Windows Vista was released generally on January 30, 2007. Vista is now in extended support which will expire April 10, 2017. Service pack 2 improves the performance of Vista to the same level as Windows 7.
Windows Vista will install on a machine with 512 MB of RAM and a 1 GHz processor. Realistically a much better outcome will be seen with 2 GB or more memory. A faster multi-core CPU will also be a big benefit.
We have more than a few old games that do not work with Vista.
Microsoft actually began working on Vista back in 2001.Vista was originally intended for release in 2003 but the following version and Vista were merged which is the reason for the longer development cycle.
Vista introduced a new hardware driver model than caused many early adopters to complain over the lack of drivers. Today this is much less of a problem. Vista now has become the least common denominator for devices for Vista, 7 and 8. This is due to the new Windows Device Driver Model in use.
Today already many games have dropped supporting Windows XP. EA for example has moved to drop XP with their new game engines.
Most games that work with XP will work fine with Vista. The Avalon graphics system is new, and the old GDI+ run on top. Avalon now uses the GPU natively and it requires a shader 2 class card to operate properly.
DirectX 10 and shader model 4 are the new APIs for game developers. Quickly new titles emerged to support the new enhancements.
Vista comes with a 32-bit and a 64-bit disk in the distribution. Using the 64-bit disk will be advantageous as the memory support is much better.
Vista is now the least common denominator for games. Vista supports shader model 4 and DirectX 10. A single GTX 260 is a shader 4 class card and it remains viable for gaming.
Vista will work with an older PCI Express video card, but its prudent to purchase a new gaming video card when performance lags unacceptably.
So far there have been very few games released that support 64-bit natively. This is mainly due to the game using the video card to operate the game. As games become more demanding however the demand is for more GPU performance.
Using a 64-bit version of Windows does provide for better performance. All games that work with the 32-bit version work fine with the 64-bit version.
Many modern gaming video cards now are equipped with 2 GB or more VRAM. Such cards will not work with a 32-bit operating system at all. The trend for video cards is towards more VRAM so a 64-bit platform is obvious.
Shortly after Microsoft released Windows 7 SP1, the released a platform update for Vista users. This includes upgrading Vista to DirectX 11. The platform update is an optional choice on Windows update.