I have set up two new systems lately for friends and family. Each was a brand new low-end base Intel system with a current processor of decent speed, 1Gig RAM and a large hard drive. Each came with Windows Vista Basic pre-installed with a number of OEM utilities and third-party software. One was a second-tier desktop, the other a first-tier laptop.
Each of these machines out of the box ran abysmally slowly. Over 750M RAM was consumed at all times, and CPU rarely dropped below 25%, even after a day of being plugged in, getting updates, and finishing its Vista disk indexing (and the superfluous Google Desktop indexing on one of the machines).
On both of these out-of-the-box installations, waiting for a program to load and initialize was tedious enough to remind me of the days of 32Meg memory and the era before disk cache.
The number one solution for both of these installations was to remove the Norton security suite and replace it with the free AVG anti-virus solution. This reduced memory consumption by at least 200MB and allowed the CPU to actually go to idle. I also stopped a bunch of unnecessary utilities from preloading (they can still run, they just don’t load up on boot and take up resources until you need them).
While I’m not fond of Vista – its value over XP is negligible and the differences that could matter are not enough to outweigh the effort to change – I’m convinced that Vista’s reputation as a bloated resource hog, while deserved to some extent, is vastly inflated by the poorly optimized OEM builds that most of the user community by their lack of tech knowledge is forced to accept.
The only way to get a decently performing machine is to modify your default installation so much that you will never get support on it. When my friend’s built-in video camera stopped working due to a driver conflict with a Windows update, he returned it to the store and upon seeing that it had been optimized, they told him this configuration was unsupportable and reinstalled their original setup, fixing the video but making the machine otherwise practically unusable.
Microsoft can’t even fix this problem at the source, because if they were to mandate that their OEM partners optimized their builds, it would be construed as a monopolistic play to block third party software.
Sure, Vista has its problems, but it’s not a completely unusable hunk of crap. An OEM install of Vista, however, is.