Had the same sort of experience when i first got this pc about 2 months ago.
The first few days it kept crashing for no apparent reason.Looked in problems, reports and solutions and it informed me it was my nic card.
The solution to download the latest driver was followed and no more probs.
As you say,it would have taken a few days of trial and error to sort it out under xp(if at all).
On it's own ,it almost sells the case for vista.