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Which OS should I purchase for a gift rig?

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Which OS would be for my 80 year-old tech savvy stepdad?

Total: 25 votes (4 blank votes)

  • XP32
  • 43 %
  • Vista 32
  • 24 %
  • Vista 64
  • 34 %
May 20, 2008 2:00:34 PM

I hope I'm now posting this in an appropriate section of the forums, if not, please advise.

I'm building a PC for my 80 year-old stepdad for Father's Day:

He's the computer patriarch and helps my mom, sister, and some of his friends with their IT tasks (and offloads me from having to do that, yea). He's pretty durned sharp (so I'm not worrying about him being able to understand and utilize whatever he's given). He uses Adobe PhotoShop, PrintShop Deluxe (A LOT), MS Office, and he may play some old games (i.e., Railroad simulations, chess, etc.) and surf's the net a lot. He needs a new rig but can't afford it right now...so, that's where I come in.

I've built the rig for him (using the parts below) but can't decide upon which OS to get for him.

XP Pro 32 would do the trick, be compatible, albeit he'd not have all the installed RAM available to his programs and he might wonder how come I didn't get him MS' shiny new Vista.

Vista32 SP1 would be nice, shiny, and feel new (and he'd like that) but its a wee bit slower the XP, albeit he'd not have all the installed RAM available to his programs.

Vista 64 would be fast (and with 8GB I could even disable the page file), shiny, and new but it may be less compatible with some of the programs he may want to install (that I'm currently unaware of) so I'd have to give him say XP Pro32 in a VMWare virtual machine (he, like me, may even enjoy doing that...don't know).

Everytime I think I've decided on what to OS to purchase I get stuck. What do you think would be best for this 80 year-old computer enthusiast and why, based on the below hardware and above stated usage?


  • Asus Striker Extreme
  • Intel E6850 (OC'd to 3.5Ghz)
  • 4GB Corsair PC26400 C5 DHX (could install up to 8GB of RAM (already have it))
  • Zalman 9700NT
  • nVidia 6800 (generic) w/Zalman VGA fan
  • Samsung DVD Burner
  • 2 x 500GB Seagate 7200.10 (Should I Mirror or Span?)
  • ThermalTake M9 Chassis
  • CoolMax 700W Modular PSU
  • A TV Tuner (that I haven't purchased yet...could use advice on a <$100 part that will give him nice recording ability).

    Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated, as always.
  • More about : purchase gift rig

    May 20, 2008 2:05:52 PM

    Due to the old games, XP.
    May 20, 2008 2:12:29 PM

    if its a gift give him Ubuntu its FREE!!!since you are not going to benefit from it.and plus it will be virus proof.so never have to reinstall.and he can spend time on twinkering the UI.so he can occupy himself.
    Related resources
    May 20, 2008 2:14:27 PM

    Sounds like XP professional 64 bit would do the trick. He can use those old programs and the OS will address all of the ram. I would just put the hard drives in raid 0. From the looks of it your step dad doesn't have anything terribly important to back up, and a fast booting computer is always nice.

    As for the TV tuner, I got the one listed in my sig for $120 from newegg. I know its a little more than $100 but I can personally vouch for a good experience with it.
    May 20, 2008 2:52:36 PM

    those old program might not compatible withg 64bit because its only design for 32bit.also make sure you have driver for 64bit and RAID.
    May 20, 2008 2:54:12 PM

    I would agree that XP64 Pro would be good, but that's not on the list. As it is, the stepdad is on the ball, tech savvy, and except for the video card, the hardware is modern, and I voted for Vista 64. Further, now that Vista 64 is coming with SP1 (which I installed on my computer) Vista is better yet. The only potential problem for Vista that I see is the old video card. Where'd you dig up a generic Nvidia 6800? Those things are ancient. The video card is the big thorn in side for any use whatsoever. So, unless a better video card can be found, then its back to XP64 Pro as being best. At least then he can use up to 8 gig of ram with ease.

