The Great Vista/Mac Showdown: Minimum requirements; Vista isn't bloatware

The Great Vista/Mac Showdown: Minimum requirements; Vista isn't bloatware

Summary: Vista or Mac OS X. What's it going to take to install and run the operating system you choose?

TOPICS: Windows

Vista or Mac OS X. What's it going to take to install and run the operating system you choose?

The knock against Windows has long been that it is bloatware, but on install, Vista system components are only two-thirds the size of Mac OS X components, even with the tablet components installed on the ThinkPad X60. However, the utilities and applications that come with a Windows install to provide device-specific services and support, as well as the bundled software are likely to take much more space than a clean Macintosh installation.

The MacBook Pro arrives with 18.36GB of software preloaded, including the operating system and libraries, along with a bunch of Apple applications for manipulating images and sound, making DVDs and photocomics. Operating system resources, including the 12.9 MB of user files created for the initial user account, take up approximately 11.1GB of hard drive space. On the MacBook Pro, which ships with a 120GB drive (111.47GB is available for use), Both OSes include a full suite of personal information management services.that means I have 90 percent of the drive left for applications and data.

Of course, that percentage of storage will vary with the size of the hard drive. For example, the MacBook Pro can be configured with a 160GB or 200GB drive for an extra $100 or $200, respectively.

Lenovo's ThinkPad X60 arrives with 25.8GB of pre-installed software, but only 7.188GB is associated with the Vista OS. Vista also creates a user file of 91.1MB—seven times the Mac user file size—for the initial user. The initial storage requirements advantage is largely illusory.

Vista is more compact than Mac OS X because many system features are farmed out as applications that can be augmented or replaced by third-party tools, where Apple keeps that functionality in the kernel and libraries.  For example, there is 41 percent more storage taken up at the outset by application software associated with the unique features of the ThinkPad, which ships with a full suite of ThinkVantage utilities and myriad Windows utilities, such as the new Vista Sidebar and Windows Defender security tools.

Since the X60 I am using has a 100GB drive (88.4GB usable), 29 percent of the drive is full at delivery. At this writing, can be configured with drives of up to 120GB ($90). 

What we see here is the contrast between a unitary approach to the hardware and software (Apple's) and an OEM-based approach to hardware (Microsoft's). Apple  bundles very little third-party software at delivery, though notably a Microsoft Office trial is included, a remnant of Microsoft's investment in Apple on Steve Jobs' return in 1997. Microsoft assumes Vista will be augmented extensively, indeed that it must to enable features of individual OEMs' hardware.

Both OSes include a full suite of personal information management services today. When you begin using either of these computers, you'll be able to send and receive email, schedule a meeting on a calendar, put a contact into a database and save your pictures. Windows Mail, which replaces Outlook Express in Vista, is comparable to Apple Mail in functionality. While Ed Bott may think Windows Photo Gallery is a killer feature, I remain unconvinced, though the use of tagging and ratings in the application is an intriguing difference compared to Apple's iPhoto—what remains to be seen is how those tags and ratings are exposed for community use by developers and Windows Live.

What the Mac delivers out of the box is a personal media suite—Photo Booth, Comic Life, Garage Band, iDVD, iMovie HD and iWeb—that the user who wants to publish to the Web and CD or DVD will find very useful and a lot of fun. But for the business user who doesn't need these tools or wants to avoid the distraction of bending one's images in Photo Booth, most of this is dross and could be thrown away, saving 4GB of space, which widens the Mac's lead in compact initial installation.

Some software on the ThinkPad X60 could be thrown away, as well, however much more of these installed tools, notably the Windows Calendaring, Collaboration (which provides a local network meeting capability similar to the Bonjour networking services in Mac OS X), Defender and Journal, among others, are really just placeholders for Office applications that you'll need to add (we'll get to that later). I did free up about 50MB by immediately deleting Google's Desktop, Toolbar and Picasa. Until we find out with certainty that Microsoft has pulled off the trick of making Vista secure, you'll still need a third-party security application. Lenovo plans to continue to bundle Norton Internet Security with its systems.

Notably, Lenovo's ThinkPad Power Management utility has a Vista known-compatibility issue. OEMs are still catching up with Vista, as more than a half Gigabyte of mostly driver updates downloaded and were added to the system files when I first booted this computer. Yes, the Mac downloaded a lot of updates, too, but the amount of storage used declined by about 200MB after those downloads. Vista will get larger as more drivers are released.

A number of readers have suggested I should be doing this comparison with two low-end machines, but that's no fun when you're trying to fit this comparison into the full-time work already on your plate. The MacBook Pro and ThinkPad X60 were chosen to demonstrate strengths of each system and to be part of my daily workflow. Yet we can extrapolate from basic comparisons, such as initial storage requirements, basic differences between the two operating systems and how they'll perform on lower-end systems.

