Windows Vista: Common Deployment Questions Answered

This article provides answers to common questions on Windows Vista adoption.


How is Windows Vista different than Windows XP?

Windows Vista® is more secure, easier to deploy, and simpler to manage than Windows® XP. For example, Windows Vista better enables you to deploy restricted user accounts, rather than allowing everyone to sign on to their computers as administrators. Windows Vista was designed to be easier to deploy than Windows XP. The operating system is modularized and its installation is based on imaging technology. On top of that, Microsoft provides new deploy tools that make image development and deployment easier. The primary example is Microsoft Deployment (formerly Business Desktop Deployment), the Microsoft Solution Accelerator that guides customers through all phases of a deployment project. Of course, Windows Vista provides a better customer experience than Windows XP, including features like the new Windows Aero™ user interface, specialized Explorers, and enhanced search capabilities. Additionally, Windows Vista is both hardware and language independent, making it possible for geographically disperse organizations with multiple types of hardware to have a single managed desktop PC image per x32 and x64 hardware platforms.

Is Windows Vista complete?

Microsoft strives to continually improve Windows Vista by providing device driver and application compatibility updates from independent hardware and software vendors. Microsoft also continuously provides operating system updates, including security updates, through Windows Update, Download Center, and private hot fixes. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is another way in which Microsoft will deliver ongoing improvements to customers. Even though Microsoft strives to continuously update Windows Vista, the company plans no major new features in the upcoming service pack.

Should I wait for Service Pack 1?

Customers can take advantage of all that Windows Vista has to offer by evaluating and deploying the operating system now. They do not need to wait for Windows Vista SP1, which includes updates already released through Windows Update. Windows Vista enables higher levels of productivity and mobility than earlier versions of Windows, and it helps lower the cost of ownership. Customers currently evaluating and deploying Windows Vista should continue their evaluation, pilot programs, and deployment on the RTM version of Windows Vista. Microsoft provides the tools and guidance customers need to deploy Windows Vista today and will provide additional guidance, tools, and support for moving to Windows Vista SP1 when Microsoft releases it.

Customers just starting to evaluate Windows Vista should plan a pilot program based on the original release and then move to a pilot or deployment when Windows Vista SP1 becomes available. Customers planning to wait for Windows Vista SP1 before deploying Windows Vista can start compatibility testing on the RTM release of Windows Vista now, and then begin their evaluation and pilot programs on the release candidate of Windows Vista SP1 when it becomes available.

How do I know whether my organization will benefit from Windows Vista?

Most organizations measure benefit in terms of return on investment (ROI). Microsoft provides the Windows Vista Cost and Benefit Estimator to help you estimate the ROI for deploying Windows Vista. It’s at

Intent to Explore

What are the interesting new features?

For end users, Windows Vista provides numerous new and enhanced features that help them communicate better and be more productive. You can explore these features online. For more information, see

Windows Vista helps enterprises improve security and compliance. It also helps enterprises optimize their desktop infrastructure by reducing the cost to deploy, maintain, and manage the operating system. Additionally, Software Assurance customers can take advantage of the Microsoft® Desktop Optimization pack for Software Assurance to further lower the cost and risk of complex infrastructures.

Where can I get an evaluation copy of Windows Vista?

Customers can download a 30-day evaluation virtual hard drive (VHD) from the Microsoft Download Center at Running the VHD requires a virtualization product that supports the VHD format, such as Microsoft Virtual PC. Virtual PC is a free download that’s available from

How hard is it to install Windows Vista?

Windows Vista is easier and faster to install than earlier Windows® versions. After starting the Windows Vista setup program, users answer a few simple questions, such as the destination location and product key. The installation then proceeds automatically.

For installing Windows Vista in a test environment, customers can consider using Microsoft Deployment to further automate installation. In test environments, using Microsoft Deployment is an extremely easy and effective way to customize and automatically install the operating system. For more information about Microsoft Deployment, see

Will Windows Vista run on our organization’s desktop hardware?

Microsoft provides Windows Vista hardware guidance at This guidance includes the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) tool that you can use to determine your organization’s readiness for Windows Vista, including hardware and device driver compatibility.

I like Windows Vista, but how do I convince my organization to evaluate it?

For enterprises, Windows Vista offers three significant cost-saving advantages. First, Windows Vista enables organizations to realize the potential of mobile computing while reducing its complexity and risks. Second, Windows Vista helps organizations address the costs and risks of securing their desktop infrastructure. Third, Windows Vista helps organizations optimize their desktop infrastructure by enabling easier image deployment and maintenance; easing application migration; providing new tools and Group Policies to help better manage settings; and make users more self supportable by providing built-in diagnostics that allow users to resolve many problems without calling the help desk. For more information, see


How do I install Windows Vista?

