Bill Gates: Vista is so secure it could run life support systems.

February 1st, 2007

While on a visit in Romania, where Bill Gates participated in the celebration of 10 years since the Microsoft branch has been running there, and the launch of Vista, Microsoft’s president declared that, with the right amount of administration, the new Vista could run life support systems in hospitals. Here is a fragment from the interview:

Journalist: Let’s imagine a hospital where life support systems are running Vista. Would you trust it with your life?

Bill Gates: Security has been the top priority for Microsoft for quite some time and that’s why I put out a key call for us to focus on that in a very big way over three years ago, and that’s why we’ve made investments like having people from Gecad ( Romanian company ) join on the security action from Microsoft. The answer to your question is that, absolutely, Vista is the most secure operating system we’ve ever done, and if it’s administred properly, absolutely, it can be used to run a hospital or any kind of mission crytical thing. But it’s not as simple as saying “If you use Vista, that happens automatically”. The issues about patient records and who should be able to see them, the issue about setting up a network, so that authorized people can connect up to that hospital network, the issue about having backup power, so that the computer systems can run even if the generators go down. There are a lot of issues to properly set up that system, so that you have the redundancy and the security walls to make sure it fullfils that very crytical function. So we are working with partners to raise their skills to make sure that when get involved in an installation like that they can make it secure. So I feel better about Vista than any other operating system, but there’s a lot of things that need to be done well, and we’re certaintly committed to step up and make sure these security issues are ieasier and better understood.

This could be the truth or it could be one man’s opinion. You can download the above segment of the interview here. (Big thanks to Alex Radescu for the recording)

But the real question that I must ask is this: Would YOU put your life in Vista’s hands? Do you trust it enough?


This would really give a new meaning to the “Blue Screen of Death

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  1. Dragos Gabriel:

    “Bucharest, June 10, 2003 – GeCAD Software has announced a definitive agreement with Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., USA, by which Microsoft will acquire GeCAD’s antivirus technology. Microsoft has stated its intention to integrate GeCAD’s technology into products and services that will help secure customers.”

  2. Devel:

    Real nice pun at the end there. Ouch.

  3. Osha:

    Uhh…Definitly Leopard…Definitly not Vista…

  4. Jack Daniels:

    Check this video of Bill Gates on the John Stewart Show:

  5. Alex:


    Far too optimistic. Further Windows updates including critical ones will prove it.

  6. Cranston Snord:

    I would not trust Vista or any other Microsoft product to run a life support system – but I wish Bill Gates would.

  7. Bill-a-Bong:

    PC Load Liver!? What does that mean!?

  8. cr:

    imho the question was one of stability, not security. bill turned it into an opp to promote the new security work that they’ve done in vista… would i trust windows to stay up 24×7 no crashes, no delays in service to run a life support system??? no way.

  9. The Founder:

    PC Load Liver!? What does that mean!?


  10. Mathieu Carrier:

    Sorry not to bash Microsoft (I never do) but I would not trust any operating system with any life support system and I mean it. Not even Leopard in its not yet in production state. Computers have proven themselves unreliable over the last 50 years and may it be hardware-wise or software-wise I’d rather not depend on it. I guess one could say that redundancy and other concepts could minimize these issues and this one person would be right but this is not in any way OS-related. Sorry.

  11. Yakito:

    OK, I won’t put Vista to run life support systems… but I won’t use OS X either. In fact, does anyone know what does those systems run?

  12. pheret:

    lol, except for the article that talks about the big hole in vista’s speech recognition lol.

    good lord, i don’t want to trust my life to one person, let alone software. gimme a team any day.

  13. Motorcycle Guy:

    Honestly, I would bet the software that is used on top of vista, would be way less likely to be mission critical enough for life support. It seems like programmers become lazier and lazier with each successive os.

  14. opl:

    Isn’t it written in the EULA “the OS shouldn’t be used in nuclear facilities, missile launchers, life critical apps and so on”?
    I didn’t verify (as I won’t install Vista for a while, hope so) but I’ve read this many times in MS EULAs …

    BTW (if the interview transcript is accurate) Bill Gates didn’t say what is written in your title and didn’t answer eaxctly to what the journalist asked.
    Would you trust [life support systems running Vista] with your life?
    is different from
    be used to run a hospital (…) patient records, networks (…)
    He didn’t answer that Vista could/should be used in MRI systems, radiotherapy, monitoring, etc and that he’d trust such systems! Windows is OK for analysis of MRI snaps but is never used in the MRI system itself (there are RTOS or Un*x for these tasks)

    I saw Bill Gates on french TV 2 or 3 days ago; he answered the same way to embarrassing or dumb questions: verbosely but slightly off topic.

  15. Nicholas:

    > Do you trust it enough?

    As long as no one in the Intensive Care Unit whispers …”Delete”

  16. John Griffiths:

    as much as i like the guy, i’d have to walk from that.

    If I had to put my life up to a computer i’d rather it were running Linux or Leopard.

    It’s not the case of Blue Screens, it’s the app freezes which worry me most.

  17. Philip:

    The better question is would Bill Put his own life on Vista hands?

  18. Windows Now:

    It was “PC Load Letter”.

    And Mathieu, those live support machines are currently running an operating system. It just may not be Microsoft’s or Apple’s.