Neither of these OSes should be installed on a system with less than a 100GB drive if you want to get much use out of them. Based on the performance ratings offered by Microsoft, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo or comparable processors are preferable, which places the low-end "optimal" system for Vista or Mac laptops in the $1,200 to $1,400 range today. On the desktop side, one can purchase a Mac Mini or a Vista-equipped PC for as little as $500, but you'll likely spend around $750

Whatever the system, though, the Mac OS X system itself initially will be somewhat larger—between 2GB and 4GB bigger than Vista, depending on the Vista components loaded. But you'll likely get a lot of additional application software with Vista that makes its initial storage consumption greater than Mac OS X. At this rudimentary level, the contest is a wash, unless you are severely constrained in terms of the hard drive space available. These are not systems built for for the low-end, but to be differentiated at the high end of the market, as well.

The real differences between Vista and Mac OS X begin to emerge as old system settings and applications are migrated to the new system, which we'll turn to next. 

Topic: Windows

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  • Disk Space used....

    is not a determination of being bloat ware, or rather, not the only determination. You have to remember OSX comes with every driver one can think of preloaded. This is why Mac users rarely have to install drivers. There is a good 1GB plus of just printer drivers. Also, OSX is fully multilingual, Windows is not. Meaning, with the push of a button I can change from english over to any number of other languages, and everything changes. This means that any OS graphic with text, is changed. By doing a clean install without the language packages, you can save a big chunk of space.

    If you really want to see what is bloat ware, look at how much memory and cpu time they use up.
    • Yes, not the only determining factor

      which is what I said, too. I delete drivers and languages I don't use, but we're
      talking here about the install you get when you pick up a computer from
      retail. Once we've gone through migration and set up, we'll look at the real
      performance of the OSes. For now, there's no real user scenario to base it on,
      just the shipping configurations.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • Removing language resources

        There are some nice free tools to do this for the Mac:

        And you can also do it with the (not free) Tinker Tool:
        tic swayback
      • languages ?

        Sorry this is one of the main reasons to buy a Mac. In my house I use english But when my wife logs in she uses Korean. I don't know how much vista's Versions will cost but Windows XP Korean version retail cost ( anywhere you look) is $300.00 and you cannot switch between languages. This is really bad when The wife has a problem cauz i dont read hers very well. so one up on Mac for this little extra process.
        • Oh?

          I was not aware that the korean version of windows XP containd so many critical components beyond what you can get by opening Regional and Language options in control pannel and setting both regional and non-unicode language options to Korean. Admittedly changing the non-unicode options requires a reboot, but I would have thought that that would handle the language problem in and of itself.
          • WRONG

            Reverend MacFellow
        • Multiple languages under XP?

          So for every language you want to run on Windows XP, you have to buy a separate
          copy of XP, installed on either a separate PC or on another partition on your PC's
          hard drive? Incredible.
          John Sawyer
          • No. of course not.

            XP may not ship with full language packs, but I'm not sure about that. I can change IE for example, to any language I desire and visual studio gives me the option to include globalization into my apps so that I can accomodate one, some or all languages for my app. XP does have multi-culture support (language is not enough for each culture has localized differences in usage of text, symbols etc. ).
    • It's much easier

      to have every driver when the h/w supported by the OS is so limited.

      In the case of Vista (which I have no installed) there are missing drivers, but that's because vendors didn't have drivers out earlier. Look at Creative, as I recall, they didn't update their beta drivers after may of last year....that's no MS's fault.

      As for CPU time, XP/vista uses next to nothing when idle....memory is harder to tell, since it tends to use most ram for caching
  • "Work isn't supposed to be fun."

    Yes, I disliked this expression the first time I heard it as much as you did. Still...

    You wrote:

    "A number of readers have suggested I should be doing this comparison with two low-end machines, but that's no fun when you're trying to fit this comparison into the full-time work already on your plate. The MacBook Pro and ThinkPad X60 were chosen to demonstrate strengths of each system and to be part of my daily workflow. Yet we can extrapolate from basic comparisons, such as initial storage requirements, basic differences between the two operating systems and how they'll perform on lower-end systems."

    Fitting the analysis into your workflow is worthy, but can limit the value of the results for the many readers with neither your computer budget nor your workflow.

    If you were to report the difficult cultural shifts you experience when moving among your homes in New York City, Aspen, and the small Greek island you own, we would hear your travails sympathetically. But without seeing much immediate relevance to our concerns.

    So I think it's an exaggeration to say that your discussion says much about how the operating systems perform on lower end computers... Though, come to think of it, there are no lower end Macs, so maybe relevance not an issue.
    Anton Philidor
    • Sorry, but I have to make this work

      SInce I don't have homes anywhere other than at home and because I do work
      on several projects concurrently, I have to make this experiment work for me,
      so I can manage to make a living whilst writing about it. I invite you to post a
      comparison of the systems you think should be tested, and I'll point with
      enthusiasm to it.

