Ok, I found myself defending Windows Vista over and over in various forums.
Many of the people who seemed to bash Vista had never used it, used it on a severely underpowered system, or on a system with some weird system hardware or configuration stability issue that they blamed on Vista.
There are other "why you should use Windows Vista" web pages out there, but most of those suck. They list things like "it looks better, it is more secure, it has new apps" - but then doesn't list how it looks better, how it's more secure, or why you'd care about the new apps.
- Built-in, on-by-default, file system defrag. Every night, Windows will defrag many of your files. Ever look at an XP system that no one has defragged in 4-7 years? It ain't pretty.
- Superfetch makes intelligent use of your system memory when not in use. Your paid for all that RAM, now use it! XP may leave half of your system RAM underutilized.
- Instead of just quietly logging disk errors to Event Viewer like XP does, Vista will pop up a warning, telling users of any disk error. There is nothing like trying to help someone recover data from a failing hard drive only to find out XP has been happily logging disk errors to Event Viewer the past 7 months without ever warning the user of the upcoming doom of their drive. Thanks, XP!
- UAC prompts for elevated access. For regular user accounts, this is the equivalent of "sudo" under Linux. For users running as admin, this can be a great security tool to prevent poorly programmed applications or malware from easily making unwanted system changes. In XP? Regular users may just get an "access denied" message. You'd have to right-click and "Run As" the application, or drop to a command line to use "runas". Admins get no prompt or confirmation when an application attempts to modify a system location. This kind of brainless, unrestricted access the OS allows all applications to have is why so many people need antivirus protection in the first place!
- 3D accelerated Desktop. Windows finally joins Linux and Mac OS X with a interface that is accelerated by a 3D card. This has made the desktop more enjoyable, customizable (you can use a color-slider to change window colors without having to load an individual theme for different colors), and kept performance running smoothly when playing any windowed 3D game.
- Intelligent file renaming. When you rename a file in Vista, it selects just the file name, and not the extension. I can't recall how many countless times I went to rename a file in XP, only to have it confirm that I really did want to change the file type, and then have it auto-rename it back to the original file name, causing me to have to rename the file a second time and then make sure to either not select the extension, or re-type out the extension after naming the file.
- Working support for 4:3 fixed aspect ratios on 16:10 monitors. I have a widescreen monitor. Many games only support 4:3 resolutions, especially older ones. Under XP, I end up with stretched and distorted video. Under Vista, 4:3 aspects are forced correctly, giving me pixel perfect images and games. This may be more of an argument against video card developers and their XP drivers (NVidia and ATI), but there is little chance they will fix their XP, while I know their Vista drivers work fine now.
- Re-designed sound engine and per-application sound control! The sound engine was re-done, and while the end-user may never notice the difference, what they will notice is that they now have individual sound controls for every application running. The Vista mixer allows you to turn down one program's annoying sounds without having to compromise the sound of other programs.
- Real 64-bit support. Not some special, un-official (non retail) 64-bit build of XP, but a real 64-bit version of Windows, released at retail on the day the OS was released. In order for any piece of hardware or software to be certified for Windows, it must have a fully functional 64-bit component. That means any hardware device or game that you pick up that has a certified for Vista logo on it will have the needed 64-bit support.
Not only that, but the wide-range of hardware supported in the out-of-the-box Vista install means it has native 64-bit support for thousands of hardware devices and configurations!
- SATA support out-of-the-box. Pop an XP disc into a SATA system today and it may tell you it can't find a hard drive during setup. There are BIOS compatibility modes, special "hit F6 to load a driver" work-arounds, and 3rd party SATA driver packs for building your own ISO. Not with Vista. Just boot off the disc and you're ready to install.
- Find-as-you-type Start Menu. Want to run Notepad in XP? Click Start, then All Programs, then Accessories, then Notepad.
In Vista? Hit WinKey, type "note", hit Enter. Less steps, and a whole lot quicker. This also helps if you can't find some program because it may have been installed into a sub-folder that uses a name you aren't familiar with (such as the publisher's name).
- Fixed-size Start Menu. If you don't have many applications installed or keep things well-sorted with many sub-folders, the XP Start Menu can be pretty tidy and easy to look at. But many end-users will have dozens of applications installed, all in their default Start Menu folder, and you may end up with a Start Menu that takes up your entire screen with countless folders all over the place. In Vista, the Start Menu is a fixed size (based on the manual shortcuts you have pinned to the menu). This can make things hard if you're use to browsing menus with the mouse and searching for something slowly with your eyes, but it does push you towards using the Start Menu's find-as-you-type mode, which can actually get programs running quicker than the old method.
- DirectX 10 (and eventually DirectX 11) support. While most games work fine with using OpenGL or DirectX 9, there are plenty of games out now that can use DX10. The newest video cards work with DX10+, and many (most?) of the games coming out now work with DX10+. XP is unable to take advantage of these new technologies. To get the fullest gaming experience, Vista is a requirement.
- Smart folder creation. When downloading something or saving a file using a program's "Save As" dialog, I sometimes create a new folder to save the file in. In XP, you create a folder, name it, and then double click it to enter it. Under Vista, you create a folder and name it. The system will automatically open the folder for you to save the file in. Why else would you be making a folder if you didn't want to put the file there? Some may not like the idea of the OS doing this for you, but after having it do it for me so many times, and having it work so well each time, I really miss it when I use an XP system.
- Better default security options. While XP SP2 and SP3 default to having the firewall enabled on install, the original release of XP and XP SP1 did not. If the system wasn't sitting behind NAT or a firewall already, this would allow anyone full, unrestricted access to all ports on the system as soon as it got online. While having the firewall enabled by default isn't a big jump over XP, having something like Windows Defender installed and running by default may help. It is set to run a nightly scan, looking for things like spyware on the system. It also provides real-time protection for many locations that are modified by many spyware and malware products such as IE settings.
- Easy to view Calendar! In XP, where is the calendar? Well, there is one for changing the time. You can double-click the clock in the system tray to view it, right? Not if you're a normal user (non admin)! The XP calendar is part of the time-changing tool, which requires admin/elevated rights to even look at.
In Vista, you can just click the clock to get a calendar pop up. Not only that, but Vista also comes with a calendar/scheduler that is similar to what comes built-in on Outlook.
- DVD burning support out-of-the-box. XP requires that you download/install a 3rd party tool if you wish to burn to a DVD. In Vista, you can just drag and drop files to a DVD.
- New games! If you've been paying attention to some of the extras included in Windows, you've noticed that Solitaire (and others) have almost always been included in Windows. In XP they got a graphic update. In Vista, they were re-done. Much improved graphics and animation. Vista even comes with a 3D chess game!
- Games Explorer. There is a special program manager-style folder for just games. Many games that you run may get auto-added to the Games folder. Games recognized and supported by the OS will have their system index requirement and recommendation listed, special shortcuts and commands added to their right-click menu, and sometimes even a high resolution (256x256) image displayed for their icon.
- Vista Performance Index! Ever wonder how your system compares to others? Vista has a built-in benchmark system that gives many of your system components a score (from 1.0 to 5.9). You can see what your strongest and weakest components are, compare your system to others, and simplify the minimum system requirement checks of any software that supports the Vista score system.