Windows Vista is easy to install. For detailed installation steps on performing a clean installation or an upgrade, see

Can I dual-boot Windows XP and Windows Vista?

Yes, you can install Windows Vista on a computer that’s already running Windows® XP in a dual-boot configuration. You must install each operating system on its own partition. For step by step instructions, see

Where do I check for new device drivers and updates?

Microsoft delivers device driver and operating system updates through Windows Update. To check for new updates, click System and Maintenance in Control Panel; then, click Windows Update. You can also contact device vendors directly, as described in

How do I verify my software is compatible with Windows Vista?

See the AppReadiness Web site at

The Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0 helps customers create an application inventory from networked computers. It then helps customers rationalize the inventory by weeding out duplicate applications and versions, determining which applications are known to be compatible with Windows Vista, determining which applications have known issues with known solutions, and determining which application shave known issues without solutions. See for more information about using ACT 5.0.

For individual users or when evaluating Windows Vista, customers can use the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to determine their computer’s readiness for Windows Vista. Customers can learn more about it at

How do I learn how to use the new and enhanced Windows Vista features?

Windows Vista includes comprehensive help for all of its features. Click Start, Help and Support. Also, the Windows Vista Web site at has a variety of tutorials and video demos that help customers learn about Windows Vista quickly.

Learn Windows Vista Management

How can I configure multiple computers running Windows Vista uniformly?

The first step in creating a uniform configuration is to plan, build, and deploy common Windows Vista images to each computer in the organization. By deploying customized images, you install the operating system on each computer in a known state, which makes managing computers easier later.

The second step is to maintain control of those computers after deploying a Windows Vista image to them. The most common technology for maintaining control of computer configurations is Group Policy. The Microsoft® Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance provides additional tools that help organizations manage and control desktop computers in complex computing environments.

Can I lock down certain features?

Yes. By using Group Policy, administrators can control access to most Windows Vista features. For example, administrators can prevent users from copying files to external storage. Windows Vista supports over 500 new Group Policy settings. The Windows Vista Group Policy Settings Reference at is a spreadsheet that describes the Group Policies that Windows Vista supports.

How do I manage security?

Managing security is a significantly important task for any organization. To address this need, Microsoft has published the Windows Vista Security Guide. It provides guidance and tools to protect Windows Vista against real-live threats, such as malware and intellectual-property theft. Download the guide from Examples of Windows Vista security features include BitLocker™ Drive Encryption, which provides support for full-volume data encryption, and Windows Defender, which protects computers from certain types of malware.

Can I deploy standard user accounts without making Windows Vista unusable?

Deploying standard user (non-administrator) accounts is the best way to prevent users from accidentally harming their computers’ configurations and prevent users from inadvertently installing malware. Earlier Windows versions made deploying standard user accounts difficult, particularly for mobile users. Many applications would not run correctly and important settings were inaccessible to standard user accounts. Windows Vista addresses these issues. For example, settings that mobile users commonly need to configure do not require elevated privileges, such as changing power management settings or changing the time zone. For example, Windows Vista provides access to mobility features through the Windows Mobility Center, giving mobile users a central place to configure their mobile PCs without requiring administrator privileges.

User Account Control is annoying; how do I disable this feature?

Microsoft discourages customers from disabling User Account Control (UAC). This feature is designed to prevent unapproved operating system changes and program installations. Microsoft provides tools that can help customers identify and make incompatible applications work correctly with UAC. For more information, see the Application Compatibility Toolkit. There are also configuration settings documented at that allow you to change the default prompting behavior. As a last result, you can disable UAC as described in

Learn Vista Deployment

How do I deploy Windows Vista to multiple computers?

The Windows® Automated Installation Kit contains the basic tools and guidance for deployment. Download it from

While the Windows Automated Installation Kit provides the basic deployment tools, Microsoft Deployment provides a complete deployment framework for deploying Windows Vista® to multiple computers. The framework includes guidance, high-level tools, and job aids for deployment. You can download Microsoft Deployment from

Customers can also continue to use third-party deployment tools. Tools from all of the major deployment vendors work with Windows Vista.

Which imaging software should I use?

