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Windows Vista

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Windows Vista is the name of the upcoming release of Microsoft Windows, a proprietary graphical operating system used on personal computers, including home and business desktops, notebook computers, and media centers. Prior to the announcement of the Vista name on July 22, 2005, it was known by its codename Longhorn. As of October 2006, Windows Vista is at release candidate stage; Microsoft has stated that the scheduled release dates for Windows Vista are currently November 2006 for volume license customers, with worldwide availability following in January 2007. 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.

Windows Vista has 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 goal with Vista, however, has been to improve the state of security in the Windows operating system. One of the most prevalent common criticisms of Windows XP and its predecessors are 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 it prioritized improving the security of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 above finishing Windows Vista, significantly delaying its completion.

Development

Microsoft started work on their plans for "Longhorn" in May 2001, several months before the release of its predecessor, Windows XP. "Longhorn" was named after the Longhorn Saloon, a popular bar in Whistler, British Columbia because that saloon is located between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Longhorn was originally expected to ship sometime late in 2003 as a minor step between Windows XP (codenamed "Whistler") and "Blackcomb" (now known as Windows "Vienna"). 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 has 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. Release Candidate 1 was made available on September 1, 2006. Subsequently, Release Candidate 2 was made available on October 6, 2006.

Microsoft's roadmap indicates that the current planned "release to manufacturing" date is on or before October 25, 2006, exactly five years after the release of Windows XP. Amazon.com started taking online orders for various Vista versions with an availability date of January 30, 2007 in late August 2006. Through much of 2006, analysts and bloggers have speculated that Windows Vista would be delayed further, owing to anti-trust concerns raised by the European Commission and South Korea, as well as because of the significant number of outstanding issues with the beta releases. Microsoft stated on September 8, 2006 that Vista's release could be delayed further, but on October 13, 2006, it was announced that anti-trust concerns had been resolved, and that the operating system would be released on schedule.

New and updated 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 re-designed 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 favor of a blue Windows "Pearl".
  • Windows Search (also known as Instant Search or search as you type): significantly faster and more thorough search capabilities, similar to what is offered by Windows Desktop Search and Apple Computer's Spotlight. 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 amount 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 98, 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 Center Extenders.
  • Backup and Restore Center: 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. A number of features from Outlook 2003 are also included, most notably 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 Center, which was previously exclusively bundled as a separate version of Windows XP, known as Windows XP Media Center 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 a 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 the user 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 Center 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 a new high-quality Japanese font. 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 in Windows Vista.
  • 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.
  • Windows Task Manager has been improved with the ability to control Windows services, view file properties, view the full path and command line of the processes, view processes DEP status, view processes UAC file and registry Virtualization status and more clearly see how much physical memory and page file space is being used.
  • Task Scheduler has been improved with a lot of new conditions and filters.
  • Improved audio controls allow the system-wide volume or volume of individual audio devices and even individual applications to be controlled separately.
  • Disk Management has been improved to allow the creation and the resizing of disk partitions without any data loss.
  • 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.

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.

