Build list legend
|Version of Microsoft Windows|
|OS family||Windows NT|
|Latest build||6.0.6003 (Service Pack 2 Update)|
|Windows Server 2008|
Windows Vista (codenamed Longhorn) is a major release of Microsoft Windows released to manufacturing on 8 November 2006 and made generally available on 30 January 2007. It is the seventh operating system in the Windows NT operating system line, succeeding Windows XP and preceding Windows 7. It had one of the longest development periods in Microsoft's history starting in May 2001 and continuing through November 2006, with the project's development having undergone a reset in August 2004.
Mainstream support ended on 10 April 2012, while extended support ended on 11 April 2017. However, it still runs on 0.08% of computers worldwide as of September 2023.
This version drops support for the IA-64 architecture and the ability to use boot disks to boot into setup, leaving only the option to boot from optical discs. The ability to upgrade an existing Windows installation from versions prior to Windows XP was also removed. CD-ROM distributions of this version could be obtained through mail for machines that don't have DVD-ROM drives.
Planning for the Longhorn project started in earnest in May 2001, originally intended as a bridging release between Whistler and the later version of Windows codenamed Blackcomb (reference to the bar between two mountains in British Columbia, Canada). As development progressed, many features slated for Blackcomb became part of Longhorn, and employees jumped ship from other parts of the company, turning into a major version rather than the minor version it was initially planned as. After an initially quiet development cycle, the first build to leak publicly was build 3683, which contained a new theme called Plex, as well as the foundations for WinFS, a subsystem that aimed to bring benefits of relational databases to filesystem storage, and Avalon, a new vector-based user interface framework.
As development slowly progressed prior to the reset, the Longhorn project would end up becoming a largely bloated and unstable piece of vaporware, with release dates constantly being pushed back on multiple occasions. Many components were extended using the still relatively new .NET Framework and Managed C++. Stability increasingly became an issue as development progressed, and very few builds were released to the public as a result. Only two builds were distributed at conferences and to developers: builds 4051 and 4074, released during PDC 2003 and WinHEC 2004 respectively. The last confirmed build prior to the development reset is build 4093 (main), compiled on 19 August 2004.
Approximately four hours after build 4093 was compiled, Microsoft reset the development of Longhorn and started fresh by using a work-in-progress version of the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 codebase, signifying the start of a major restructuring period internally codenamed "Omega-13"; a direct homage to the time travel device of the same name seen in Galaxy Quest's climax, which sent the user exactly thirteen seconds back into the past. Immediate post-reset builds were primarily focused on reintegrating features from pre-reset builds whilst maintaining stability, as a ban on usage of the .NET Framework was imposed across a large majority of the Windows source tree. Most of these builds are similar to Windows XP in the overall look and feel, although markers such as poorly-edited branding (as observed in builds such as 5001) were temporarily utilized to distinguish from its predecessor. Few builds from this stage of development have been released, officially or otherwise. Development of Longhorn continued, although many features originally slated for inclusion (such as WinFS and Castles) were delayed or ultimately dropped in order to produce a more realistic set of goals for the OS.
In April 2005, build 5048 was released to testers on WinHEC 2005 to show off the total progress made after the reset, which also demonstrably proved to be significantly more stable over previous builds, despite insiders raising concerns over the then-current state of the operating system's lacking feature set at the time. The first leaked build after the development reset was 5098. Build 5112 (Beta 1) was released to the public soon afterward in July and showcased an early version of the Aero interface, as well as many stability improvements over its predecessor. Over the course of two years, many builds (dubbed by Microsoft as Community Technology Previews) were released to testers through a public beta program; the final build pushed out to public preview testers was Release Candidate 2 (build 5744). The RTM build was build 6000.16386, compiled on 1 November 2006 and released to manufacturing on 8 November 2006. The operating system finally reached general availability on 30 January 2007, met with increasingly negative consumer reception.
In early 2008, Microsoft released the first service pack for Windows Vista, which was also released to the public as a Service Pack for the RTM build. This is the first version of Windows to support UEFI firmware for 64-bit versions. It also added support for the exFAT file system, improved performance and stability, and improved wireless support. As well, The Search link on the right pane of the Start menu and the Search option in contextual menus for Windows Explorer folders have been removed.
