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Mac, PC or Linux? Your next operating system

Vista, XP, Linux or OS X; which OS is best?

Extolling Windows XP

Vista is finally here, but just because there's a new version of Windows, it doesn't mean you have to give XP the heave-ho.

Despite its reputation for Swiss cheese security, it's important to remember why XP became successful. Before XP and its predecessor, Windows 2000, Microsoft operating systems crashed, died and blue-screened weekly or even daily.

Crashes still occur, but they're far less frequent. Some XP users rarely see so much as a hiccup, which is why there is plenty of resistance among consumers about making the switch at all. While 11 percent of 1,608 PC Advisor pollsters plan to migrate to Vista within a year of its launch and a further 10 percent have already done so, 42 percent have no intention of switching at all.

Click here for our WIndows Vista poll results
This shouldn't be a surprise: XP has been the biggest-selling OS in the universe for almost half a decade. Whatever you do with a PC – accounting, blogging, photography, aimless wandering on the internet – the hardware and software works under XP.

If you do the sensible thing and download Windows Media Player 11.0, you've got a highly functional and easily searchable music, photo, video and recorded-TV library that will plug into a range of online stores.
Windows Movie Maker is worth investigating: slideshows, simple-but-effective video edits, transitions and audio overlays are easy to achieve.

If you need to synchronise data with other devices or across networks, XP is the current OS of choice, supporting hundreds if not thousands more programs, printers, cameras, scanners, smartphones, PDAs and GPS devices than any other.

And as XP has been so dominant for so long, it's got the widest number of internal components sewn up. Right now, it's a waiting game for those moving to Vista and keen to continue using XP hardware elements. So if you're equipped with plenty of PC peripherals and consumer gadgetry, running XP continues to be the one way you can guarantee being able to use them.

It's a similar story with software. Much will work on Vista, but you'll need to uninstall and reinstall each program on the new system – while having the licence agreement and product keys to hand.

Security companies have been slow to make their products Vista-ready, at least to Microsoft's specifications. With flaws already identified in Defender and OneCare Live, this is a serious concern.

Of course, you'll have to work to keep the wolves at bay if you're sticking with XP. While XP Service Pack 2, Windows Security Center and Internet Explorer 7.0 have closed a lot of holes, XP is sure to attract hackers and malware writers for years to come. Keep your PC's firewall, antivirus and spyware protection up to date.

In time, software will be written specifically for Vista, but XP users have no need to fear being left out to dry for a number of years yet. Similarly, Microsoft's support for XP will run until at least 2010, if not longer. As Microsoft's most successful OS, it's not likely to stop XP support in the immediate future. But judging by the fact it has delayed the rollout of its Windows XP Service Pack 3 until next year, Microsoft has already begun to focus on its new baby.

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