What is an Operating System? A good answer would be “A set of programs that provide a GUI to interact with various devices in a computer”. This definition would hold good until a few years back, when an operating system is just a few icons and menus that you see when you switch on your computer. Operating systems provided file and device management using a Basic GUI.
But with the development of computers, operating systems also evolved a lot. From simple file and device management solution, modern day operating systems should be stable and secure the data stored on a computer. The data stored on a computer can be anything from music, movies and photos to data that you have generated and stored in different files. It takes only a small virus, a power surge or a device failure to destroy data.
Today’s operating systems try to anticipate such scenarios and issue warning messages and take pro-active steps to minimize the data loss. I would talk about Windows XP and Windows Vista because 80% of computers run on Windows Operating system and Windows Vista is an upgrade to Windows XP.
Windows XP has been around for 8 years now and in considered one of the best operating systems released by Microsoft. When Windows XP was released it was considered a resource hogger. Windows XP required 128 MB of RAM to run smoothly. And there are many complaints from long installation times to frequent crashes. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 and things changed. Most of the security holes are fixed and Windows XP became stable. Windows XP was built to give a better user experience by easy installation and plug & play capability.
After a few years with XP, internet threats have grown and Microsoft started bundling Anti-spyware products along with Windows XP. This didn’t help much, and since Windows XP is the most used, hackers tried to find ways to break into Windows XP systems. This triggered the need for a more secure operating system and there came Windows Vista into picture.
Some of the problems with Windows XP are that password protection is not secure enough, users can use Bootable live CD’s like miniPE or Road Starter to bypass Passwords and access the file system. The other major issue is Internet Explorer 6 which is the number one target for hackers. By exploiting the security homes in IE6 hackers can take control of IE and hence the Windows XP box. And last but not least, when you try to search for a file under Windows XP, you have a terribly slow search tool.
Now its Windows Vista which is structurally more robust and is much more visually appealing. Vista comes with Encrypted File System (EFS) which takes care of file level security. Vista allows one to encode an entire partition or hard disk with just a few clicks. In Windows Vista Internet Explorer runs with restricted permission. If a malicious piece of code enters the system through the browser it cannot do much harm, since Vista simply refuses to permit to run it. File Searching has improved a lot with Vista.
But 2 of the night mares with Vista are getting your old hardware running and the annoying popup prompting you to allow or block any action you have performed.
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