Windows Vista is already packaged using the Windows Imaging (.wim) file format. You can customize and deploy the image without ever having to capture your own image. The Windows Automated Installation Kit includes ImageX.exe, which you can use to service an existing image or even capture a new image based on a Windows Vista custom installation. Download the Windows Automated Installation Kit at

Customers should consider using Microsoft Deployment to further automate installation. Using Microsoft Deployment is an extremely easy and effective way to customize and automatically install the operating system. For more information about Microsoft Deployment, see Additionally, Microsoft Deployment includes specific guidance for building Windows Vista images in the Image Engineering Feature Team Guide.

How do I handle multiple hardware versions; can I use a single image?

Unlike earlier Windows versions, Windows Vista does not require a separate image for each type of hardware abstraction layer (HAL). However, customers can only install Windows Vista on ACPI-compliant computers. There is a tradeoff between the development effort required to deploy a single image for all departments and computer types and the simplicity of just creating an image for each. So, it’s still common for customers to develop one image for desktop computers and another for laptop computers. The choice really comes down to the imaging strategy that customers choose to use: thin image or thick image. For help choosing an imaging strategy, see

How do I move users’ documents and settings to Windows Vista?

Microsoft provides two migration tools: The best tool for migrating many users’ documents and settings during a large deployment project is the User State Migration Tool (USMT) 3.0. Customers can easily script this tool to capture users’ documents and settings, install Windows Vista, and then restore users’ documents and settings. Also, Microsoft Deployment already provides the scripting framework for using USMT 3.0. Customers can download UMST 3.0 from

The second tool is Windows Easy Transfer. Windows Easy Transfer is an end user tool that comes with Windows Vista. Customers can use this tool to migrate users’ documents and settings when performing individual installations. This tool is also useful to IT professionals performing one-off migrations.

Pilot in IT Group

How can I make Windows Vista coexist peacefully with Windows XP?

Windows® XP and Windows Vista® coexist on the same network. Each operating system handles Roaming User Profiles and Folder Redirection differently, however, so you must take steps to ensure that users roaming from one Windows version to the other work as expected. For more information about user profile interoperability, see Organizations that don’t use roaming user profiles or folder redirection can use both Windows XP and Windows Vista without taking extraordinary steps.

Can I manage Windows XP and Windows Vista using the same Group Policy infrastructure?

Yes. Windows Vista policy templates are XML formatted files, which are different than Windows XP .adm template files. However, you can deploy both policy templates from Group Policy. In order to do so, you must edit GPOs by using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) in Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008. After Service Pack 1, Microsoft will make an out-of-band release of GPMC available for which will run on Windows Vista SP1 with added functionality. Additionally, Windows Server® 2008 will provide native support for Windows Vista policy templates. For more information about Windows Vista policies, see Also see the Windows Vista Security Guide, a Solution Accelerator from Microsoft, which contains predefined GPOs to help save time defining a suitable Group Policy strategy for Windows Vista. It’s at

How do I manage User Account Control on multiple computers running Windows Vista?

User Account Control (UAC) is fully manageable by using Group Policy. For example, you can configure whether UAC prompts users for elevation when installing applications. Microsoft provides detailed information about managing UAC at

Is Windows Vista stable?

The operating system helps users recover from problems without calling the Help Desk. For example, Windows vista includes network diagnostics that help users discover and repair network connections without calling the Help Desk. Through continuous updates that Microsoft publishes via Windows Update and upcoming service packs, Microsoft improves the stability of Windows Vista even more every day.

Pilot in a User Group

Are users more productive with Windows Vista?

Windows Vista helps end users be more productive from the start. From configuring operating-system preferences to taking mobile computers on the road, Windows Vista helps make it easier for users to get things done. Windows Vista has improved search capabilities and new tools to help users manage their work. To see for yourself how Windows Vista improves user productivity, watch the demos at

How do I train users in a pilot group on using Windows Vista?

Before training users in the pilot group, ensure that the IT and Help Desk staff have received proper training for Windows Vista. Microsoft offers a variety of training classes for Windows Vista. For more information, see

Then, make sure that users in the pilot group are aware of changes to the user interface, and teach them how to perform common tasks in Windows Vista. The Enterprise Learning Framework (ELF), a free tool that helps organizations develop a training and communication plan for employees during Windows Vista deployments, is a useful resource for training content. For more information about ELF, see

Will Windows Vista result in increased Help Desk calls?

Microsoft designed Windows Vista to reduce traffic to the Help Desk. The operating system includes features that help users more successfully support themselves. For example, when a system error is caused by an application or device, Windows Vista will automatically attempt to heal itself and avoid interruptions to the user and unnecessary calls to the Help Desk. Another example is the new Startup Repair Tool, which can repair many types of problems that prevent computers from booting.