  19. Brandon Paddock:

    Why would a life support system need to be “secure?” I mean – who connects a life support system to the internet?

    If they were dicussing reliability, I’d understand (and agree that Vista would be great in that regard). Of course, you’re not just going to slap together any old PC for a life support system… you’d have the minimum set of components with nothing else running in the background and an extremely well-tested machine and application, hopefully with a good fail-safe.

    But you’d want to do that regardless of what OS / software it was running.

  20. Danny:

    First of all he said hospitals not “life support” systems. And actually XP runs a lot of those now but as pointed out – nothing you’ve heard of actually runs life support systems. The 10 year old screenie is irrelevant either way.

  21. kNox:

    @ Danny

    Actually, he said: ” it can be used to run a hospital or any kind of mission crytical thing “, and the question regarded life support systems, so I wouldn’t say I took it out of context, would you?
    As for the screenshot, I didn’t post it as a novelty, but merely as a picture that we’ve all seen, it somehow represents the standard of stability in Windows, as far as I’m concerned

  22. Petar Smilajkov:

    I’d let it run anything and everything in my life – as it already does ;)


  23. Jacob:

    Then am I to believe that the VISTA EULA
    excludes the usual weasel words that limit liability
    and disavow responsibility for system damage or
    failure? I would like to examine the EULA
    BEFORE I buy VISTA. Is it posted somewhere?

  24. jaminkle:

    we know its “PC Load Letter” you tool he was obviously making a joke in reference to the article

  25. Mike:

    If you still think Windows blue screens at the drop of a hat you obviously haven’t run Windows in, like, forever.

    And, if I’m not mistaken, that bluescreen is from Windows 95 or similar era.

  26. franz:

    Would I put my life in Vista? I don’t know. I haven’t tried installing it yet. But I already bought a copy yesterday. I’m still prepping up my PC to make sure that my Vista experience won’t be frustrating. I already found a Web site ( which has all the Vista drivers that I’ll be needing. I also added 1GB of RAM so that my PC won’t suffer from amnesia when loading applications on Vista.

  27. guy:

    What is crytical?
    This was the work of a journalist?

  28. FuturDreamz:

    “OK, I won’t put Vista to run life support systems… but I won’t use OS X either. In fact, does anyone know what does those systems run?”
    depends, sometimes specific OS, sometimes Linux, there even is a manufacturer that uses a stripped version of Mac OS 7, altough thay provide their own patches.

  29. de2k:

    I work in IT for a large medical center, and I can tell you that while Windows is not used in life support systems, it sure is used for many essential health care purposes. So face it, your health may very well depend on that OS.

    Last Friday, a zero-day virus swept through the facility and took out not just hundreds of workstations but also many servers. It was a mess.

  30. lol:

    1 drip of IV needs to be administered. Cancel or allow?
    1 drip of IV needs to be administered. Cancel or allow?
    1 drip of IV needs to be administered. Cancel or allow?
    1 drip of IV needs to be administered. Cancel or allow?
    1 drip of IV needs to be administered. Cancel or allow?
    1 drip of IV needs to be administered. Cancel or allow?

  31. Joey Bhananas:

    Vista isn’t even secure enough to handle an animated cursor :) The hard part of all this is getting yourself hooked up to the machine — I’m not telling you where the USB plug fits, but it won’t taste too good when it comes out.

    And drivers are always a pain, let’s hope they can find them in time. The worst is when the driver base identifies you as a “lethal injection candidate.”

  32. Dell:

    If Bill Gate’s would trust Vista with his life, then why shouldn’t I also ;-)

  33. splat:

    Like De2k says, alot of systems in hospital use windows already. Not seen any vista in them only xp. :-)

  34. ig88b1:

    Thats not even a vista BSOD. thats from windows 98/95. My vista box has never crashed on me, not once. All you need are updates, a good antivirus, and some common sense.

  35. John Melville:

    As a physician, who has actually run life support systems, the answer is no — of course not.

    There are only two “computers” I deal with that could precipitously kill someone with a non freakish catastrophic failure: the mechanical ventilator and the IV pump.

    Both of these are so stupidly simple that anyone with some technical inclination could build one from old soup cans and duct tape — they don’t need modern operating systems.

    That’s the way I like it. I wouldn’t trust my life to anything with more than 100K lines of code.

  36. Bob:

    While I wouldn’t trust Vista to stay up for days/weeks/months/etc, any operating system can monitor/control life support systems. I don’t think they’re going to have the (life support) system shutdown if/when the OS crashes or not have some kind of manual controls – no failsafes is just bad design.

    That said, no, I wouldn’t trust it either. I wouldn’t trust any of the name brand systems these days. I do trust the nurses and doctors at the facilities, though, to do the right thing in the event of a failure.

  37. AgentCROCODILE:

    So now I guess now even computer viruses are contageous! And FAT32 has a whole new definition! And when the doctor wants to administer medicine, a UAC prompt is triggered! Oh and when there is a cut or infection, download a patch from Microsoft! Also I’m a little worried thanks to the Blue Screen of Death.

    Oops! Forgot that the oxygen mask requires device drivers!

  38. Harry D Bawz:

    are you kidding me, run life support? I can’t even stay connect to balance my checkbook!!

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