With three versions of Windows soon to be sharing the market, PC Advisor helps you decide which one to choose.

Choosing an operating system (OS) hasn't always been a difficult decision. In the past, you'd simply pick a ‘business' or ‘home' OS. Your PC would probably come with that OS preinstalled. If it was a business machine, it would almost certainly be loaded with the same OS as other PCs on the network. Unless your business was design-based, a Mac wouldn't come into the equation, while Unix and Linux were for enterprise servers and tech tinkerers.

Windows still reigns supreme, of course, but the Mac has made noticeable inroads into the PC market, while Linux has become a serious alternative for netbook owners. While Microsoft has found users resistant to Vista, XP has had seven years of bedding in and is largely regarded as a capable, stable and usable OS - so why would anyone ditch it?

This, however, ignores the fact that XP had its own detractors when it launched - in fact, Microsoft was forced to hold back on its development of a new web browser in order to address urgent concerns about XP's insecurities.

Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, is on its way, and many of you downloaded the public beta when Microsoft made it available in January.

But there's still no official word on when it will officially launch. Rumours abound that the OS will debut in late autumn, but Microsoft is being cagey on the matter, with different spokespeople offering various timescales. Having received largely positive feedback from industry testers and the public on its beta version, Microsoft would be forgiven for launching Windows 7 as soon as it can, but we've no idea of the problems, such as compatibility issues, that the firm still needs to address.

In the meantime, and despite consumers continuing to snap up the low-cost netbooks that run on it, Microsoft is moving its ever-popular XP OS towards retirement. With the most popular version of Windows soon to exit stage left and a new pretender peeking from behind the curtain, Vista is left uncomfortably stranded centre stage. Does Vista still have time to charm us? Should we wait it out for Windows 7? Or should we revert to trusty old XP? We present the arguments for each course of action in the following pages.

NEXT PAGE: Windows XP forever

  1. Guide to choosing a Windows operating system
  2. Windows XP forever
  3. The future of Windows XP
  4. Windows Vista: could do better
  5. Is Windows 7 the answer?
  6. Windows 7: The solution?
  7. Windows 7's six editions
  8. The new battleground: netbooks
  9. Windows 7 specs checks