Build list legend
|Version of Microsoft Windows|
|OS family||Windows NT|
|Latest build||6.0.6003 (Service Pack 2 Update)|
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 until November 2006, because of the development reset from mid-2004.
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 progressed before the reset, Longhorn became a heavily bloated and unstable piece of vaporware, with release dates being pushed back on several 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: build 4051 and build 4074. The last confirmed build prior to the development reset is build 4093, 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 the Omega-13 period. Immediate post-reset builds were primarily focused on reintegrating features from pre-reset builds whilst maintaining stability, as a ban on .NET was imposed across a majority of the Windows source tree. Most of these builds are similar to Windows XP in the overall look and feel. 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 some 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 Windows XP. Over the course of two years, many builds (which were dubbed by Microsoft as Community Technology Previews) were released to testers through a public beta program. The final build that was 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.
Several product names for the Longhorn project were presented to Microsoft in the lead-up to the final release of the operating system; the final name of the operating system, 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 requires a Pentium III processor or better. 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 with the Windows logo on it.
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.
A new search component called Windows Search was also introduced to replace the previous 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 Seach 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 to use accessibility tools to login to the computer. The legacy login dialog prompt was completely removed.
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 faciliate upgrades across sucessive editions of Windows Vista.
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 builds, with a few being swapped with Vista sounds between builds 5466 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.