  • Completely rearchitected audio, print, display and networking stacks.
  • Native IPv6 stack, which is backward compatible with IPv4, eliminating the need for dual-stack network architecture. Improved resistance to all known TCP/IP-based denial-of-service and other types of network attacks. Enable more modular components that can be dynamically inserted and removed. Reconfigure without having to restart the computer. Enables per-user session routing tables. Automatically senses the network environment and adjusts key performance settings, such as the TCP receive window
  • DirectX 10, which includes Shader Model 4.0 and Geometry shaders, requiring new WDDM, to allow GPU 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.
  • XPS Documents are a new archiving format for preserving content and for securely sharing information in an application independent way. The XPS Document is a pixel perfect rendition of the original source material. From any application the user can save the current document to the XPS format, using the Microsoft XPS Document Writer in print options.
  • new Restart manager and the new Vista architecture allows to reduce the number of Windows reboots
  • Improved memory manager and processes scheduler. I/O has been enhanced with I/O asynchronous cancellation and I/O scheduling based on thread priority. Many kernel data structures and algorithms have been rewritten. A new improved Heap manager with better security and performances.
  • System services are in a separated and isolated session. User processes are in another session.
  • The new Kernel Transaction Manager enables atomic transaction operations across different types of objects, most significantly file system (Transactional NTFS) and Registry operations.
  • SuperFetch is a memory management strategy that intelligently maintains optimal memory content based on historic usage patterns on the Window-based PC. SuperFetch analyzes several weeks of 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. Using SuperFetch memory management technology also allows Windows Vista to detect and evade troublesome memory usage patterns that would otherwise push higher priority content out of memory.
  • ReadyBoost The use of a flash device that supports Windows ReadyBoost technology extends the disk caching capabilities of Windows Vista main memory. ReadyBoost-capable devices can be implemented in a variety of form factors, including USB 2.0 flash drives, Secure Digital (SD) cards, and CompactFlash cards. Using ReadyBoost-capable flash memory devices for caching allows Windows Vista to service random disk reads with performance that is typically 8-10 times faster than random reads from traditional hard drives. This caching is applied to all disk content, not just the page file or system DLLs. Of course, most flash devices are slower than the hard drive for sequential I/O. To maximize performance, ReadyBoost includes logic to recognize large, sequential read requests and then allows these requests to be serviced by the hard drive.
  • ReadyDrive uses Hybrid Hard Disk Drives (H HDD), which are standard rotating media augmented with a large cache of nonvolatile flash memory, to speed up operations. Most of the read/writes happen within the cache, thus allowing the disk to stay spun down for a long time, reducing noise and power usage, as well as boosting longevity of the drive. Additionally, the cache also masks latency of random seeks. And by storing data for booting as well as resuming from hibernation in the flash cache, those processes are significantly accelerated.
  • Deadlock Detection Technology is a new technology that will include checking and solving for a deadlock condition. These conditions are also logged into Windows error reports.

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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 x86-64 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.
  • 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 so that downloads are scanned when they are downloaded, which reduces the risk of accidentally downloading malicious software.
  • Internet Explorer 7 includes a phishing filter, IDN with anti-spoofing technology. For added security, ActiveX controls are disabled by default. Also, Internet Explorer will operate 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 IE). Address Bar Protection, Security Status Bar, Cross-Domain Barriers, URL Handling Security and Fix My Settings.
  • 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 will be centered on the new user interface, Microsoft is also adding a large number of new features to make a compelling case for businesses still running Windows NT, 2000, and XP desktops.

  • The WIM image format 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.
  • 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:

  • Presentation
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.
  • Communication
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.
  • Workflow
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.
  • Identity
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 website20

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. Also, according to a Microsoft Blog, there are two OpenGL paths under Vista. An application can use the default implementation, frozen at OpenGL version 1.4. An application can use an ICD as well, which comes in two flavors: legacy and Vista-compatible. A legacy ICD functions as specified above: the activation of one will turn off the desktop compositor. A Vista-compatible ICD, made by IHVs using a new internal API path provided by Microsoft, will be completely compatible with the desktop compositor. Given the statements made by the two primary OpenGL ICD vendors (ATi and nVidia), it would be reasonable to expect both to provide full Vista-compatible ICDs for Windows Vista."

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 and MSN Explorer, and the replacement of NetMeeting with Windows Meeting Space. Windows Vista also does not include the Windows XP "Luna" visual theme. The "Hardware profiles" startup feature has been removed as well, along with support for older motherboard technologies like the EISA bus and APM. Also WinHlp32.exe, which was 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 also prohibits software manufacturers from re-introducing it with their products. However, the program can still be installed manually from Microsoft's Download Center.

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.

  • WinFS was the codename for a planned relational database layer built on top of NTFS, and was loosely based on SQL Server 2005. In August 2004, Microsoft announced that WinFS would not be included in Windows Vista. This was due to time constraints in developing the technology. Microsoft has been working on this technology since the mid 1990s. For a time, Microsoft had said that WinFS would be released separately of Vista, but on June 23, 2006, Microsoft announced that they decided to integrate some of the developed features into the next versions of ADO.NET and SQL Server, effectively cancelling the separate WinFS project.
  • Due to scheduling issues, the Windows PowerShell, code-named Monad, will not be included in Windows Vista. However, Microsoft has announced that it will be available as a separate download in the fourth quarter of 2006. A release candidate is currently available for 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) wasn't 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

Vista's premier visual style (called color scheme), Windows Aero, is built on a new desktop composition engine called Desktop Window Manager. Windows Aero adds support for 3D graphics (Windows Flip 3D), translucency (Glass), window animation and other visual effects, and is intended for mainstream and high-end graphics cards and has various hardware requirements such as 128 MB of graphics memory minimum, depending on resolution used . Windows Aero (including Windows Flip 3D) is not planned for inclusion in the Home Basic and Starter editions, and requires Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to be passed. Vista also offers other visual styles. The Windows Vista Standard mode is a variation of Windows Aero without the transparencies, window animations, and other advanced graphical effects such as Windows Flip 3D. Like Windows Aero, it uses the Desktop Compositing Engine, 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. The Windows Vista Basic has an aspect similar to Windows XP's visual style with the addition of subtle animations such as those found on progress bars. It does not feature transparency or translucency, window animation, Windows Flip 3D or any of the functions provided by the DWM. The Basic mode doesn't require the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) drivers and has the graphics card requirements of Windows XP or 2000.

