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Incompatibilities are an expected with the release of any new operating system, and the migration to Windows Vista is no exception.
While the initial headaches are mostly behind us, it's not clear sailing yet. So whether you're assembling new Vista systems or helping customers upgrade older WinXP systems to Vista, you need to understand the compatibility nomenclature and know which peripherals will ensure a trouble-free transition.
In Part 1 of this two-part Recipe, I will spell out the difference between products emblazoned with the "Certified for Windows Vista" and "Works with Windows Vista" logos. I will also recommend a sampling of peripherals that have earned "Vista Certified" status.
In Part 2 of this two-part Recipe, I'll provide advice on peripherals bearing the "Works with Vista" logo, as well as some general conclusions.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
So what exactly do "Certified for Windows Vista" and "Works with Windows Vista" mean? Is there a functional difference between the two? And can you use peripherals lacking either logo? Here's the gist.
Certified for Vista: According to Microsoft, the "Certified for Windows Vista" logo is a compatibility designation for applications and devices that have passed a rigorous testing program on computers running Windows Vista. The technical requirements for this designation target four core areas: reliability; security; compatibility with Windows Vista and future operating systems; and installation and removal.
In practice, this means that a product given "Certified for Vista" status is not only compliant in those four areas, but also guaranteed to offer an enhanced experience, specifically with software, photos, music, videos and online communications. Such devices are also designed for ease-of-use, improved performance and better security. Finally, "Certified for Vista" devices should install easily with automatic device driver downloads and updates, and be compatible with other Vista-certified products.
Works with Vista: The more lenient "Works with Windows Vista" status is also a compatibility designation. But here, only baseline compatibility with Vista is assured. In essence, you get the basic functionality of Vista, but you don't get the added features, security advances, improved performance or ease of installation you would with Vista-certified products.
Compatible with Windows Vista: Many current devices that bear neither logo are nonetheless Vista-compatible, in that they can function with the new OS without serious problems. Some of these products will eventually go through the Vista logo program and be approved, but others will never receive logo'd status.
Unfortunately, plenty of older devices still exist that are simply incompatible with Vista. Worse, their manufacturers have no plans to make them compliant, orphaning them in the process. If you have doubts about a product's compatibility, refer to Microsoft's Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List, which is part of Redmond's "Devices Just Work" effort. This list offers compatibility data on Vista 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
For clients who expect to upgrade to Vista, you should run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. This will help you determine which of their current devices are supported by Vista.
The following are enhanced peripherals that all bear the "Certified" logo. I don't claim to have tested or reviewed every device on the market, so use this sampling as a suggestion of what's available.
Also, I have provided a "best price" average for each component. In most cases, these price averages are courtesy of Pricewatch.com, an excellent source of pricing comparisons.
Selecting a Vista-friendly monitor is easy, since no special display technology is mandatory for running the OS. Nonetheless, a widescreen LCD will deliver the greatest benefit. Monitors certified for Vista require a widescreen format, DVI/HDCP support, and color calibration for more consistent color prints when used with certified printers. In selecting a monitor for use with Vista, it makes sense to choose one that's certified. However, it's even more important to verify that it offers the right features than simply a "Certified" logo.