An In-Depth Look at Vista, Part 1

by Wei-Meng Lee

The long wait for the first beta of Microsoft's new Windows operating system is finally over. On July 27, Microsoft released Beta 1 of Windows Vista (formerly code-named Longhorn). Available for download to MSDN subscribers and selected beta testers, the beta is a good opportunity for customers to see Microsoft's progress in building the next-generation Windows operating system.

In this article, I'll present my first look at the latest build, 5112, of Windows Vista Beta 1.


Installation was straightforward. I set up Windows Vista Beta 1 on a new machine (not VPC). The setup routine will:

  • prompt you for the product key
  • let you choose the installation type (I chose Custom)
  • let you choose the installation partition and the computer name
  • let you perform tasks such as creating, deleting, and formatting partitions

After that, Windows Vista reboots the system once during its install, and it is done. Note that as usual, installing on a PDC requires that the disk image be formatted with NTFS or it will fail.

Figures 1 and 2 shows the two new wallpaper designs in Windows Vista Beta 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Longhorn wallpaper in Windows Vista Beta 1

Figure 2
Figure 2. The Windows XP wallpaper in Vista's beta

The Start menu in Windows Vista Beta 1 is pretty similar to that of the earlier build (5048) as well as Windows XP. It looks as if the new search text box (see Figure 3) just above the Start menu is here to stay; it was present in Build 5048. Using the search text box, you type the name of an executable; a list of matching executables is shown as you type. Beginning users may not find this feature useful, but for power users it should be nifty.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Start menu

Note that I didn't manage to get Aero (the new user interface in Windows Vista) working on my machine. I have heard that Aero is automatically enabled by default if one has the right graphics card. So I presume I lack the graphics card needed to support Aero. If Aero is enabled, you will see translucent windows, and buttons that light up as you move your pointer over them.

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