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Microsoft Windows is the most popular operating system for personal computers. There are several versions of the Windows operating system, including Windows XP (for home users) and Windows 2000 (for professional users). Earlier versions of Windows include Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, and NT. All Windows platforms use a graphical user interface (GUI), like the Mac OS, and also offer a command-line interface for typing text commands.
Windows Vista is the latest version of Microsoft's Windows operating system. The business version was released at the end of 2006, while the consumer version shipped on January 30, 2007.
The Vista operating system includes an updated look from Windows XP, referred to as the "Aero" interface. The desktop, windows, icons, and toolbars have a smoother 3D look, similar to the Mac OS X interface. These graphics are generated using the new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphics subsystem included with Windows Vista. Other improvements include faster indexed file searching (which can locate text within files), built-in Web services called the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), support for the new XML Paper Specification (XPS) document format, numerous security improvements, and more multimedia capabilities built into the operating system.
Windows Vista was code-named "Longhorn" for much of the development process. The operating system was originally slated to ship in 2003 as an update to Windows XP, but Microsoft decided to make additional updates to the operating system and scheduled it for release in 2005. Several delays pushed back the release date to 2006 and eventually to the beginning of 2007. In order to ship the consumer version by early 2007, the new file system called Windows Future Storage, or WinFS, was left out of the release. Microsoft plans to incorporate the WinFS file system in a future update.
Overall, Vista is a major upgrade to the Windows operating system (which is a good thing, since it has been over five years since Microsoft's last major OS release). The interface feels more modern, file navigation has been improved and system security has been designed to be stronger than Windows XP. If you plan to purchase Windows Vista for your system, you can choose one of five options:
The absolute minimum system requirements for Vista are:
- Business (designed for small business users and streamlined for work-oriented tasks)
- Enterprise (meant for large, global organizations with complex IT infrastructures)
- Home Basic (the most basic version of the Vista operating system designed for the average home user)
- Home Premium (a more robust home version that includes extra security and multimedia features)
- Ultimate (includes all the features from the Home Premium and Business versions of Vista)
- 800 MHz processor
- 512 MB of RAM
- 20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
- Super VGA graphics support
- CD-ROM drive However, Microsoft recommends the following system requirements:
- 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- 1 GB of RAM
- 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
9 graphics support with a WDDM Driver
- 128 MB (minimum) of video RAM
- Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
- 32 bits per pixel
- DVD-ROM drive
- Audio Output
- Internet access
Because many of Vista's new features require the recommended system requirements, it may be best to upgrade your operating system
only if your computer meets or exceeds the recommended specifications. Otherwise, waiting to buy a new machine with Windows Vista
installed is probably the best choice.
Microsoft Windows XP was introduced in 2001 and is the most significant upgrade to the Windows operating system since Windows 95. The previous version of Windows, called Windows Me (or Millennium Edition) still had the look and feel of Windows 95 and was known to have stability issues and incompatibilities with certain hardware.
Windows XP addressed many issues of its predecessor and added a number of other improvements as well. It is a stable operating system since it is built on the Windows 2000 kernel, which is known for its reliability. XP also has a new, more modern look, and an interface that is more easy to navigate than previous versions of Windows. While not written from the ground up, like Mac OS X, Windows XP is a substantial system update. The letters "XP" stand for "eXPerience," meaning the operating system is meant to be a new type of user experience.