    As for the games issue, the only old game that I've found so far that was a problem with Vista was so old that it wouldn't recognize a multi-core processor.
    May 20, 2008 3:05:23 PM

    When you mention the railroad sims and older games, the compatibility issue comes up so 64 bit may not be a great idea. It's not just the main program but also add ins (free and paid) that may create problems. I'm not sure that it really makes a difference with Vista or XP as long as you have plenty of memory.

    I'd have to politely disagree with several of the suggestions so far. The fact that he is using photoshop sounds like pictures or somthing else is important to him so yes - backup is important. The RAID 0 issue has several points: for faster booting, it only means a few seconds, for backup it means nothing, but for the larger photoshop files it may provide some benefit. Frankly, I see it as a complication with minimal benefit.

    iluvgillgill - LOL, my thoughts exactly. I love it when you hear "I rebuilt my kernel 3 times yesterday and it was great!".
    May 20, 2008 3:24:32 PM

    if he already has a comp, then he already has an os he likes..
    if new comp, then anew and exciting os might be fun. get him
    Xubuntu http://www.xubuntu.org/ . . . . or
    PCLinux. www.pclinuxos.com/

    edit.. also he can triple boot ,using his old os , his new os [if it must be windoze ,get xp pro,it runs smoother then plan xp ] and Linux

    May 20, 2008 3:25:24 PM

    sailer said:
    I would agree that XP64 Pro would be good, but that's not on the list. As it is, the stepdad is on the ball, tech savvy, and except for the video card, the hardware is modern, and I voted for Vista 64. Further, now that Vista 64 is coming with SP1 (which I installed on my computer) Vista is better yet. The only potential problem for Vista that I see is the old video card. Where'd you dig up a generic Nvidia 6800? Those things are ancient. The video card is the big thorn in side for any use whatsoever. So, unless a better video card can be found, then its back to XP64 Pro as being best. At least then he can use up to 8 gig of ram with ease.

    As for the games issue, the only old game that I've found so far that was a problem with Vista was so old that it wouldn't recognize a multi-core processor.


    Thanks, that's good to know. I didn't realize that 6800 was quite so useless (it came my wife's Dell XPS600 that we got in December of '05). I can take the 8600GT out of my daughter's rig and she'd never know it or miss it, so I think I'll do that.
    May 20, 2008 3:38:38 PM

    That may be true, but I think this rig may be overkill for what he'd do with Ubunto. I have Ubunto 8.04 and I think it'd run on the old box he has now, so once we get his new rig setup and running the way he likes I'd be glad to setup Ubunto on his old rig and let him play with. OR...better yet, I can install Ubunto for him in a VMWare virtual machine he loses nothing and has the best of both worlds...VMWare is that fast and has all the harware support he'd need so that may be a good usable option.
    May 20, 2008 3:43:19 PM

    My brother and his family have a lot of older games they enjoyed, until they got a system with Vista on it.
    There's a compatibility list at http://www.iexbeta.com/wiki/index.php/Windows_Vista_Sof... that may be helpful. Note that some entries in problem sections were by drones. YMMV.
    May 20, 2008 3:54:46 PM

    Far as the dual hard drives, why not make one the OS drive and the other just data?
    May 20, 2008 3:55:09 PM

    How's XP64's driver support? I know there's good Vista64 support for the hardware in question so I'll check to verify that XP64's driver support would be just as good. One of the reasons I wanted to go with a flavor of Vista is because I believe he'd like the look (I know that's unimportant to many)...but I could achieve that with WindowBlinds on XP32.
    May 20, 2008 4:01:11 PM

    I should point out that the new Vista 64 that includes SP1 solved a few problems that the original Vista 64 (or 32 for that matter) had. Its not perfect by any means, and there will always be some old programs which won't work because the companies won't write new drivers. That should be thought of a growing pains. Through the years I've been through this a number of times and its always aggravating, but that's life.

    runswindows95 has what I think is a very good idea, that is, using one hard drive for the OS and main programs and the other for data. I do that myself so that if I have to reinstall the OS, the data remains safe.
    May 20, 2008 4:14:37 PM

    overkill [in my opinion] is vista.it breaks with other windows like past editions have also done.. and what is wrong with linux having new hardware? Afraid to see something fast,haha.

