(Just to get that out of the way – the only reason I use Windows on my gaming PC is that most of the games I play are only fully compatible with Windows.)
In January, I installed Windows Vista Business Edition on my AMD64 3200+ PC with 2 gigs of RAM, an Abit KN8-SLI motherboard and a Nvidia 7950 graphics card. Yesterday, I deleted it and installed XP instead. Why?
– XP is faster. In general operation, I sometimes found Vista to be sluggish. Not so with XP.
– XP uses less system resources for itself. Meaning that games are faster on it.
– XP is more stable. I have experienced 5-10 bluescreens over the last months – before installing Vista, I hadn’t seen a bluescreen in a long time. Also, explorer.exe has been using 100% CPU from time to time, requiring me to kill it. Of course, the reason for this could be immature drivers, and not inherent flaws of Vista. That doesn’t make a difference to me, however.
– The interface feels less cluttered. I haven’t exactly been counting GUI elements – this is obviously a matter of opinion. I think the new control panel is a mess, I don’t like the Windows implementation of widgets, and I’m not very impressed by the search functionality. Having used Google Desktop Search on my Mac for a while, I’m inclined to believe that using that on XP will be just as effective.
– There’s no need to turn off as much annoying security, since there’s less of it in the first place. This might be less of an issue for Grandma, who might like the extra security, but then Grandma should run Linux or OS X, and not XP or Vista.
– Also, as mentioned in a previous post, I had issues making BF2 work under Vista. There could be a different explaination for this, for instance that I made some weird mistake during the patching process, but I doubt it. BF2 is even helpful enough to state in the installation that the game has only been tested on Win XP/32bit.
If you’re getting a new computer, I would seriously consider sticking with XP. Have a look at the new interface in Vista, and see if there are things there you cannot live without (I doubt it – and there are plenty of equivalent third-party addons, like Konfabulator and Google Desktop Search). If the main thing you do is gaming, and you have a DX10 compatible graphics card you want to fully exploit, Microsoft is forcing us to upgrade; there’s not much to do about that. I have a DX9 card, however, and that makes XP a superior choice for gaming.
And if you aren’t using your PC for gaming, you should try Linux or OS X instead of Windows. There are really no good reasons to stick with XP over OS X for everyday tasks, perhaps save one – if you are using your OS for computing-intensive tasks, like numbers crunching, and the software you need is not available on the Mac. You can easily run Windows software through virtualization solutions like Parallels, but the overhead might make it too painful if you really need every ounce of performance.
In conclusion, I feel Windows XP service pack 2 is the pinnacle of the Microsoft OS. It is pretty fast, stable, overall quite useable and secure if the user is really careful (which, of course, means that it is pretty unsafe ;) ). The shinier gloss Vista is introducing does not outweigh the negatives for me, especially when OS X Tiger is so much better-looking, more enjoyable to use and more stable.