500 Hour Test of Tomorrow's Windows "Vista"

Only Nine More Months Until Windows Vista Goes Live?

Many publications don't take the time or trouble to look behind the scenes when writing about new operating systems or other software. Users who specialize in software matters can easily ascertain this for themselves, simply by digging into any of a number of print magazines that have made Windows Vista their topic of late. It's more like they're trolling for readers, rather than really digging into the subject matter. Many of these stories consist of only a couple of pages of text and a handful of screenshots, while remaining light on real information, investigation and analysis.

Tom's Hardware Guide has expended some serious effort in our review of Windows Vista, to let us dig beneath the surface. We spent about 500 hours with the most current version, putting this new Windows operating system through its paces. In this review we also include more than 130 screenshots, and provide an overview of all the many different programs, settings, and functions that this new Microsoft offering delivers.

One major development is clear right from the outset: a complete blurring of the boundaries between online services and normal software. Microsoft wants, above all, to take those few experienced users by the hand and simplify their interaction with this new operating system. Colored interface buttons, transparent window effects and a modern design show strong influences from both the Mac OS and Linux. Nevertheless, Microsoft's credo appears to be along the lines of "evolution, not revolution" - don't expect a milestone like the transition from Windows 3.11 to Windows 95 here.

A Quick Look Back at Twelve Years of Windows History

In 1995, Windows 95 made the scene, and just about one year later, Windows NT 4.0 was released. 1998 witnessed various improvements as Windows 98 went live, after which Windows 2000 followed at the turn of the millennium. Today's still-current Windows XP was initially released in 2002, which means that operating system is now pushing five years old.

In less than a year - assuming that the dates slip no further - Microsoft will release a new operating system under the thrilling name of "Windows Vista." Internally, Windows Vista is identified as Windows version number 6.0. Thus, we're dealing with an entirely new version here, in contrast to Windows XP, which really only represented an update to Windows 2000.

This new operating system is huge: it has more than 37,800 files, taking up a total of 10 GB. Part of this size stems from the fact that the current Beta is for the so-called "Ultimate Edition", which contains all available components, including complete versions of both Tablet PC and Media Center capabilities. In addition, many applications have been compiled in debug mode, so some space savings should occur for final versions once that debug switch is turned off. For our Windows Vista preview, we used Build 5381.

Beta versions live and die by their error reports, so the Beta client is designed to send such reports.

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