We evaluated the Operating System (OS) in terms of how well it applied to general home use; for example, an OS for home use should have basic Internet security and be easy to use.
OSs for office or business use need advanced Internet security, the ability to network and ought to include administration tools.
Rates how well suited an OS is for entertainment, such as whether it can play/record television and music without additional software.
All OSs should offer regularly updated security features such as firewalls, pop–up blockers, antivirus and antispyware software and more to protect the PC. OSs for business or network use require additional security and allow the administrator to set security restrictions per group or per user.
This criterion rates how applicable the OS is for use in a network. We looked at networking and administration tools and security.
Rates how practical the program is for the intended use; for example, since the new Vista requires 1GB of RAM to run at its fullest potential it may be impractical for some computers.
We looked at laptop specific features, such as battery saving functions, to rate how fitting the OS is for laptop use.
Ease of Use
All OSs should be easy to use; we looked at its search functions and more to judge the ease of use.
Since OSs perform many functions, extraordinary support is mandatory. Generally, Microsoft offers more one–on–one support to its business customers and self–guided support for individuals.
Media/Entertainment FeaturesPlays DVDs
Program has the ability to play DVDs without additional software.
If computer is able, it can be connected to a television signal and play and record television shows.
Operating system can support more than one television signal, so it can record one program while another is being watched.
Supports Over-the-Air HDTV
Can play an HDTV program accessed through an antenna.
Has a feature that can be used to organize video collections.
Television Program Guide
Through an Internet connection can access a television schedule.
Movie Finder Service
With Internet access, the program can look for downloadable movies through online movie services.
A program offered by Microsoft that can create, edit and share home movies. This software is compatible with P2 for Windows XP Home Edition, XP Professional or Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Media Center XP and Vista.
Has a feature to organize audio files.
Without additional software, the operating system can be used to create playlists of favorite audio or video files.
Plays Internet/FM Radio
Can play Internet or FM radio stations.
Records Internet/FM Radio
OS can record Internet or FM radio.
Has the ability to rotate the orientation of images without the use of additional photo editing software.
Program can be used to share images by email as well as by publishing or printing.
Photo Editor/ Slideshow
OS can perform simple photo editing functions such as the elimination of red eye and can create and display slide shows.
Contains a photo organizer that can be used to manage and archive images.
Syncs to Portable Devices
Easily syncs with portable devices such as mp3 players, handhelds, PDAs and more.
Without third–party software can burn DVDs and CDs.
Supports Xbox 360 Access to Files
This is a feature unique to the newer OS’s such as Vista and Media Center with Update Rollup 2. With media center extender technology, an Xbox 360 can access files on the media center pc, so movies stored on the pc can play on a television connected to an Xbox 360 in a different room.
Plug and Play Gaming Controls Available
Input devices such as a joystick can be simply plugged in and immediately utilized.
Security FeaturesInternet Connection Firewall
OS can automatically protect PCs from unauthorized access through an Internet connection.
Firewall Exceptions Lists
User can add approved addresses to an exceptions list so files can be downloaded without being blocked.
Blocks pop-ups while computer is online.
Pop-up Blocker Exception Lists
User can select which pop–ups are to be allowed to display.
Program has the ability to combat malicious content.
Blocks Unapproved Downloads
OS has the ability to block downloads that are not approved by the user or administrator.
Blocks Downloads from Specific Publishers
Can block downloads from specified publishers.
Evaluates Downloads for Irregularities
Scans downloads for questionable content prior to completing transfer.
Blocks macros or batch files from executing commands.
Malicious Software Removal Tool
This feature is new to Vista, it periodically scans the PC looking for known prevalent viruses. The tools abilities are continually improved through updates.
New to Vista, this feature enables parents to set restrictions on their children’s use of the computer, such as which sites they can visit and which programs they can use.
Security Control Guidance
This feature in Vista helps users decide what security controls to employ.
User-Level Access Control
Administrator can set unique access restrictions per user.
Restrictions can be placed on selected files, applications and other resources.
IEEE 802.1x Security Protocol
Has security features for wireless connections.
Encrypting File System
Protects data in files stored on a disk using the NTFS file system.
Networking FeaturesSimple Networking
OS has the ability to manage a simple network of computers, such as several home computers.
Has an easy–to–run wizard that can help inexperienced users network several computers.
Content can be accessed from a remote computer.
Remote Access (within network)
Computer content can be accessed from a different computer within the same network.
Complete remote access to a Windows XP Professional PC from another Windows PC including desktop, applications, files and settings.
Roaming User Profiles
Users can access documents based on their profiles setting from any computer.
Supports Multiple Users
OS can set up multiple user profiles.
Automated checks that look for network problems.
Administers can implement policies throughout their network or per individual computers.
Policies can be arranged into logical units, such as by department or location, and then setting can be assigned to an entire group.
User State Migration Tool
This tool is similar to the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, but additionally permits administrators to customize specific settings such as modifications to the registry. The USMT is intended for administrators only; individual users do not have to use the User State Migration tool and the computer must be connected to a Microsoft Windows server–based domain controller.
Remote Installation Service
Operating systems can be remotely installed across a network.
Windows XP Professional systems can be joined to a Windows Server domain for management and security purposes.
Program supports languages besides US English.
Multi-lingual User Interface (MUI) Add-on
An interface language can be added to get localized dialog boxes, menus, help files, dictionaries, proofing tools and other tools accessed through the main interface. Often this is a free add–on.
