While some Windows versions are loved by enthusiasts for years to come, others are sorted into the “hall of shame.” This was true of Windows ME, in 2000, and Windows 8/8.1, in 2012. But perhaps one of the more notable entries on people’s lists of worst Windows versions is Windows Vista, released in 2007. Was it that bad, really?
Why Was Windows Vista Considered Bad?
Before we dive into why Windows Vista was such an unsuccessful release, we need to understand the context of what the PC ecosystem was like back in the day.
It was the year 2007. The previous version of Windows, Windows XP, was released in 2001, and it was a huge success. It helped improve Windows’s image after the release of ME just over a year before, and it went on to become a legendary release. But by 2006, it was already coming up to five years old — it was due for an upgrade. Windows Vista was the long-awaited successor, announced in 2006 and released to users by 2007.
Unlike Windows XP, Vista was a more controversial and criticized release, with most people having mixed to negative opinions of it. It was also largely considered to be one of the reasons why Windows XP enjoyed such an unusually long lifespan, with extended support ending by 2014 — a year before the release of Windows 10. Some versions even lasted up to 2019.
A big part of it was its technical requirements. Windows Vista required unusually high specs, especially comparing them to the requirements of Windows XP. You needed at least 1GB of RAM, an x86 or x86-64 processor with at least a clock speed of 1 GHz, and a video card with at least 64MB of VRAM.
That’s not a lot these days, and there were computers meeting those requirements when the OS came out. But Windows XP needed just 64MB of RAM, a processor running at 233 MHz, and 1.5GB of storage space to run. It was, comparatively, a huge jump from what’s supposed to be its immediate predecessor.
This was also worsened by Microsoft’s marketing. In 2005, Microsoft promised that “nearly all PCs on the market today” will be able to run Vista. Microsoft also got in trouble with stickers it added on computers shipping with Windows XP, saying that they were “Windows Vista-capable” despite them not being truly capable of running Windows Vista’s core features. This even earned the company a lawsuit.
There were also other problems plaguing the operating system. The OS was criticized for its support of additional forms of DRM, in addition to an annoying “User Account Control” framework that prevented apps from gaining admin privileges from behind your back, but resulted in several pop-ups being shoved in the user’s face to authorize, or deny, every single little thing.
So it wasn’t the brightest Windows release. But did it actually deserve the hate it got? Or was it the right OS at the wrong time? The answer to that question is probably not clear-cut enough to fit into any of those two descriptions.
How Bad Was Windows Vista, Really?
To know whether Windows Vista was actually that bad 16 years later, I went ahead and fired up a virtual machine to install Windows Vista on my computer and try it out by myself.
What I found is that it’s… Actually pretty similar to Windows 7. It has, for the most part, a very similar aesthetic, and very similar features. Some features are more “legacy-looking” than those in Windows 7, but the redesigned Control Panel is there, and so is the then-new Network & Sharing Center.
Because, for better or worse, Windows 7 just built upon what Windows Vista had already done, and Vista is, in a way, the foundation for all Windows versions that came afterward — even Windows 10 and Windows 11 to some degree.
If your PC couldn’t run Windows Vista in 2007, it sure couldn’t run Windows 7 when it came out just two years later in 2009. Vista was a rough but necessary step that made people adapt so that they would then receive Windows 7 with open arms, learning from the things it did wrong while building on the things it did right.
That’s not to say that Vista was an older Windows 7—or even a good operating system. Even if you had a PC that met the minimum requirements, it did have some rough edges, like the User Account Control feature. This was, in theory, meant to supercharge OS security, but in practice, it just annoyed people with pop-ups every time they tried to open something. And unsurprisingly, I came across it over and over in Windows Vista, and it quickly got tiring.
Ultimately though, it’s not that bad if you remember your way around Windows 7. Many things look and function the way they do in 7, it has many of the same features and bundled software, and even the UI looks pretty close. If anything, you can think of it as a precursor to Windows 7 rather than a successor to Windows XP.
Of course, using Windows Vista in the 2020s isn’t the same thing as using it in 2007. The operating system is, as of today, deprecated by Microsoft. You can’t really install any modern software on it. But if you had a good PC back in the day, you might have even been able to enjoy Windows Vista.
We Have a Lot to Thank to Windows Vista For
Unlike Windows ME, which was a nuclear disaster in comparison, and Windows 8, where its biggest changes were undone by the release of Windows 10 in 2015, Windows Vista wasn’t inherently bad.
It wasn’t a broken mess, and it didn’t introduce a lot of huge changes that were rejected by users. But it also wasn’t a good operating system, and it had several rough edges that made people willingly stick to XP—or go straight up to 7—back in the day.
But to be completely frank, many aspects and features of the Windows versions that we use today had their start on Vista. Its failure made Windows 7 a legendary release and helped Windows mature even further in subsequent releases.
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