      No low end Macs? What's the$599 Mac Mini? I paid more for an HP AMD 64
      system last August and it won't run Vista as fast as a 1.66GHz Core Duo Mini
      does when Vista is loaded in Parallels.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • The Mac Mini...

        ... is not expected to be one's first and only computer. If that were true, it would come with a monitor and the other ordinary devices.

        I've seen an estimate that someone without legacy devices would have to pay approximately $800 to create a working system.

        That's nothing against it. It meets its intended purpose. Which is to allow Steve Jobs to grant those without enough money to be among his preferred customers some glimpse of what they're missing.

        A subjective response, but his introduction of the Mini seemed to me condescending.

        Still, if that's as low-priced as Mac gets, perhaps a comparison of an $800 Mac to an $800 Dell or HP package would be worthwhile.
        By someone else. Point taken.
        Anton Philidor
    • That's partly true ...

      ... and hardly relevant. There [b]are[/b] low[b][i]er[/i][/b] end Macs that might have
      been applied to better use. The MacBook costs hundreds less than the MacBook
      [b]Pro[/b] used here and there are certainly PC models that would make a good
      comparison. Apple, however, does not cater to the skin-the-penny market far
      below the $1,000 mark. Many people can find a usable system at those prices,
      though quite a few of those will be disappointed with the results.

      Strangely enough, Apple's laptops seem to do well in the marketplace. Up in the
      top few. Not quite the VERY top, but better than most. Look around you when you
      get out among the Road Warriors, at least one in five are using them. Ask Bill
      Gates about all the Apple logos staring back at him at CES ... rumor has it at
      nearly half the audience had one.

      DLMeyer - the Voice of [url=] [b]G.L.Horton's Stage
  • Hm...

    While I have enjoyed playing with the Mac in my wife's classroom, my next computer might be a commodity PC running Gentoo Linux after all.

    I long ago noted that software, data, and CPU cycles tend to expand to consume all available computing resources. The trend appears to be continuing.
    John L. Ries
  • What about RAM & Clockspeed Requirements?

    Am I missing something?

    OSX has been available for 6 years with system requirements that started at a 350
    MHz G3 chip and 128 MB of physical RAM. Vista has been available for 7 days with
    system requirements that start with a 1 GHz chip, and 512 of physical RAM.
    Roughly 4 times the requirements. Tiger demands roughly half these resources.

    Where exactly does "bloat" begin?

    It may not within the purview of this blog to address history, and that's fine. But
    it's also not proper to define what is and isn't bloat. These issues are relative. The
    metrics should include RAM and vRAM, and clock speed requirements. Vista
    requires a modern graphics card for example OSX does not. A larger view gives a
    much better impression of what the OS demands in real time and what is
    subsequently denied to application software as a result. Footprint is just one
    Harry Bardal
    • Good Point

      Good point Harry. Ed Bott left us twisting in the wind on this issue as well. Why the
      huge difference in system requirements? You need at least 1G of RAM and a very
      recent caliber of GPU in order to run Aero Glass, yet I don't see Aero doing much
      more than providing the same transparency effects and drop shadows that OS X
      has always been able to provide. Since 2001.

      You say Vista needs a 1 GHz chip, and 512 of physical RAM, but that still won't
      even give you Aero Glass, yet that Mac you mentioned (350 MHz G3 chip and 128
      MB of physical RAM) did give you all the apparent benefits of Aero.

      So why is Vista's Aero such a resource hog. It seems incredible that just the OS is
      taking as much as any current 3D game to run.
      Len Rooney
    • OSX's requirements are a joke

      An older lady I know had a problem with her printer, and I volunteered to take a look at it for her. She owned an elegant looking IMac with a G4 and 256MB of RAM. It was running OSX 10.2.

      With the exception of a few malware infected Windows machines and a 386SX I installed Win95 on a long time ago, her computer was, without a doubt, [b]the slowest machine[/b] I have even had the displeasure of working with.

      Just opening the Mac equivalent of the "control panel" in Windows took around 10-15 seconds. Every subsequent panel/windows I would open would take a similar amount of time. There was even a large multi-second delay in animating the icon after clicking on something, causing me to wonder if I had actually clicked on anything at all.

      All this computer had ever been used for was email. Obviously a malware infection was highly unlikely, so I can only assume that this machine was this slow the day she took it out of the box.

      To give a comparison, the speed at which this machine ran was probably equivalent to a 350mhz PII with 64MB RAM running Windows XP.

      Looking at the requirements for the latest edition of OSX (G3 Processor/256MB RAM) I can only laugh.
      • Well....

        According to George... it's a valid comparison. :P
      • 10.3 might be the better choice for her....

        Pagan jim
        • 10.3 or a RAM upgrade?

          Depending on whether or not you can put commodity RAM in those IMacs, would it be better (cheaper) to upgrade it's memory or the OS?