In May 2009, Microsoft released the second and last service pack for Windows Vista, which includes various new features such as wireless and Bluetooth support; most notably, a Bluetooth Control Panel applet; it also includes Windows Search 4.0 built-in, better support of eSATA drives, support for burning on Blu-ray discs and support for the x64 VIA Nano processor, and also improved performance of the RSS feeds sidebar gadget, and improved streaming high-definition content. Service Pack 2 is slightly different, in that it needs at least Service Pack 1 to have been installed, in order to update a live OS. Another update, known as the Platform Update for Windows Vista, was released in October 2009, and includes the Windows Automation API and the Windows Ribbon API. Service Pack 2 is the last update for Windows Vista before being replaced with Windows 7.
Several product names for the Longhorn project were presented to Microsoft in the lead-up to the final release of the operating system; its final name, Windows Vista, was officially unveiled on 22 July 2005. Greg Sullivan informed Paul Thurrott about how the name Vista focused around the premise of wanting "the PC to adapt you" and aimed in "bringing clarity to your world"; the operating system was intended to be marketed with the terms "Connected, Clear and Confident". Microsoft vice president Jim Allchin expressed their enthusiasm for the product name, stating that it created the "right imagery for the new product capabilities".
The earliest known build to use the final name is build 5112, and the final builds to have any leftovers of the Longhorn codename are two compiles of build 5284, with the last traces being removed in January 2006.
During development of pre-reset Longhorn, the system requirements were largely the same as Windows XP, with the sole exception of build 4001, which required a Pentium III processor or better during setup. However, most builds of Longhorn only install on NTFS partitions, which would be carried to the final release of Vista. Throughout development of post-reset Vista, the system requirements were significantly increased to accommodate new computing standards, such as the use of WDDM to take most advantage of display capabilities, immediately requiring ACPI after replacing
BOOTMGR, and greatly increasing the amount of disk space required to install Windows.
Microsoft recommends Windows Vista to be installed on a system with a processor with a speed of at least 800 MHz, at least 512 MB (384 MB for Starter Edition) of RAM, 15 GB of hard drive space, a SVGA or better display adapter, and a DVD-ROM drive. Windows Vista drops support for systems without ACPI. CD-ROM installation is still possible, but such installation method now uses multiple CD-ROMs due to the increased size of the installation media after the shift to WIM installation and wasn't offered in retail.
Windows Vista's setup doesn't check for a required processor generation or speed to install as long as setup can start, and thus it is possible to install Windows Vista on processors as early as the original Pentium. Windows Vista can also be run with as low as 256 MB of RAM.
Intel CPUs whose microarchitectures are based on Haswell or later are not supported on Windows Vista. Numerous issues relating to certain services or applications failing to start on the affected CPUs have been reported by various users, with extreme cases often leading to potential bugchecks. The KB4493471 update contains a new version of the HAL (hardware abstraction layer) that fixes most of these issues.
Windows XP, earlier operating systems, and x86 versions of Windows Vista are not affected by the aforementioned problems.
The new Aero user interface has been introduced, which included large design changes to many of the built-in apps. Microsoft also encouraged third party developers to make their applications consistent with Aero, with the company for the first time producing a definite set of design guidelines that included advice ranging from icon design to text wording. Compared to previous versions, Aero icons are more skeuomorphic and realistic in design, as well as scaling better at higher zoom levels due to larger icon sizes being supported.
An important aspect of the user interface was the hardware-accelerated Windows Aero theme. This was made possible by the new Desktop Window Manager, a compositing window manager that works hand in hand with the also new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM). The compositing nature of DWM allows for eye candy such as Aero Glass or Flip 3D, but also prevents various rendering glitches that were common for previous versions of Windows. The exact appearance of Aero Glass can be further customized by toggling the transparency or changing the frame's color, which is not possible for themes that are not composited.
For systems that relied on older drivers made for Windows XP, Vista also included the Windows Basic style, which used the older XP-style theme engine, as well as still including the Windows Classic theme that disabled theming altogether.
A new system font called Segoe UI was introduced which replaces the default Tahoma font that was used in previous versions. It is optimized for ClearType and the font size has been increased to 9 point for better layout and readability for all system languages.
