How green was my Vista?

How green was my Vista?

Summary: Using Vista to underpin a new generation of green PCs is like building a hybrid car out of a Humvee

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Of the many claims made for Vista, its promised credentials for green computing rank with the most fanciful. Yet that's never stopped a marketing department, and so we were treated to just such a proposal last week from the computer reseller PC World.

Trying to create the world's most environmentally friendly PC is in itself an interesting, if curiously complex, idea. Apart from Fujitsu Siemens' Esprimo range, few of the big brands have taken on such a task. Dell and HP have had recycling schemes in place since the late 1990s but haven't done much in the way of creating PCs that use less energy or can be disposed of more easily. Price and the upgrade cycle, rather than sustainability, have always been the main forces shaping PC production.

Closer inspection of PC World's announcement does little to persuade that the usual status quo has shifted at all. Despite a confident opening where the company talks about sustainability, carbon neutrality and recycling, the details of what will happen are missing. The only real commitment in the press release is that the company plans to build its greenest PC around Microsoft Vista.

This is as smart as building a hybrid car around a jet engine. A survey by US IT services company Softchoice last year showed just how power hungry Vista will be. At Windows XP's launch, for example, the minimum CPU requirements were 75 percent greater than those for the operating system it replaced, Windows 2000. Vista's minimum CPU requirements are 243 percent larger than that of XP. Of 113,000 desktops checked from over 400 US organisations, 50 percent of the machines wouldn't be able to meet the basic Vista requirements. Around 97 percent wouldn't be sufficiently high spec to run the "premium" requirements. An operating system that demands wholesale disposal of perfectly functional computers? The only green aspect of that is the colour of anyone naive enough to swallow it.

So why on earth is PC World using this OS as the basis for a green machine, when desktop Linux or any previous Microsoft OS would have been an altogether saner choice? Microsoft has been pushing the new power management aspects of Vista, which it claims should make it easier for users and IT departments to put their PCs to sleep when not in use. With Windows XP it was relatively easy for third-party applications to override a user's PC sleep settings. But with Vista, Microsoft claims that...

Topic: Tech Industry

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • You miss a basic point

    I dont think they are saying "everyone must go out and buy a new machine to be evironmentally friendly" they are saying "when you buy your NEXT pc, which without a doubt you will, it will be more environmentally friendly".

    Missing the basic premise of a statement just makes you a hack with an axe to grind.
  • Thanks for your comment

    Thanks for your in-put (apart from the hack accusation of course - you can keep that bit)

    I realise that PC World may be acting in what it believes is an entirely ethical way - trying to create an environmental alternative platform for future upgrades.

    However, I would really question whether Vista with its large footprint and graphic intensive UI is the best most sensible choice for the green PC of the future. This smacks of a way to popularise Vista than a real attempt to solve the problem of how to create a truly energy efficient and sustainable PC.

    We are prepared to be proved wrong however and are actively seeking an interview with PC World to find out the reasoning behind this move and to set out their strategy more fully.
    Andrew Donoghue
  • against their core interests

    I think the problem here is a fundamental one ... much the same as my response to the Computacenter article earlier.

    i.e. both companies (and others) have a vested interest in increasing hardware churn - that is to say making sure we all have motivation to replace hardware repeatedly (whether the replacement uses less power etc etc provides only a secondary benefit from an environmentally responsible perspective).

    The real goal here mut be to 'reduce' the hardware turnaround - a good example being to adopt a thin client model so that desktop hardware hardly ever need replaced - no volume supplier (such as computacenter or PC World) will want this to happen.
  • Green VISTA

    Building a green computer and then adding a bloated, power hungry
    OS is tatamount to building a 60 MPG car and using a 1000 horsepower motor to power the monster. A simple green PC can be built using thin client technoloy and a lighweight OS, such as Linux.
    Linux is faster and more efficient than anything that Redmond has produced. I can't imagine any PC , running VISTA, being classified
    as "green".
  • anorexic clients

    It is true that a lightweight OS (such as heavily slimmed down linux) can be used to support a thin client-side appliance ... however this implies two important requirements:

    (1) to retain a local CPU, memory, IO and possibly disc which means power, cooling and replacements are still needed;

    (2) the need to maintain this OS to a certain degree at regular intervals.

    The question remains - why do we need this? Adopting technologies such as Sun's SunRay or HP's t5135 means we can negate issues around both of the above ... and deliver whichever operating environment(s) the end users require.