Windows XP and Windows Vista Performance Compared

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Microsoft funded a study by Principled Technologies to compare the performance of the Windows XP user interface to the Windows Vista Aero interface. Here’s my summary:

  • Comparisons were done with a variety of different computers, some more powerful than others. Naturally, the Aero tests required computers capable of running Aero. So, these results don’t necessarily apply to your old XP computer.
  • With or without Aero, Vista performs about the same on business tasks (like opening Office documents). Some things are faster, some are slower, but it’s a wash overall.
  • Vista with Aero performs about the same as Vista without Aero. So, don’t feel like you need to disable Aero for performance.
  • Though all my computers are capable, I can’t run Aero because screenshots look awful. I’m fine with either interface. I’m just saying, even if Aero did cause a performance impact and you wanted to turn it off, the other Vista improvements more than make up for it.

Windows Experience Index (WEI)

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When you buy software, there’s always a list of computer requirements on the side. It looks something like this (taken from World of Warcraft):

  • 800 MHz or higher CPU.
  • 256 MB or more of RAM.
  • 32 MB 3D graphics card with hardware Transform and Lighting, such as GeForce 2 or better.
  • 4 GB or more of available hard drive space.
  • DirectX® 9.0c or above.
  • A 56k or higher modem with an Internet connection.

That’s pretty hard to understand if you’re not a computer guy. Windows Experience Index (WEI) gives you a single number, and a set of numbers, that summarize your computer’s capabilities. So, if I want to buy a game for my Dell Latitude D820 with a WEI of 3.1, I just have to make sure that the game’s minimum WEI is 3.1 or lower. Software can also be more specific, and list a Graphics or Gaming Graphics requirement. As you can see from my score, my graphics are the weak link in my computer. (info on interpreting and improving WEI after the jump)

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Switch between Windows in 3D

Flip 3DIf you have a powerful computer and Windows Vista Aero (that 3D, glass-like window interface) is enabled, you can flip through your windows in 3D. Instead of using Alt-Tab to flip between windows, hold down the Windows key (it’s near the Alt key) and press Tab repeatedly. Windows Vista will show your windows in 3D, even if they’re changing.

If it’s not working for you, first make sure that your pressing Windows+Tab, and not Alt+Tab.

If you’re pressing the right keys, Aero might not be enabled (3D-Flip requires Aero). Follow these steps to troubleshoot Aero.

How to turn off the fancy Windows Vista Aero interface

Windows Vista has a fancy new Aero interface that makes the windows look like glass and provides very cool 3D effects. Performance tests have shown that Aero won’t slow your computer down. However, you might want to disable Aero if you prefer a simpler user interface or if you need to take screenshots.
To disable Windows Aero and return to a simpler time, follow the steps:
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