Windows Explorer received a UI overhaul in Windows Vista. The common tasks pane from Windows XP has been replaced by a new command bar located at the top of the window that provides basic file operation commands and additional options depending on the selected file. The navigation pane was added and contains all commonly used folders and certain preconfigured search folders in a navigation tree. The address bar was replaced by a breadcrumbs bar which shows the full path to the current location and clicking any location in the breadcrumbs bar brings the user back to that location, eliminating the need to go back multiple times to find specific files or having to go up to various directories and The Up button was removed in favor of this. The menu bar was hidden by default although it can be brought back into view by pressing the ALT key. The detail pane was also added which displays the metadata and information for the selected file or folder. It also displays a thumbnail if the selected file contains visual information such as a picture. If the selected file does not contain visual information, an icon of the filetype will be displayed instead. It also allows for the modification of certain metadata such as author and title. Tags have also been added as a new metadata type that allows descriptive terms to be added to files for easier categorization and retrieval. Drives can also now show their free amount of space in a bar that appears under the drive's icon. The ability to save searches as folders was also added. Many legacy Explorer features such as the ability to customize the layout and buttons on toolbars and the ability to assign a password to a compressed folder were removed.
The Taskbar received a minor UI redesign with the addition of live taskbar thumbnails, which shows the preview of a window when its taskbar button is hovered over. The Start button also no longer shows the "Start" text and was changed to a blue orb which bears the Windows logo.
The Windows Sidebar was added which is a transparent panel that is anchored to the right side of the desktop where Desktop Gadgets can be placed in which are small applets that are designed to show information at a quick glance such as displaying the time and date, showing a picture slideshow or displaying the weather. Gadgets can also be placed on the desktop.
The Start menu was redesigned to align with the Windows Aero design principles and the All Programs menu is now a scrollable menu instead of being a cascading dropdown menu. The right side of the menu was updated to show the user account picture which upon clicking takes the user to the User Account settings in Control Panel. It also only shows the names of items and instead when hovering over an item, the user account picture changes to reflect the item that will be opened. The Printers and Run items are no longer present by default and a search box was added that allows users to instantly search for programs, as well as files and system options. As with its predecessor, the user can revert to the classic start menu.
A new search component called Windows Search was also introduced to replace the Indexing Service of previous versions of Windows. It creates a locally stored index of all of the files and items stored on the computer and works in hand with a new feature called Instant Search which pulls down the indexed items as the user starts typing, allowing files to be searched and found faster. It also supports IFilters which are components that allow Windows Search to scan the contents and metadata of files. Windows Search also uses property handlers to index the metadata from various indexed file formats using protocol handlers to index and search various data stores. Windows Search is initiated by using the search box in the Start menu and Windows Explorer.
Windows Vista also introduces integrated support for speech recognition through a speech recognition component called Windows Speech Recognition which allows users to control their computer using various voice commands and enables dictation of text in various programs. An interactive tutorial is included to teach users how to use voice commands. The speech recognition technology utilizes Microsoft Speech API version 5.3 and Speech Recognizer version 8.
The Speech synthesis engine for text-to-speech programs like Narrator and Microsoft Agent has also been updated to support SAPI 5, which supports more natural sounding voices like Anna and Lili.
Windows Vista introduced many improved security features such as User Account Control which improves the security of the computer by limiting programs to use fewer privileges by default and to stop malware from compromising the security of the computer and making unauthorized changes. It also allows standard users to use the computer with the fewest privileges as possible. When a program or action asks for administrative rights, UAC will ask for credentials through a prompt window that is displayed in a Secure Desktop Mode which dims the entire screen and only shows the authorization window and the window is highlighted and active to prevent programs from tapering with the prompt window. Standard user accounts will be asked to enter the administrator user name and password. Administrators can confirm the prompt without entering their credentials. BitLocker Drive Encryption was also introduced for the Enterprise and Ultimate editions which can encrypt entire volumes using TPM.
ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive were also introduced to improve system performance by using available flash memory on USB flash drives and hybrid hard disks to catch commonly used programs and data which improves battery life on portable computers since hybrid drives can be spun down when the system is not in use. Another new technology called SuperFetch was also introduced which utilizes machine learning techniques to analyze usage patterns to allow the operating system to make decisions about what should be present in the system memory at any given time. It also uses almost the available RAM as disk cache.
The login experience in Windows Vista has been overhauled. Support for GINA DLLs were removed and the roles and responsibilities of Winlogon have also been changed significantly. The design of the Welcome screen was overhauled with the shutdown button now also having a drop-down menu which allows access to additional power options and the Ease of Access button was also added to the Welcome screen which allows users launch various accessibility programs. The legacy login dialog prompt was completely removed. The design of the Windows Security dialog box was also overhauled and is now in full-screen and takes on the appearance of the Welcome screen.