Do restricted users have problems running applications?

Applications that are designed for Windows Vista and thus compliant with User Account Control use virtualization to enable restricted users to run them without actually writing to protected areas in the file system or the registry. When an application tries to write to a protected area, Windows Vista redirects the operation to a per-user copy of the protected area. This allows users to run applications that change protected files and settings without affecting other users who share the computer.

Does Microsoft provide any guidance for running a Windows Vista pilot?

Running a pilot based on standard IT best practices is the best way to begin a Windows Vista deployment. A pilot helps customers uncover issues and validate the design of their solutions. See for guidance on running a successful pilot program.

Pilot in a Sample Across an Organization

Is Windows Vista better than Windows XP when scaled out to multiple users?

Microsoft designed Windows Vista® to scale well in large, complex desktop infrastructures. Additionally, the Microsoft® Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance helps companies better manage and control Windows Vista in large, complex production environments. Additionally, new deployment tools and technologies for Windows Vista helps make deploying to multiple users easier than with Windows® XP.

Do I begin to have problems with more users deployed (support, security, infrastructure)?

Supporting multiple users running Windows Vista during a pilot requires increased manpower and infrastructure. Evaluate the IT and Help Desk staff’s ability to support the pilot program and either scale the program to fit the staff’s bandwidth or consider adding temporary labor to support the pilot. As well, a large pilot program will require infrastructure for user state migration data, hosting Windows Vista images and distribution shares; and so on. A pilot deployment will also require additional network bandwidth. Microsoft Deployment includes guidance for estimating the additional manpower and infrastructure necessary to deploy Windows Vista. For more information about Microsoft Deployment, see

Can I sell Windows Vista to management for large-scale deployment?

Management typically makes these types of decisions based on business value, often expressed as Return on Investment. They aren’t as interested in the latest cool new features as they are on reducing the cost of owning and operating desktop computers. Microsoft provides tools that help customers estimate business value. See the Windows Vista Cost and Benefit Estimator to help you estimate the ROI for deploying Windows Vista at Additionally, Microsoft provides a summary of key selling points for Windows Vista at

Does Windows Vista help secure mobile computers?

Windows Vista includes security features that help make mobile computers more secure. First, the Windows Firewall protects users’ computers when they use public Internet connections, such as Internet connections in coffee shops, hotels, and so on. Second, BitLocker™ Drive Encryption (BDE) provides whole-volume file encryption. This protects intellectual property in the event of mobile computer theft. BDE is more secure than the Windows XP Encrypting File System feature, since it does encrypt all files on the volume, including applications’ temporary files, and not just chosen files and folders. To learn more about securing mobile computers, see the Data Encryption Toolkit for Mobile PCs available at


Is all my hardware capable of running Windows Vista?

The Windows Vista® Hardware Assessment (WVHA) at is a tool that you can use to determine your organization’s readiness for Windows Vista, including hardware and device driver compatibility. Run this tool when deployment planning to create an inventory of computers and any upgrades required for running Windows Vista.

How do I deploy Windows Vista to large numbers of computers efficiently?

Efficient Windows Vista deploy doesn’t begin with crafting disk images and automating installation. Efficient deployment begins with creating a careful understanding of the customer’s environment followed by planning for a successful outcome. Microsoft Deployment provides a framework for performing this all-important planning step.

Microsoft Deployment also includes a technology framework for developing and deploying custom disk images. The solution provides most of difficult work, allowing customers to focus on business decisions rather than minutia. Microsoft Deployment includes support for Lite Touch Installation, which requires intervention at each desktop computer but no additional infrastructure. It also includes support for Zero Touch Installation, which requires Microsoft® Systems Management Server 2003 or Microsoft® System Center Configuration Manager 2007.

See for more information.

Additionally, third-party deployment tools are another option. Tools from most deployment vendors work with Windows Vista.

How do I establish an infrastructure for keeping Windows Vista updated?

Windows® Server® Update Services (WSUS) enables customers to deploy the latest Microsoft product updates to computers running Windows Vista. By using WSUS, customers can fully manage the distribution of updates that are released through Microsoft Update to computers in their network. For more information about WSUS, see Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 are additional options for updating Windows Vista.

About the Author:

Jerry Honeycutt is a writer, speaker, and technologist. He has written more than 25 books, including Microsoft Windows Desktop Deployment Resource Kit (Microsoft Press, 2004).