Last month we looked at the hardware needed to run Windows Vista. Now we’ll look at some of the features it has to offer. Be aware, though, that there are four different versions of Vista, and you will need to make sure you purchase the correct version for the features you want. The most fully featured version is called Ultimate, with an upgrade price of around $260. The basic upgrade version is approximately $100.
The following is a quick overview of some of Vista’s features:
• Automatic Backups. Allows scheduled backups of data files. Shadow copy also automatically creates point-in-time copies of your files as you work for easy retrieval of accidentally deleted documents.
• BitLocker Drive Encryption. Provides encryption of the Windows volume and allows secure data deletion when a system is decommissioned (Note that this feature requires a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip or USB 2.0 key).
• Enhanced Diagnostics. Better troubleshooting capabilities including continuous monitoring of system resources to warn before a crash occurs and a useful graphical network connectivity troubleshooter to simplify fixing network and Internet connectivity issues.
• Enhanced Search. Helps locate files and email messages by name, property or text within a document. Instant Search makes searching available almost anywhere in Windows and search folders allow you to save searches that automatically update with current information when accessed.
• Live Icons. Displays thumbnail images of the actual contents of every file when browsing.
• Parental Controls. Includes the ability to block or allow specific programs, games and websites, set time limits on computer use and access activity reports that show how your children have been using the computer.
• Enhanced Photo Management. DVD Maker-Photo Gallery allows you to apply tags to your photos and videos to help organize and find them. It also has built-in editing capabilities—such as removing red eye, adjusting lighting and color and resizing—and includes easy slide show, screen saver and photo and video DVD creation.
• SuperFetch. Monitors which applications you use most and preloads them into system memory for faster loading times.
• Aero Interface-Enhanced design. Live taskbar thumbnail images help quickly identify which minimized program to open and Windows Flip 3D offers a dynamic display of all open windows on your desktop in a stacked 3D view.
• Windows ReadyBoost. Allows use of a USB flash drive or SD card as additional memory to speed up system performance.
• Other Enhancements. Such as email, gadgets (mini-applications that perform useful functions) and a calendar that now provides a full-functioned planner, calendar sharing and publication of the calendar to the Internet.
All in all, Vista provides some worthwhile enhancements, but if you are upgrading an existing PC, be cautious as with previous new releases, existing software and hardware may not be compatible. For upgrades, Microsoft offers a free program to help identify incompatibilities. For the upgrade advisor program and more detailed information about Windows Vista comparisons, visit www.microsoft.com, select “windows home” and then “products.” tpw