Thank goodness Windows Vista is finally about to die

Angus Kidman 23 March 2017

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The least-loved version of Windows ever is being taken off life support.

If you're young enough not to remember Windows Vista, I envy you. A quick reminder: Windows Vista came out back in 2007, a full five years after Windows XP, which had been the most successful version of Windows up until that time. You might assume that having five years to work on it would mean Microsoft would release a magnificent product, but you'd be wrong. It was a bug-ridden nightmare that frequently couldn't even handle basic tasks like connecting a new printer. Microsoft had to rush to release Windows 7 in 2009, largely consigning Vista to the trash heap of history.

However, that trash heap does take a long time to get covered with newer refuse. While Microsoft stopped offering mainstream support for Vista in 2012, it continued to provide paid "extended support" to companies which had Windows Vista installed and which had somehow managed not to drive their employees completely insane in by forcing them to still use it. That's about to come to an end too; from 11 April 2017, extended support will also be turned off.

You might ask: "Hey, if someone is still using an old computer, what's the problem?" The biggest risk is security. Microsoft will no longer issues patches to deal with vulnerabilities in Vista. You might think of patching as just that annoying monthly routine where your PC reboots itself at an inconvenient moment, but it is an essential protection against attackers.

Let's be clear: there are enough people still running Vista to make it worthwhile for criminals to set up attacks. According to NetMarketShare, as of February 0.78% of systems were running Windows Vista. (Scarily, the older Windows XP, which is also now off extended support, still has a 8.45% share.)

More broadly, a business which is still running a 10-year old operating system needs to take a long hard look at itself. It's not taking advantage of any of the improved software or hardware that has emerged over that decade. We might briefly enjoy being nostalgic about older technology (as the recent Nokia 3310 re-release demonstrated), but the reality is we simply couldn't do as much with it as we can with modern devices.

That doesn't mean there aren't speed bumps. Conventional thinking holds that every second version of Windows is decent (Windows 10 is generally held to be one of the "good" versions, its predecessor Windows 8 was wildly unpopular because it killed the Start menu). If that holds true, then the next version of Windows is going to bite. But no matter how badly it stinks, it won't be worse than Vista.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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