There's a lot of bilge being spewed here
I work for a company with about 200 employees scattered over a dozen locations in 6 different states. I'm the IT manager (read sole IT person) for our company. There are probably 50 desktops and a dozen laptops for users, with a half-dozen servers. (email, phone system, data archiving, file server, terminal server, etc). We're running Active Directory and a mix of Windows 2000, 2003, and 2003 64-bit on our servers.
We run a mix of computers, about 40% Vista the rest XP, and one lone 98SE machine that runs a piece of hardware. We use a combination of home-brew software, third-party software, and MS Office. No, we don't use Exchange. :)
Our machines (both Vista *and* XP) take anywhere from 1-2 minutes to go from cold to logged in and ready to use--and we're using mostly $500 and under desktops!
We keep our systems running overnight during the week and shut down unused systems on the weekends (except dispatch which runs 18/7). Overnight all systems get updates downloaded and critical patches applied automatically (OS and AV). Servers download (but don't apply) patches, perform backup, and other housekeeping.
The Vista machines perform defragging and all the other housekeeping needed by the OS. Been slowly replacing XP Pro with Vista Business as machines need replacing. (Powerspec is your friend. Cheap, reliable, and good performance with about a 5-6 year lifespan).
My company's PCs are trouble-free, autopatching has never caused me any problems. Our users tend toward the computer-illiterate end of the scale, if there's a problem I'm the one they come to. That means I hear *every* problem. :) I'm also the person who goes and buys the computer when one is needed.
So all you whiners cry me a river. Your IT departments obviously don't know what they're doing if your systems take 15+ minutes to come up/shut down. There's *no* excuse for that.
For the posters commenting that rolling out patches overnight is lazy--no, it isn't. It's an efficient use of a computer's off-peak time--and my time. It's what Windows (especially Vista) is designed to do.
Couple that with solid hardware, the bare minimum of user education (hey, log off before you go home, 'kay?) a sane group policy (like run as standard user, don't let users install software without approval, clear IE's cache on exit, etc, etc) and a weather eye from yours truly and you get trouble-free computing.
I'm not saying I'm in some Fortune 500, our company is fairly small as corporations go. But since I'm the only IT person needed to keep us functional I'd say my methods work, and work well.
Constant crashes? 15+ minutes from cold start to working? Egads.
Paris, because it's obvious she must be running 99% of Reg readers IT departments...