No Reason to Upgrade to Vista Immediately
February 5, 2007:
Security is the buzz word as Vista launches
Windows Vista is a leap forward in terms of security, but few people who know the operating system say the advances are enough to justify an upgrade.
Microsoft officially launched Vista for consumers last week. The software giant promotes the new operating system as the most secure version of Windows yet. It's a drum Microsoft has been beating for some time. Now that Vista is finally here, pundits praise the security work Microsoft has done. However, most say that is no reason to dump a functioning PC running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and shell out $200 to upgrade to Vista.
''As long as XP users keep their updates current, there's generally no compelling reason to buy into the hype and purchase Vista right away,'' said David Milman, chief executive of Rescuecom, a computer repair and support company. ''We suggest people wait until buying a new machine to get Vista, for economic and practical reasons.''
As in the past, Microsoft faces itself as its toughest competitor. SP2 for Windows XP, which was released in August 2004, marked a significant and much-needed boost in PC security. Since then, Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 7 and the Windows Defender antispyware tool for XP. As a result, the older Windows version is simply good enough for many users. Gartner analyst John Pescatore said upgrading to Vista was expensive not only because of new software but often new hardware as well. ''If you put IE 7 on a Windows XP SP2 PC, along with the usual third-party firewall, antiviral and antispyware tools, you can have a perfectly secure PC if you keep up with the patches.''
Vista is the first client version of Windows built with security in mind, according to Microsoft. That means it should have fewer coding errors that might be exploited in attacks. Vista also includes several techniques and features designed to make it harder to attack computers running Vista and easier to thwart attacks if they do happen. Burton Group analyst Pete Lindstrom said Vista was light-years ahead of XP in terms of built-in security. ''But the market will decide whether it is important. Note that there haven't really been significant problems with the operating system lately, and our memories are short.'' If most consumers think like Brian Lambert, a student at Southern Illinois University, it doesn't bode well for Microsoft. ''The added security alone is not worth the money when comparing Vista with Windows XP SP2,'' Lambert, a member of CNET News.com's Vista Views panel, said. But Chris Swenson, an NPD Group analyst, thinks many consumers will prefer Vista's built-in security features over adding defenses to their XP machine. ''A lot of customers will prefer to either buy a new machine with Vista or upgrade a recently acquired XP machine with Vista in order to get at this added layer of protection,'' he said.
If you are in the market for a new Windows PC, Vista is your best bet, all experts agree. That's even if you're considering buying a Mac, said David Litchfield, a security bug hunter. ''If you're looking to buy a new computer, the security features built into Vista tip the balance in its favour over other options such as Mac OS X,'' Litchfield said. ''We've moved beyond the days of lots of bugs and worms. Recent history shows that Microsoft can get it right, as they did with XP SP2. With Vista, they will again demonstrate that.''
Litchfield and other security researchers are impressed with the work Microsoft has done on Vista, in particular because the operating system has gone through the company's Security Development Lifecycle, a process designed to prevent flaws and vet code before it ships. Also, Microsoft challenged hackers to break Vista before its release. Independent security researcher Dan Kaminsky was among two dozen hackers Microsoft asked to try to hack Vista. ''To be clear, XP SP2 was a massive leap for Windows security. But XP SP2 was not the systemic, top-to-bottom, scrub- everything experience that Vista is,'' he said . ''XP SP2 secured the surface. Vista security goes much deeper. It's a far bigger leap.''
All the praise aside, Vista isn't flawless. In fact, Microsoft has issued security patches for the operating system even before its final release. The operating system comes in five different versions (with a sixth ''Starter'' edition designed for developing countries), but only Windows Vista Ultimate the most expensive one includes the maximum level of protection. - cnet.com
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