    But seriously, thats why i mentioned multiple booting, he can save his old programs and OS,and they will run faster and/or smoother with the new hardware. [so will linux]

    ..My bet is grandpa will give his older system away for space considerations and to help some one who does not already have a comp[or one as good as he is giving ]. He just seems he would be nice like that .

    http://www.pclosmag.com/html/global.html some reading for fun

    I can honestly say that I have not tried virtual programs on my hardware because of its age.. however you do have the new hardware that supports virtualization , so that sounds good as well as multi booting
    May 20, 2008 4:23:03 PM

    halcyon said:
    How's XP64's driver support?


    XP64 driver support is very good now. There were some early problems, but that was because of lazy companies not updating their drivers. Since the advent of Vista 64, most companies have written 64 bit drivers and they work equally well with XP64 as with Vista 64. Nvidia has been the only standout problem company for bad driver support as far as I know. I have a 7800 GTX working on a XP64 computer that does quite well, but it will not work with the latest Nvidia drivers. That doesn't bother me, as the card does just fine on the older drivers.

    I have divided feelings on the look of Vista compared to XP. Some things look better, but others are a bit odd. I presently have one Vista 64 computer and two XP computers and always have to keep in mind their differences when making changes to either.
    May 20, 2008 4:30:56 PM

    The fact the stepdad needs Printshop and Photoshop, quit suggesting Linux, G13man. They don't run natively on Linux at all. Also, considering halcyon does run Linux, he wouldn't be asking about which Windows should he go with IF he was just going to install Linux.

    Far as the card goes, if the daughter isn't doing heavy gaming, stepdad might make use of the 8600GT more.
    May 20, 2008 4:33:25 PM

    runswidnows95 yeah they don't run natively Photoshop but than who cars when gimpsy is way better lol. And my second hobby is Photography so don't try to argue this. Plus its freeeee and nothing can beat that.
    May 20, 2008 4:34:04 PM

    I am using XP professional 64 and I have had very little problems with program compatibility. I have had no problems playing old games such as the original age of empires.

    I still suggest that you put the hard drives in raid 0. Even if you have sentimental stuff such as pictures, you do not need a whole 500 GB hard drive to back that up. If you want to back up pictures then just host them on a flickr account or get a USB flash drive. Seems like a waste of a 500 GB hard drive to me.
    May 20, 2008 4:35:02 PM

    Vista32 SP1; Vista32 still has the ~3.5GB RAM limit available to programs but with SP1 at least the PC will report that 4GB RAM is installed.
    Even most old DOS games can be run using DOSBox

    When you have older games or programs that can't be run using the Compatability Mode options;


    you have the Application Compatibility Toolkit with many pre-made profiles and the ability to create your own profiles.

    May 20, 2008 4:35:18 PM

    If I would go with a new OS I would only go with Vista 64 but since he wants to play/use older programs than yeah Windows XP Pro is the way to go I would not get Windows XP 64. And Vista with plany of RAM runs just fine. We are in the same situation that we were in when XP came out most people didn't want to upgrade they said Windows XP is a power hog etc. But now we hear the same story about Vista with time Vista will become the new standards and thats the way it is. Ubuntu is a great choice.
    May 20, 2008 4:35:43 PM

    yeah vista with sp1 reports 4gb
    May 20, 2008 4:38:49 PM

    WR2 I didn't know that thanks a lot I will use it in the future when I need it. Much appreciated.
    May 20, 2008 4:39:34 PM

    I don't think my stepdad is quite ready for the challenges and extra effort it takes to become savvy with Ubunto, but he might enjoy learning them and I can provide that in a sandboxed environment. I am going to use my daughter's 8600GT, if she ends up needing more than the 6800 any time soon I'll upgrade her later. Right now the 8600GT is overkill for her needs, thankfully.

