Visual Tour: 20 Reasons Why Windows Vista Will Be Your Next OS

Ask any serious Windows Vista beta tester, and you'll get the word. Microsoft has packed a lot of positive change into the next version of Windows. It's the most significant update of the operating system since Windows 95. It's jam-packed with important new features for enterprises and end users alike.

Security, power and performance, applied graphics and user interface improvements, wireless networking, desktop search, usability updates, new performance monitoring and diagnostics, and an upgraded bevy of onboard applications such as Internet Explorer 7+ and Windows Defender are some of the main areas where Microsoft has beefed up Vista. Enterprise features, such as expanded group policies, whole-drive encryption and hardware-agnostic Windows imaging, are especially welcome.

Some of the readers of Computerworld's Visual Tour: 20 Things You Won't Like About Windows Vista came away with the mistaken impression I thought all was lost for Microsoft concerning Windows Vista. That was never the case. I've tested and reviewed every beta, CTP and alpha of Windows Vista going back to 2003, and the vast majority of that commentary has been positive. There's a lot to like about Windows Vista.

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The Windows Vista desktop showing Computer and Sidebar.

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SECURITY

1.
It's about security

It's easy for Linux and Mac aficionados to be smug about the security of their systems. The Mac OS and Linux were better created for security from the ground up, and they also don't live with a flashing neon bull's-eye on their backs. And while it's clear that Microsoft waited several years too long to get religion about security, it's also apparent from any rational examination of Vista that the software giant has rectified that error. Here are some highlights of protections the new operating system will offer:

• Protected mode Web browsing -- The Vista version of IE7 prevents any Web application from accessing anything but a small protected area where IE7 runs in isolation.

• Antiphishing in IE7 and Windows Mail (Outlook Express) -- Built-in visual warnings tell users about Web sites that may be trying to trick them into revealing personal data.

• Outbound and inbound Windows Firewall

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The new Windows Firewall adds outbound filtering rules.

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• New standard user account functionality -- makes it easier to give up logging in as an administrator all the time.

• Automatic creation of a nonadministrator account with computer administrator privileges.

• Significantly revised shell namespace -- protects against program spoofing.

• User Account Control -- safeguards against scripted or hacked attempts to manipulate your system controls to make your computer more vulnerable to attack.

• Improved network access protection (Windows Server needed) -- requires client PCs that try to connect to a network to "security up" by installing the latest updates and turn on protections before they can connect.

• Windows Defender -- real-time antispyware utility.

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Just one facet of Vista's security upgrade, Windows Defender helps thwart malware.

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• Parental controls -- user-account-based limits that control specific types of Web sites, hours of operation and a solid range of other limits.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, too. Everywhere you turn there are welcome security protections in Vista. It's by far and away the overriding theme of this version of the operating system. Even so, two questions remain: Will Microsoft exact too high a price on the end-user experience in targeting its worthy security goals? Has Microsoft gone far enough to make Windows Vista able to withstand the onslaught of threats?

Next page: UAC and You 

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