Vista Nears RC1 Status—And Stability

Review: Tests of latest build show an os that is gaining speed, losing quirks.

Microsofts latest revised deadline for shipping Windows Vista, the long-awaited follow-on to its turn-of-the-millennium Windows XP, is right around the end of the year.

eWEEK Labs tests of Vista Build 5568, a test release that Microsoft has characterized as very close to RC1, show that the operating system is gaining speed and losing quirks—quickly enough, we believe, for Vista finally to be considered "on schedule."

We installed the new build on a 2.53GHz Intel Pentium 4-based system with 1GB of RAM and a Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card. (For those of you keeping score, our test rig rated a 3.6 on Vistas Windows Experience Index.)

Right off the bat, we were pleased by the speedup we experienced in Vistas installation time. It took about 30 minutes for Vista to complete a clean install, compared with about an hour in our tests of previous builds. However, in a separate test in which we upgraded from a previous Vista build, the process took more than an hour to complete.

Once Vista was up and running, we heeded the familiar Windows Security Center call to acquire and configure anti-virus software by installing the same Trend Micro anti-virus for Vista beta that wed been led to while trying out Vista Build 5472.

We didnt encounter the same hang-ups when downloading and installing the software that we experienced with Build 5472. However, we were displeased to find that the Trend Micro application also replaced Vistas built-in firewall, so we uninstalled the software.

The Vista development team has asked beta testers to keep an eye out for bugs that would keep them from using Vista as their primary operating system environment. In the relatively brief time we spent tooling around in Build 5568, we discovered no showstopper bugs, but we did encounter periodic crashes in Microsofts Internet Explorer 7 and in Vistas new Windows Mail, which replaces Outlook Express.

Vistas new Aero Glass desktop environment performed, for the most part, without the momentary blackouts and other flakiness that weve experienced with earlier builds, although the system did once downgrade itself temporarily from the effects-laden Aero Glass interface to plain Aero.

The systems UAC (User Account Control) system of tightened permissions management didnt, for the most part, annoy us or really get in our way. But we did encounter an annoying bug in which Windows refused to allow us to delete—regardless of our admin permissions—a file in the program directory of the Firefox Web browser wed installed.

System file protection is all well and good, but if UAC ends up meaning Windows admins have no way to take full control of their systems, these protections will be rightly judged as being more of a hassle than theyre worth.

Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at