The licensing subsystem has been completely rewritten in Windows Vista. This allowed Microsoft to define licensing restrictions for each SKU more easily and systemically using product policies, rather than hardcoding them in the kernel or using hooks for core system components. Product policies are used to limit the maximum amount of RAM, number of processors, as well as the availability of user interface options such as the Aero theme or transparency.
The boot loader architecture has been completely overhauled and redesigned in Windows Vista. The legacy NTLDR boot loader used since Windows NT 3.1 has been replaced by the Windows Boot Manager (BOOTMGR). It implements a new firmware-independent database called Boot Configuration Data (BCD) which replaces
boot.ini that was used by NTLDR.
Networking stack has also been overhauled in Windows Vista. The new stack model includes IPv6 support, completely overhauled IPv4 and TCP/IP stacks and improves peer-to-peer connectivity.
The print architecture has also been overhauled in Windows Vista. The new print architecture is built around WPF and provides high-fidelity color printing using improved color management features. The XPS format was also introduced for printers which allows prints to look much better in quality. Client Side Rendering was also introduced to allow documents to be rendered on to the main client machine rather than on the server. This allows the rendered form of the document to be passed on to the main print server without additional processing.
The audio stack has also been overhauled in Windows Vista. The new stack model includes support for UAA and support for better audio processing through major new APIs such as Windows Audio Session, Multimedia Device and Device Topology. In addition, new digital signal processing features such as Room Correction, Bass Management, Loudness Equalization and Speaker Fill have been introduced which adapts and modifies an existing audio signal to take more advantage of the speaker configuration. The ability to calibrate audio speakers to a room's acoustics automatically using an Aero wizard has also been added.
Windows Vista introduces major upgrades to the operating system's built-in programs and components and adds many new programs and components.
Windows Vista was shipped in a number of editions. Unlike Windows XP, there were no special editions for Media Center, 64-bit capabilities and Tablet PCs since these features were included in at least one of the consumer editions. Windows Vista also did not have a separate componentized embedded version, as Microsoft instead planned to release Windows Embedded 2009, which is based on Windows XP. Although the Business and Ultimate editions were also available for licensing on embedded devices (namely Windows Vista Business for Embedded Systems and Windows Vista Ultimate for Embedded Systems) as a part of Windows Embedded Enterprise product line, they are essentially the same as the base editions available on retail. Windows Anytime Upgrade was also introduced to allow users to easily facilitate upgrades to higher editions of Windows Vista.
Windows Vista was initially marketed with the slogan The Wow Starts Now. The slogan would be later changed to I'm a PC in 2008 in response to Apple's opposing Get a Mac marketing campaign from 2006. The campaign would carry over to Windows 7, and lasted through 2011.
In an attempt to curb the negative reputation of Windows Vista, Microsoft launched an advertising campaign named the Mojave Experiment, which involved a limited set of users being given the chance to try out a rebranded copy of Windows Vista under the assumption that it was an in-development version of a fictitious operating system codenamed Mojave.
While Windows Vista was praised for its new design, features and security improvements, it received extreme criticism due to various factors such as stability issues that were present in the original release of Vista, lack of compatibility with many drivers and programs that previously ran on Windows XP and older, its much higher system requirements that caused performance problems on older computers and rendered many high-end features such as the Windows Aero interface unusable on older hardware and the excessive intrusiveness of the User Account Control feature. Later updates would resolve many of the performance issues.
As a result of these issues, Windows Vista's initial adoption and satisfaction rates were very low compared to Windows XP and many users also downgraded back to Windows XP due to compatibility issues that rendered many programs and computer peripherals unusable along with performance issues. The Windows Vista Capable marketing campaign was also subject to criticism due to OEM's installing the OS on underpowered machines which did not fully meet Vista's system requirements which resulted in a class-action lawsuit being filed against Microsoft in early 2008 and eventually lost its class-action status in early 2009.
The widespread sound scheme often attributed to Longhorn was never included in any official build and originates from a Samsung-produced theme for Windows XP from 2003. The Windows XP sounds remain and are used in all pre-reset and post-reset builds, with a few being swapped with Vista sounds between builds 5469 and 5840.16384.
The alleged Windows Vista Beta 1 startup sound is actually
WELCOMESEQUENCE.WAV used in the Speech Recognition tutorial from build 5308.6. Likewise, an alternative interpretation of the final startup sound that is sometimes labeled as the Windows Vista Beta 2 startup sound is actually a jingle used in Vista Beta 2 Help video outros.
These builds are also referred to as Omega-13 builds.