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Windows Vista: Is it worth upgrading over buying a Mac?

author BakuChris


Windows Vista was released only a few months ago but has had an extremely mixed love-hate relationship amongst people. Some love the operating system, it looks good to them and has many “new” features. Of course, very few, if any, of those people exist here at osx-e. We here have known for a long time that the Apple operating system, Mac OS X, has basically had everything that Microsoft Vista includes and then some since 2001. Now, many of those users are deciding if it’d be cheaper to upgrade to Vista than to buy a Mac, and for a few of those users it was, as they already upgraded.

However, most users here have what I like to call, a sub-par machine for Vista (myself not excluded). By “sub-par” I mean 128MB Graphics card, and 512 MB of RAM, which, sadly, is only good enough for Windows Vista Basic. That’s the cheapest package (at $99) but also lacks a lot: you won’t get many of the media center benefits, nor will you get the aero glass effect. Not to mention that, since 512 MB of RAM is the bare minimum RAM requirements, it’ll run extremely bad (like running Windows XP on 256 MB of RAM, the PC will be extremely slow and only use the cache reserved memory).

So, for the purposes of this article, I will outline what many people have to do to get the best- and most sought after version of – Windows Vista, the Ultimate Edition.

[Note – the person used for the example has a sub-par machine.]

Okay, first and foremost, the biggest concern for Windows Vista is the graphics card. You will need a fantastically good card to run Vista Ultimate well. My graphics card, which Microsoft has said will work in Windows Vista, is an nVidia GeForce 5200 FX with 256 MB RAM, and it won’t work. So I will be assuming that most 256 MB cards won’t work, or people will be unwilling to waste money on a card of the same specs due to a chance that it may not work. Therefore I will recommend a really fast card known as the nVidia GeForce® 7950 GT, which costs $230. This card has 512 MB of RAM and is rated as being extremely fast.

Now comes the other major leap: the RAM. Windows Vista Ultimate has a recommended RAM of 2 GB for bare minimum performance. So, assuming that this user has the average 512 MB of RAM, they will need 1.5 GB more of RAM. That’ll cost $120 for three 512 MB sticks of SDRAM (for best performance).

And obviously we need to buy the Windows Vista Upgrade CD, which costs $259. Now, as it is, we’re sitting at $609 for a “simple upgrade.” But alas, we’re not very tech savvy, and we want to backup everything on our hard drive before the initial upgrade, well let’s just chuck on $78.95 for a 250 GB external hard drive.

Okay, so we have everything we need; our computer’s backed up and we pop in the CD and begin the install. And then, since we are dealing with Microsoft here, something goes wrong and we can’t bootup the PC after the install! We need to call Microsoft tech support! Well, after a small fee of $49 for tech support we now have Windows Vista Ultimate up and running at “full” speed.

So all in all, our upgrade cost us, the typical user, $736.95.

Now, I know for a fact that you can find old Mac’s on the net with really good specs for less than that, so in true honesty, for the typical user, upgrading to Windows Vista just isn’t the cheapest thing to do if one wants a to pick between Mac OS X or Windows Vista. However, let us make a Mac Mini (via Apple Store) and see if Windows Vista would be a good choice, since we want a new Mac if we plan on getting any Mac.

In a Mac we’re not looking for anything fancy, we just want a Mac! But alas we do want a Mac that can get the job done, so 1 GB of RAM is needed, however the basic 1.66 Ghz Combodrive will be enough for our needs. Though for hard drive space we could easily live with 80 GB of space. Hey, if we need more? we can always go for the external hard drive later on, it was only $78.95 (which is about the same price for giving the Mac Mini 120 GB of space versus 80 GB). We also don’t need to get the apple mouse and keyboard. Sure it’d be nice to have a keyboard built for the Mac and that one button mouse, but at an extra $78, we don’t need it. We already have a keyboard and mouse that work fine.

“Holy cow! I don’t know if my monitor will work in a Mac Mini but no way am I paying over $600 for the Apple one!” No need to worry, par Steve Jobs and his press-release conferences we have learned that the Mac Mini is capable of using PC parts, such has a PC monitor, even an old CRT will work, so we’re safe here.

One may want the Apple modem, but let’s assume not, it’s already packed with a wireless card as it is (and a fast one at that!). Everything else on the list is user specific, so for purposes of this scenario we won’t be getting them.

So, how much does this come out to be? $724 for a really good, small Mac computer. If you’re keeping up with the math, that’s less money than it cost to upgrade to Windows Vista!

All in all, unless we buy a computer with Windows Vista pre-built into it (cheaper, but not by much, and they probably suck), a Mac computer will always be cheaper. But then again, this was a new Mac Mini we were talking about, you can always go for the older stuff at nearly the same specs (minus the Intel processor) and get it cheaper, usually around $500.

So, this was my first article on osx-e, I hope you all enjoyed it.