More basic styles, namely Windows Standard and Windows Classic, are available as well. An option for corporate deployments and upgrades, Standard has the look and feel of Windows 2000, and Classic of Windows 98. Neither use the new Desktop Compositing Engine; it means that none of features like Windows Flip 3D, Live Taskbar Thumbnails, or tearing-free window dragging are supported. Neither of these styles require WDDM.

Hardware requirements

According to Microsoft, computers which can run 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 only runs on Windows XP.

Microsoft lists some Vista capable hardware. The "Vista Premium Ready" laptops they specify have Intel Core Duo T2300 or T2400 CPUs and 1 GB memory.

System Requirements

One thing to consider is that these requirements are not absolute minimums. They're typically "out of the box" minimums. A system may often be customized by disabling unused or unwanted services and features to reduce memory footprint. For example, Windows XP uses about 128MB of memory out of the box, but may be pruned back to about 75MB with judicious optimization.

Graphics hardware requirements

While Windows Vista's "Basic" and "Classic" interfaces will work with virtually any graphics hardware that supports Windows XP or 2000; most discussion around Vista's graphics requirements centers on those for the Windows Aero interface

During Vista's early testing stages, the ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 were the only cards compatible with Windows Aero. Since then, support has been extended to most DirectX 9 graphics cards; as of 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 still some PCI cards available that are compatible with Windows Vista:

  • According to NVIDIA, the GeForce FX 5200, FX 5500, FX 5700 LE, and 6200 (see below), all of which will work with Windows Aero, are available in PCI cards.
  • BFG Technologies and its 3D Fuzion division state that their GeForce 6200 PCI cards, the only PCI cards with that GPU to date, are Vista-ready.
  • Recently, VisionTek, a partner of ATI ported the Radeon X1300 for the PCI-bus.
Windows Aero requires WDDM driver support within any graphics cards and Vista will not allow more than one driver to exist in addition to a WDDM driver. This will particularly affect users of multiple graphics cards from different vendors who are seeking multiple monitor support.

Editions

On February 26, 2006, Microsoft announced that Windows Vista will ship in six editions. All versions will be available in both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x86-64) architectures, except Windows Vista Starter which will only be available for 32-bit architectures. A partial table of the features planned for each edition is also available at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. Digi Times has also reported that buyers of Windows XP Media Center Edition during the last quarter of 2006 will have a free upgrade to Windows Vista.

  • Windows Vista Starter
Much like the Windows XP Starter Edition, this edition will be limited to emerging markets such as India, China, 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 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 Celeron and Pentium III processors from Intel, and AMD's Duron, Sempron and Geode processors are supported.
  • 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.
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
Containing all features from Home Basic, this edition will additionally support more advanced features aimed for the home market segment, such as HDTV support and DVD authoring. Extra games, mobile and tablet computer support, file system encryption, and a photo management application are also included. This edition is comparable to Windows XP Media Center Edition and Tablet PC Edition. Home Premium will support up to 16 GB of physical memory.
  • Windows Vista Business
Comparable to Windows XP Professional, and aimed at the business market. Does not include the Media Center features of Home Premium, but does include the IIS web server, fax support, offline files, dual physical processor support, Remote Desktop, ad-hoc P2P collaboration capabilities, Previous Versions, and support for 128 GB of memory. Product activation is not present in this edition.
  • Windows Vista Enterprise
This edition is aimed at the enterprise segment of the market, and is a superset of the Business edition. Additional features include a single-session version of Virtual PC, 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.
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
This edition combines all the features of the Home Premium and Enterprise editions, and additionally comes with podcast creation support, a game performance tweaker (WinSAT), DVD ripping capabilities, and 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.

"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, as required by EU sanctions brought against Microsoft for violating anti-trust laws.

The three retail editions (Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate) of Windows Vista will ship on the same DVD. It is the license key purchased that determines which version will be installed. 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.

source: wikipedia

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