    May 20, 2008 4:45:15 PM

    yup I agree with you on that one Halcyon. Tell him to jump around dpreview.com (pentax forum is the best) they will point him to a lot of free softwares that he might really enjoy. And ones again go with XP if you have it around, go with Vista 64 bit if you need to buy it but if you worry about compatibility than just stick with windows xp.
    May 20, 2008 4:53:26 PM

    I was just pointing out how Linux wouldn't work for halcyon's stepdad, snajper69. Trust me, I prefer the GIMP over Photoshop as well.
    May 20, 2008 5:12:00 PM

    You're all giving me good advice that is greatly appreciated...keep it coming. The goal with the 8GB of RAM and Vista64 would be a platform that would perform strongly for a few years and that he could "grow into". If he doesn't get another computer for 3 years I want him to feel like at least my stepkid gave me something that's decent, he'll be grateful for anything.

    The thing about going with a 32BIT OS is its functional RAM limits may pinch him sooner than I think and he loves these HUGE PrintShop Deluxe projects that are just slamming his old Athlon 3400+ XP Home PC with 512MB of RAM. I want to make that a thing of the past for him. Too new, too different and he may actually miss his old rig, a scenario I don't want him to see.

    EDIT: I just called my stepdad to confirm that he's using PrintShop Deluxe (v.22) and from what I can see via Google that may not run in Vista. I may be stuck with XP after all. I'm gonna try to pry it from him for testing to see how it runs in a XP32 running in VMWare. ...or do you think making him run it like that is really asking too much?
    May 20, 2008 5:24:21 PM

    Nah older people enjoy challange :)  it makes them feel better. Plus it will give him bragging rights when out with his friends hihi :)  You stepdad is lucky I am surre he will appricate no matter what OS you install it for him.
    May 20, 2008 5:46:30 PM

    Hey, I resemble that...and I'm only 38.
    May 20, 2008 5:47:24 PM

    Since hes 80 give him Dos. LOL. JK. VIsta Ultimate would be good 32 bit or 64 and make him play newer games. Ultimate has Texas Holdem built in:) 
    May 20, 2008 6:48:48 PM

    runswindows95 said:
    Far as the dual hard drives, why not make one the OS drive and the other just data?



    ...just saw this post. 500GB seems a lot of drive for just the OS while everything else is on the other drive. I was thinking to MIRROR the drives or SPAN them so he'd either have redundancy or close to 1TB of usable space.
    May 20, 2008 8:17:10 PM

    If he is into photography than mirror is the way to go. I made that mistake and ignore it and you should see my reaction when my HD died lol hahaha
    May 20, 2008 10:35:27 PM

    halcyon said:
    Hey, I resemble that...and I'm only 38.


    Youngster. I just hit the ripe age of 57. I also remember using computers with punch cards and the great joy of simple home computers such as the Commodore 64. Wish I could remember where I put my glasses half the time, but that's another subject.
    May 21, 2008 10:10:05 AM

    LOL. Thanks again all for the good advice. I'm thinking, since there may be compatibility issues I'll just stick with the tried&true&compatible 'ole Windows XP32+SP3. ...throw WindowBlinds on it and give him a nice contemporary look and I think he'll be good. ...that also keeps 4GB of decent memory laying around here for spares :) 
    May 21, 2008 10:49:41 AM

    What a great idea halycon. Your granddad is going to be quite pleased and I bet immensly surprised by your thoughtful gesture. Have you thought about what screensaver to install? :sweat: 

    May 21, 2008 10:55:13 AM

    Haha, he's got this swimming fishies aquarium screensaver that he uses now, ...and I know that'd work with XP since that's what it running on now. ...but giant boobs swimming around stepdad's screen might just do the trick.
    !