Vista64 SP1 RC1 Refresh 2 — in reality RC3, but named in Microsoft fashion — is a marked improvement over Vista without SP1. The box feels markedly “snappier”, not just on startup and shutdown, but also day-to-day operation, be it the much-maligned file copying or just email / browsing / fiddling with network settings. A rumored release date for Vista SP1 is February 15th.
And it’s still not ready to replace my old XP64 install as the main OS to boot into. That’s not even Microsoft’s fault, it is an issue with third-party drivers. It is unfortunate for Microsoft that Vista should be plagued not only by its own inadequacies but also those of 3rd-party manufacturers. Maybe Microsoft can send crack driver development squads to those vendors that are most troubled and whose hardware is most commonly encountered in PCs.
The NVidia drivers have ceased crashing for the most part, but they still do not perform as well as their XP64 counterparts on my GeForce 7800GT. This is noticeable in HL 2 Episode 2′s “portal storm” scene, for example. That scene is a slide show under Vista64, and reasonably smooth under XP64, all settings being equal as far as HL2 goes.
The Creative drivers for my Audigy 2 are nothing short of a disaster in Vista64. When they don’t crackle and pop – which they do at will, with no clear pattern, whether playing music, video, or just system sounds – they produce sound that is uninspired and tinny. This is not a subtle difference, either – Jethro Tull’s “Beastie” lacks all of the power and spine-tingling intensity it shows on the same hardware under XP64.
Maybe newer hardware would solve these issues. Vista is not a compelling enough story to change out my hardware just for it, however.
My XP64 installation, in the meantime, has just received a new lease on life with the help of O&O Defrag. It turns out Windows had created a heavily fragmented USN Journal on my boot drive – a file that cannot be defragmented, but can be deleted using the “fsutil usn” command – and that in turn led to a heavily fragmented page file, which could also not be defragmented as all the USN bits were in the way.
I moved my page file to a second drive – a good idea anyway – and deleted the USN Journal, then defragmented the drive. My startup time after login – measured by how long it takes before the machine stops taking just about all the cycles it can get – is now at just under 2 minutes, down from just over 5 minutes.
Oh, and the USN Journal came back, of course. It is Windows Desktop Search that uses it. It is welcome to it as long as it doesn’t mind the occasional emergency delete.