-William Bokunic


Comment by AKA on 2007-05-15 02:30:29

I was seriously considering buying a Vista-enabled machine/upgrading my existing computer until I encountered certain impediments similar to what you outlined in this post. I can’t really call myself an Apple fan boy (for more reasons than one ;]), but I do admire the design and consistency in Apple products (most of them, at least). This was supposed to be a longer comment, but to express myself in a more expeditious manner, I’ve decided not to upgrade to Vista or buy a new Vista machine simply because the cost to upgrade is more than what the retailers deceive us with.

I realized that spending $900 to $2000 on a PC that isn’t guaranteed to be compatible with the software I use, doesn’t necessarily safeguard against security threats despite its claims, and utilizes “new” features that have existed in other operating systems wasn’t the best idea.

Having said that, I am soon to be making the switch. ;-)

Comment by William on 2007-05-15 02:45:23

The security mentioned by Microsoft is actually a false hope. As has been pointed out, Vista is equally vulnerable to XP. Now, they did take it to a hackers conference and had them all hack it and find problems, so that does help with hacks, but a mere hackers conference won’t find all the problems.

As for a new PC with Vista, yeah, they may not even run Vista properly, even if it’s pre-installed. It’s like my first Windows XP I bought pre-installed, the hardware sucked and made XP run like crap (I briefly mentioned this in the article) and it took several years for the pre-builts to run the required hardware as a norm. And, frankly speaking, Vista’s requirements are even more of a jump from the norm, it’ll take at least three years before we start seeing PCs with 2 GB RAM pre-installed everywhere (I am guessing here, but right now the norm is 512 MB RAM, that’s a 1.5 GB RAM jump).

So, Mac’s are definitely the perfect choice right now, especially an Intel Mac as you can later use Bootcamp and boot camp into Vista if you want to, and Mac’s can actually support Vista with less hardware due to their design and speed (Intel Core 2 Duo + fastest RAM on the market).

Comment by bishop on 2007-05-15 08:01:12


Comment by William on 2007-05-15 10:14:22

No need to link us to a site saying how Vista sucks, we already knew that. It’s a Microsoft operating system after all.

Comment by Pedro on 2007-05-15 14:59:22

First of all I have to say that I love Mac, even though I have none. I also know that all the “new” vista features have been in use by Mac for a long time now. I know that Microsoft sucks big time, unfortunately, due to my job, I’m forced to use MS software and op. system.

I’ve just started using Vista Ultimate (475.00 euro full version, I hate upgrades)and installed it on a 1 and half year old machine and the system is very smooth and stable.

My config is: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz cpu, with 1Gb ram at 533Mhz, 80Gb SATA hard drive and an ATI Radeon X700 PCIe with 256Mb.

All this to say that you don’t have to go Core Duo and get 2Gb of ram and a 512Mb graphics card to get Vista Ultimate to run without problems.

Mind you that besides the MS software I use to work I also use Photoshop, 3D Max and other 2D and 3D apps. And so far I haven’t noticed any kind of problems XP use to cause. Meaning I’m having less headaches with Vista than with XP.

As for security concerns: Macs rule the universe.

Comment by William on 2007-05-15 16:31:10

I was using a typical user scenario. Many graphics cards with 256 MB of RAM don’t work with Vista well, therefore the typical user may not want to take risks. As for the 2 GB RAM thing, that’s only a recommended number by Microsoft using decent RAM, obviously if you have the faster RAM you’ll need less RAM. Nice GHz computer though, mine’s roughly the same age and only has 2.93.

Again, this article was based on the typical user who isn’t tech savvy (quite a few lie here on this site I believe that aren’t tech savvy). And as for security, only Windows has the security flaws. Every other OS (Linux, Mac, BSD, etc) use a Unix base, which, by design, prevents virus’ and junk from infecting it, therefore making it extremely safe.

Comment by pedrp on 2007-05-15 19:07:21

About the hardware stuff, I knew you were talking about an example I just wanted to show that not everybody needs to upgrade their machine to run Vista. Should’ve said so in the begining, sorry.

I didn’t mention Linux, BSD and others because it goes without saying.

I just wish more and more companies stop using windows and change to something better and safer. It sucks beeing dependent on

Comment by William on 2007-05-15 19:09:01

Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s mostly that those companies are ignorant.

Comment by Nico on 2007-05-16 11:24:09

I just wanted to say that I’ve got a GeForce 6600GT with 256MB and Vista runs very well with this thing. And NO, I was not mad enough to buy Vista. My sister studies and gets all those MS stuff for free. But I only have Vista [Business] on a second partition because XP is much more stable and you know the words: Never touch a running system ;)

Comment by William on 2007-05-16 11:30:40

I guess some of the newer nVidia models work, but then again, that’s still money out of the pocket for more people. My crappy outdated one cost me $80 and it won’t work.

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