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Adios Vista, Hola XP Again


While I don’t like to be on the bleeding edge of new technology and software, I do like to stay on the leading edge where possible so when Windows Vista was released late last year on MSDN I installed it on a machine at home, liked the look of it and then put it on my work machine (wiping the hard drive first as it needed a good tidy up anyway).

At first I liked it. The new user interface looked slick and a cut above Windows XP, the Windows+Tab 3D effect looked very nice indeed and I even liked the way the new address bar turned into buttons so going up several folder levels involved less clicking. After installing all the software I use I even got used to living with the UAC popups – although I eventually turned the whole thing off and ran as an administrator since most of my time at work is spent working with Visual Studio 2005 and IIS which both require you to run as an admin if you want to do any debugging. I know it’s “wrong” but I’ve never once had a computer virus or piece of spyware so I wasn’t concerned.

The Grey Screen Of MiseryAll was well for a while but as time passed I started to get more and more frustrated with Vista. For one thing, it’s significantly slower than XP. My work machine is a dual core P4 3GHz with 1.5GB of RAM so isn’t a lightweight. But run a couple of instances of Visual Studio, Outlook and a few other apps and it would grind to a halt in a way it didn’t with XP. I’d spend a lot of time looking at the ‘Grey Screen of Misery’ (right – question mark added for emphasis).

So I had to learn to be more patient between starting a debugging session and anything actually happening. I realised that if I was in a hurry I was going to get annoyed so I relaxed a bit. But then Visual Studio started to crash. A lot. And in a multitude of different ways. Like so:

One of many Visual Studio crashes on Vista

It would crash in the middle of it sitting around doing nothing. It would crash when I was debugging some code. It would crash when I closed it. When I opened it. Just any time it felt like it – and it was driving me crazy! Writing software is something that you need to be able to concentrate for extended periods of time to do well – and when your machine is flaky and falling over frequently requiring numerous reboots you just can’t get anything done. (And before you ask, it was indeed doing the same before I disabled UAC – it wasn’t spyware or a virus, it’s just the standard behaviour that I and my colleagues who installed it came across). I even went as far as to completely uninstall Visual Studio and put it all back on again. No change.

One or two problems to report...Vista’s nifty feature of being able to check for problem solutions from the web wasn’t very handy either (right). As with most things that don’t work when you’ve tried them numerous times I gave up checking for solutions when it never found any.

I started considering wiping my work machine and re-installing XP and the more crashes I came across doing my day job the stronger my feelings got. Eventually I had a bad day where I got hardly anything done and I actually had a lot of work to do but every time I started something Visual Studio crashed and I had to almost start again. I cracked and copied all my documents onto an external hard drive. The next morning I got out an XP SP2 CD and put it back on.

Here I am a week later and I don’t regret my move one bit. XP is much faster, Visual Studio is rock solid again and hasn’t crashed once. I can safely say that while there are indeed some really nice new features to Vista (I’ll probably write about them once the bitterness has gone), I don’t miss anything at all about it. Not a thing. I’ve read about loads of problems with Vista and graphics cards, other pieces of hardware, iTunes and that sort of thing but my work machine really only has Visual Studio, Outlook and a couple of web browsers running. Nothing special and no on-the-edge hardware. And yet myself and my colleagues who took the plunge have found that Vista just doesn’t cut it as a day-to-day development system. What finally made me roll back to XP was the fact that the other developers who stuck with XP weren’t having any crashes at all.

I can only join the chorus of people who say that Vista really isn’t worth upgrading to for the time being if you’re a software developer. I’ll mention that my good lady’s laptop – which is used exclusively for surfing the internet – is running Vista and has been as solid as a rock since I installed it, so I’m not saying Vista isn’t ready for most people’s uses. It just isn’t ready for mine, or anybody who does the same sort of work as me.

See, I wrote a whole post about Windows Vista and never once mentioned how much more I love my Mac. That’s for another day! 😉

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

6 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Did exactly the same and deleted Vista and re-installed XP, but since buying the Mac on yours and John’s recommendation, I’ve burnt my Pc and will never? look back. I love my mac too, makes me feel all warm and cuddly using it. Can’t wait for leopard.



    Ps Great photos from mini Scotland.


  2. So not only are you locked into an all-Microsoft solution, but it doesn’t even work properly!

    You know, I almost feel sorry for Microsoft. Almost. They respond to their customer’s wishes and after years start to prioritise security ahead of backwards-compatibility, then everyone complains that all their software is broken! Vista’s a real dog though. Windows XP runs a treat on my Mac under Parallels, whereas Vista seems hell-bent on destroying the hard disk bearings because it thrashes so much.


  3. Thanks Paul! And yes, I’ve never looked back from getting my Mac. In fact, I’m getting rid of my old home PC since I know I’ll never use it over my Macbook!

    I know what you mean John, it saddens me a bit that MS have screwed up with Vista – especially when you look at the original list of features that were supposed to be in it. Microsoft have been amazing over the years at shipping software but in this case they just haven’t met their high standards. I’ve never rolled back a Microsoft product that’s RTM’d before but doing it this time was the right decision for me.


  4. I have been running vista since SP1 with next to no problems, and I do much prefer it over XP.
    however there are people who are having problems (some computers just seem to dislike it, refuse to run or dont run as well)
    but as with any new OS there must be time for all the slow companies to make their drivers (seriously they have had enough time, whats keeping them?)
    however I would say that VS 2005 isnt fully vista compatible, which sucks but VS 2008 is just around the corner which I presume would be a lot more friendly under vista.

    I have the ISO for the beta floating aroudn and have been meaning to install it, once I do I will let you know how it runs.


  5. I had quite a few problems with Vista and VS2005, but they soon went away after VS2005 SP1 and Vista update were installed.

    You should give Longhorn a go, because it already (Beta 3) seems a lot more stable than Vista: printer drivers work, VS 2005 and 2008 work great, it’s nice and fast, file copy is quick, and it comes with a full version of IIS7.


  6. Unfortunately VS2005 SP1 and those Vista updates had no effect for me. Much though I’d like to give Longhorn a go, I just don’t want to waste my time fighting with a not-yet-finished operating system again. Fool me once shame on Microsoft, fool me twice shame on me! 🙂


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