Microsoft's first new operating system for five years poses questions for every computer user, whether you're planning to make the switch now, or in several years' time.

This article appears in the March 07 issue of PC Advisor, onsale now in all good newsagents.

Even if you've so far taken no interest in Microsoft's biggest-ever Windows revamp, now is the time for a rethink. Forget the painfully slow development process, numerous delays and regular backtracking on exactly what is and what isn't going to be included with Vista. All that is ancient history now. The OS (operating system) is here, which means you can finally get your hands on the finished, boxed product or a brand-new PC that comes with it preinstalled.

At this stage, I'd wager that you fall into one of two camps. You may feel that Vista has been over hyped, and therefore you're fed up to the back teeth reading about how it will save the world. If so, you've probably already decided against upgrading any time soon. On the other hand, you may have been putting off that purchase of a new system for months in preparation for a shiny new PC that comes preloaded with Vista. Either way, you should read the March 07 issue of PC Advisor before drawing a line under the issue.

This month's 20-page Windows Vista feature tackles the questions that directly affect end users, many of which have been posed by PC Advisor's own readers. There are so many new features that simply knowing a handful of Vista buzzwords – Aero, Sidebar, ReadyBoost, for example – just doesn't do the OS justice.

While the new 3D interface is immediately captivating and will make using Windows a more fun and intuitive experience, everyone knows that when it comes to technology, looks aren't everything. Rather, it's the hidden features of Vista that could make the biggest difference to you.

The overhaul of Windows' search function is a big step forward, while the numerous tweaks to the Security Center will leave most people feeling a lot safer than they did with previous versions of Windows. You'll also find that many of the bundled applications people take for granted with Microsoft's OSes have been upgraded, simplifying day-to-day tasks.

XP: Stick or twist?

But persevere with us if you're still intent on ignoring the Vista hype. Despite the improvements we describe in detail in this month's issue, we're not going to try to convince you that using Vista is a life-changing experience. Many people see no need to upgrade their PC or OS until their current workhorse conks out, and that's a sensible strategy.

If you see your PC purely as a tool and have no desire to keep up with the newest-and-greatest technology available, there's no urgent need to switch to Windows Vista. You can keep your current PC ticking over very nicely for the foreseeable future, particularly if it's an XP system and you follow our tips on how to revitalise the OS.

But unless you see yourself switching to a Mac, or installing Linux, it's likely that you'll become a Windows Vista user over the next few years. It will be the standard OS on new PCs, and many powerful applications set to launch in that timeframe could demand its presence on your computer.

So we're not going to encourage you to take out a bank loan so you can buy a Windows Vista PC now. But we'd recommend bringing forward your planned date for picking up a new system bristling with Vista's new features. In which case, it's time to start swotting up.

Visit PC Advisor's Windows Vista forum.