Is Vista Good for Gaming?

Three reasons Windows Vista is terrible for gaming ... and six reasons why it's great

1 2 3 4 5 Page 2
Page 2 of 5

The bad news is that it's going to take time for developers to figure out the most effective way to write drivers for this new model. Today's performance slowdowns are largely a result of driver developers having to relearn the delicate process of writing the most efficient code for graphics processors.

Unless you want to roll your system back to Windows XP, the simple answer to this problem is to keep updating your video card drivers -- graphics card manufacturers ATI (now owned by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.) and nVidia Corp. are constantly releasing new and improved drivers. Thankfully, with each driver iteration released by the companies, gaming performance for DX9 cards in Windows Vista has improved. In another few months, it's highly likely this will be a nonissue. In the meantime, however, gamers will suffer.

2. Backward incompatibility. One of the biggest frustrations for any gamer when there's an operating system upgrade is the hard fact that some older games simply will not work in the new environment. For example, the upgrade from Windows 98/ME to Windows XP in 2002 proved devastating for this reporter. My old favorite, High Heat Baseball, a game that had received hundreds of hours of play, simply would not work under any circumstances.

The same frustration is occurring in large doses for gamers who have transitioned to Windows Vista. Chris Donahue, Microsoft's director of Windows graphics and gaming technologies, told Computerworld that the software giant had tested the 1,000 most popular PC games over the last five years on a variety of hardware configurations in the Vista environment. That's a good start, but given the wide variety of PC games on the planet, it's only a small dent.

For what it's worth, Donahue also noted that Windows Vista is way ahead of where Windows XP was in the same time frame in terms of graphics performance and backward compatibility. Unfortunately, this is small consolation for gamers who can't get their favorite titles to work properly.

One of the biggest complicating factors in getting legacy XP games to work in Windows Vista is the new operating system's User Account Control functionality. This new security feature forces users to work using restricted "standard" accounts, as opposed to defaulting to all-powerful "admin" accounts. According to Donahue, the resulting new model for installing applications and files in write-protected directories is one of the biggest sources of backward incompatibility. The answer is to specify another directory -- one that a standard user account can write to -- rather than the Program Files folder when installing games.

One other source of backward incompatibility appears to be caused by the StarForce copy-protection schemes that many game makers have incorporated into their titles. Older versions of this popular form of antipiracy software have reportedly caused a number of errors that have prevented gamers from playing their favorite Windows XP games. The cause? Simple incompatibility -- like many applications, old versions of StarForce don't work properly in Vista environments. StarForce recently released a new version of its software that is certified to be compatible with Vista; unfortunately, the only way to get it is to download a patch for your particular game from the game publisher's site.

As a general (if obvious) rule, you should download and install any available updates for your games before running them. Many developers and publishers have released patches that increase compatibility with Vista.

One final note: For an excellent breakdown of how well the most popular games operate with Windows Vista, see ExtremeTech's Will Vista Run Your Games?

1 2 3 4 5 Page 2
Page 2 of 5
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon