, hard-plastic case, "designed to be user-friendly, the new packaging is a small, hard, plastic container that [will] protect the software inside for life-long use". The case will open sideways to reveal the Windows Vista DVD suspended in a clear plastic case. The Windows Vista disc itself uses a holographic design similar to the discs that Microsoft has produced since Windows 2000.


Criticisms of Windows Vista include protracted development time, more restrictive licensing terms, the inclusion of a number of technologies aimed at restricting the copying of protected digital media, and the usability of the new User Account Control security technology. Reviewers have also noted similarities between Vista's Aero interface and that of Apple's Mac OS X operating system, particularly around the use of and transition effects. Moreover, some concerns have been raised about many PCs meeting "Vista Premium Ready" hardware requirements and Vista's pricing.

Licensing: The introduction of license restrictions on retail buyers legally transferring their copy of Vista was criticized heavily and has since changed. Before, the licensing terms for Vista only allowed buyers of retail copies of Vista to transfer their software to a new machine one time. If a user wanted to move their software a second time, he or she would have to contact Microsoft via phone, proving they hold a valid license, to get a code to allow the move. Since then, Microsoft has responded to the complaints and has modified the EULA to read: "You may uninstall the software and install it on another device for your use. You may not do so to share this license between devices." As with Windows XP, separate rules will apply for OEM versions of Vista installed on new PCs; these are not legally transferrable. The cost of Windows Vista has also been criticised by some as too high. A majority of users in a poll said that the prices of various Windows Vista editions posted on the Microsoft Canada website in August 2006 make the product too expensive.

Digital Rights Management: Another common criticism concerns the integration of new forms of Digital Rights Management into the operating system, specifically High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) and the Image Constraint Token (ICT), which reduces the quality of high-definition video content if the video card and monitor are not HDCP-enabled. The criticism against HDCP may be misplaced, however, as it is still unclear as to whether all high definition media will be subject to HDCP protection.

User Account Control: Concerns have been raised about the new User Account Control security technology. While Yankee Group analyst Andrew Jaquith believes that critical security vulnerabilities may be "reduced by as much as 80 percent", he also noted that "while the new security system shows promise, it is far too chatty and annoying".

Kernel Patch Protection: The Kernel Patch Protection feature (also known as "Patchguard") on 64-bit versions of Vista that locks down the OS kernel has been criticised by computer security company McAfee who claim that since PatchGuard also prevents third-party security companies from getting inside the OS, they cannot activate crucial security measures in their software to protect the OS from intruders. Microsoft's argument is that this will keep miscreants out of the OS and prevent the incidence of attacks, and it is something for which customers have been asking. Firewall maker Agnitum and others have argued that the Patchguard can be circumvented by hackers and that some security software makers must use similar methods. McAfee has also stated that Vista will be even less secure than previous versions of Windows. However, security vendor Kaspersky Lab claims that it is not more difficult in Vista for anti-virus software to work, and that it would not make sense for Microsoft to stop working with security companies because it would make their system more vulnerable to attacks. Sophos adds that Microsoft does not need to open PatchGuard for third party developers, instead, they should use the APIs Microsoft supplies them.

Similarity with Mac OS X: Another criticism is a claim by some that Windows Vista emulates specific features in Apple Computer's Mac OS X. Scott Spanbauer of PCWorld notes a "striking similarity" between Vista's Aero visual effects, icon design, buttons and those of Mac OS X's Aqua. Vista has also incorporated features which OS X has had for some time such as fast searching and Smart Folders functionality. This has led some to the conclusion that Aero is an imitation of Aqua. Apple highlighted similarities during the keynote presentation at the Worldwide Developers Conference in August 2006, with Bertrand Serlet showing screenshots of Vista and OS X side-by-side. However, several of the features Microsoft has been accused of copying appeared in early testing versions of Longhorn, such as the desktop search capabilites.

Hardware Requirements: Some controversy and concerns have arisen over how the increase in hardware specifications required to take advantage of many of Vista's new features may impact both personal and business users. While most PCs purchased after 2002 will be able to meet Vista’s minimum “Windows Vista Capable” requirements, many laptops and low-end to midrange desktops with integrated graphics will not be able to meet “Windows Vista Premium Ready” requirements and will therefore not be able to run advanced features such as the Aero Glass interface.

Anti-Competition: The European Union Competition Commission has raised concerns about Vista's compliance with EU anti-trust rules intended to allow competition between security providers on the merits of their products. Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd stated, "If business and home users are deprived of choice, a security 'monoculture' based on Microsoft products may lead to less innovation and could harm all computer users. Security risks could increase, and not decrease." Responding to EU concerns, Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman, stated, "We still have not received the guidance we're seeking. In July, we received a formal list of questions, but no answers about what specific concerns the Commission has, or how we should address them. We need answers, not questions." Evans went on to state "The bottom line is that we want to launch Vista in a fully lawful manner, and we want to avoid regulatory decisions that could increase security risks for European consumers." While there were some concerns from analysts and reporters that this issue would result in Vista being delayed further, Microsoft stated that this will not be the case.

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