But more than that, another Microsoft tool, the free Vista Hardware Assessment tool, had inventoried users' applications, so he had a complete inventory before reimaging the PCs; plus, it verified hardware compatibility. That last feature let Evans figure out which existing PCs could be retained, saving $20,000 in planned, new PC costs. In most cases, those salvageable PCs needed just a memory boost to 2GB to run Vista.
With Vista now installed on all PCs, Evans has seen a marked decrease in spyware and adware infections. "Before Vista, we got one every other month. In the year since we deployed Vista, we've had none," he says. "We no longer need to use Spybot or Ad-Aware." He credits Vista's User Account Control feature, which makes users approve every potential installation of software, whether from applications or Web pages. "UAC tells the user what's going to happen before they do it," he observes.
Although some people have complained that UAC is overzealous and desensitizes users to threats by its constant "are you sure?" messages, Evans says Collegiate Housing countered that behavior through "social education," conveying that clicking OK by default was not the right response. Still, he knows that not everyone responds in that desired way. "I'm sure some users do turn it off — I do that, since sometimes it can be an annoyance. Microsoft did go a bit overboard," Evans says. That's why he is looking for a tool that would automatically approve known applications, so users only get challenged on unusual activity.
Evans says that Vista has reduced calls to the support desk, mostly because its UI is more consistent than XP's. Some installations of XP, for example, have a Start menu option called Printers, while others have an option called Printers & Faxes. These slight differences in menu terms confuse users when the support desk is walking them through a function, Evans notes. He adds that Vista is much better at finding missing drivers from the Web and installing them automatically, reducing another source of support calls.
Another advantage of Vista is that it appears to be more stable. Since deploying Vista, Evans has not seen any occurrence of "Windows rot" — the slow decomposition of the Windows registry that causes it to "forget" settings and even what modules an application needs to be loaded.
To be fair, Gartner Analyst Michael Silver notes that Windows rot usually takes three years to set in, so it's too soon to know whether Vista has cured this particular ailment. Nonetheless, Evans appears to have made up his mind, offering a decidedly upbeat summation of his Vista upgrade experience. "Security, stability, and ease of deployment — that's what I'm getting," he says.