OS has the ability to communicate in Unicode.
International Text Display
Program can display unique text in languages besides English.
Laptop FeaturesBattery Life Enhancements
OS has features that help lower power use to extend a laptop’s battery life.
Can suspend laptop to reduce power consumption.
The sleep mode in Vista switches the computer to a low power mode while retaining data in such a manner that upon restart the information is promptly retrieved for a quick start up.
Saves Online Files for Offline Use
Temporarily saves online files and folders so they can be viewed when the laptop is offline.
Detects/Connects to Wireless Access Points
Automatically searches for and connects to wireless Internet.
Adjusts to Static or Dynamic IP Addresses Automatically
Enables the computer to work from a different network location without the user having to change settings.
ReadyDrive (Flash Drives)
Vista feature that enables PCs equipped with hybrid hard discs to boot up and recover from hibernation quickly. Additionally, it has power saving qualities for hybrid or flash type discs.
Windows Vista SideShow technology allows laptop manufacturers to add a secondary or auxiliary display in laptop designs. The secondary display is intended for quick access to routine information such as phone numbers and schedules while the laptop is in on, off or in sleep mode.
Other FeaturesDual Monitor Support
PC can be configured to support two monitors.
Can run programs intended for older operating systems such as Windows 2000 or 98.
Users can search for any type of file from one search bar.
Software Installation and Maintenance
The OS can automatically install, configure, repair or remove software applications.
This is a Vista feature that enables users to search for anything by entering a word, name or phrase. This can be used to find help topics as well as lost files.
Automatically Adjusts to Hardware
Vista OS can automatically detect hardware capacities and adjust accordingly.
Detects/Connects to Wireless Access Points
System can scan for and connect to wireless Internet.
Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
This wizard makes it easy for users to change to a new operating system without losing their files or settings.
Scalable Processor Support
Supports dual processors like the Pentium D or the Athlon 64 X2.
OS evaluates which applications are used most often and preloads them for quick access.
Backup and Restore Center
Windows Vista tool that helps users back up files and folders as well as access restore wizards. The system restore features enables user to restore their OS to its original configuration or to a different restore point without losing data.
Enables the PC to use a portable storage device like a USB thumb drive to improve system performance, similar to adding RAM.
Speech Recognition/ Voice Control
OS can recognize voice and support voice commands with the use of a microphone.
An email feature for home PCs that has useful filters and search tools.
A Vista tool for time management includes a calendar, task lists, evites and more.
Tablet PC Support
Besides Windows PC tablet edition, Vista can support tablet PC functions.
Detects Network-Connected Projectors
OS can look for and connect to a wireless accessible projector.
Windows Meeting Space (Collaboration)
Formally Windows Collaboration, Vista allows up to 10 users to securely share a session within a common group area with the ability to support joint edits.
Mobile users can configure a presentation settings that can be quickly utilized when connected to a display device. For example, the presentation setting can display a different wallpaper than the one displayed with the user's personal settings.
Supports Screen Rotation
Program has the ability to re–orientate the screen display when the monitor is flipped or turned on its side.
This type of memory enables a program to run in a memory space address(s) that may or may not be tied to physical memory. This allows large dynamic programs to run using less RAM.
For the purpose of this review, this refers to the total number of bytes that can be saved in paging files. This is not related to the amount of physical space.
The amount of non–wired memory available for virtual memory use.
Amount of memory dedicated to be used as a real memory buffer.
Generally, acts as a buffer between the processor and RAM to speed up processing.
System RequirementsProcessing Speed (MHz)
Or front bus speed (FSB), is the physical interface between the processor and the main memory in Intel chipsets, generally the higher the MHz, the faster information processes.
Random Access Memory (RAM) is a form of computer short term memory.
Hard Disk Space (GB)
The amount of memory space in gigabytes available on the hard drive disk.
CD ROM Drive
A drive that plays CDs.
DVD ROM Drive
This kind of drive plays DVDs.
In order to utilize some media center functions, a remote control with the corresponding remote control receiver is required.
The media center requires an Internet connection for updates, television schedules and online content.
With a TV signal the media center OS can play and record television.
Technical Help/SupportRemote Assistance
A technical support associate can access the user’s desktop for remote assistance.
Users can contact customer support through IM.
Microsoft posts telephone numbers that can be used to contact customer and technical support. However, often a fee is required.
Questions or comments can be submitted to Microsoft through various email addresses.
On the Microsoft website users can search a large database of information related to the Windows OSs.
OS can be restored to its original configuration.
Support offers troubleshooting to help solve common problems.
Has a wizard that can automatically install the program.
Device Driver Rollback
Can replace a device driver with the previously installed version.
Offers online numerous driver downloads and updates.
OS can be set to automatically accept updates.
Online, Microsoft posts tutorials on how to perform specific OS functions.
Microsoft offers webcast and podcast training online.
An online user forum and newsgroups are hosted on the Microsoft site for users to interact and share tips.
Microsoft offers support for its international subscribers.
Support Service Packages
Extended support packages are available for purchase.
Consulting services are available for help with installing, networking or other business applications.
Periodically, Microsoft offers free online training; some presentations are fee–based.
Microsoft offers training for those who want to become certified Window OS consultants.
Windows Live OneCare
A maintenance program that includes antispyware, antivirus and firewall updates as well as performance tune–ups and help with data back–up and restore.