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On Aug. 25, Microsoft released to testers Vista Build 5536, the latest in a long line of sneak peeks at Microsoft’s forthcoming desktop operating system. eWEEK Labs’ tests of Build 5536 show that the operating system is gaining speed and losing quirks as its release nears.

We downloaded the new build, which is marked “Pre-RC1,” and installed the code on a Intel Pentium 4-based system with 1GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card. (For those of you keeping score, our test rig rated a 3.1 on Vista’s Windows Experience Index.)

Right off the bat, we were pleased by the speedup we experienced in Vista’s installation time. It took about 30 minutes for Vista to install, compared to about an hour in our tests of previous builds.

Once Vista was up and running, we heeded the familiar Windows Security Center call to acquire and configure anti-virus software by installing the same Trend Micro anti-virus for Vista beta that we’d been led to while trying out Vista Build 5472.

We didn’t encounter the same hang-ups when downloading and installing the software that we experienced with Build 5472. However, we were displeased to find that the Trend Micro app also replaced Vista’s built-in firewall, so we uninstalled the software.

In the message that Microsoft sent out to Build 5536 testers, the Vista development team asked testers to keep an eye out for bugs that would keep them from using Vista as their primary operating system environment. In the relatively brief time we spent tooling around in Build 5536, we discovered no such bugs.

Vista’s new Aero Glass desktop environment performed without the momentary blackouts and other flakiness that we’ve experienced with earlier builds, and the system’s User Account Control system of tightened permissions management didn’t, for the most part, annoy us or really get in our way.

Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

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