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Vista as a Gaming Platform

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/30/2009

Gaming on Vista is a disaster. Or is it? Read on for more comprehensive information about optimizing your PC to run games on Vista.

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    Games and Vista?

    Windows Vista is many things – but among these things, it most assuredly is NOT a competent OS to be running games on. The sad reality of the situation is that Windows XP can run most modern games about 2-3 times faster than Vista can (similarly so with Windows 7) running the games on the exact same computer configuration. The obvious question then becomes: why?

    Simply put, Vista is a mammoth of an OS, and even though Windows 7 is not much smaller by comparison, the difference is that Vista eats up your RAM like a black hole consuming a supernova. Vista just isn’t very capable as a gaming platform because the architecture that is in place is RAM and processor-heavy. The amount of memory and processing power it takes to load up the main interface rivals that of most graphics-intensive games in the market these days. This is why when I have friends asking me about the best type of rig to run PC games, I tell them to give Windows 7 a try or to switch back to XP, because my time with Vista as a gaming platform was abysmal.

    But, let’s say that you don’t have the means to conjure up a copy of XP (they are as hard to come by as Dodos these days) or you don’t have the moral ambiguity to get yourself a release candidate copy of Windows 7. There are still some things you can do to optimize Vista as a gaming platform. Coming from someone who had extensive gaming time with the OS over the past two years or so, here are my top three tips for getting a better gaming experience out of your Vista Rig.

    Buy a Faster Processor

    My gaming experience with Vista didn’t start until I upgraded my processor to a quad-core processor, and even then, there were moments of slowdown. Unless you’re currently running an i7 processor, you can always do better, and if you want to be running the latest and greatest on Vista, you’ll need to shell out the big bucks for either a Quad-core “Extreme” QX9770, an i7, or an AMD Phenom II X4. Using one of those three will ensure that you’re getting the most bang out of your processor.

    Upgrade That Old Video Card

    Again, until I performed a video card upgrade from an Nvidia GeForce 6600 to an Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS, I still wasn’t getting everything I wanted out of it. That’s why I highly recommend upgrading to the latest video card (or even going SLI). This is going to cost you a considerable amount, but consider the fact that an SLI 8800 GTS is going to last you quite a while, as new computer technology has been grinding to a halt now that processor power has been growing in terms of multi-cores rather than actual clock speed. I would recommend getting either the GeForce GTX 285 or the Radeon HD 4870.

    Other than that, upgrade your RAM – just double whatever you currently have (unless that’s physically impossible) and you should be covered. Windows Vista isn’t a bad OS by any means, but unless you have it perfectly optimized and running the perfect rig, you’re going to find it suffers as a jack-of-all-trades machine. Thankfully, with the release of Windows 7 sometime in the near future, these talks of Vista’s problems and Vista’s gaming inadequacies may become a thing of the past.