Latency

These are just my observations. There is much I don't know. Many years ago I had voyetra/ turtle beach project studio, which included a sound card with 2 kurzweil wav synths on it. It was windows 98, and i was able to record and mix midi and audio (16-20 bit) and then convert midi tracks to audio.

Actually since then I have had latency problems. I bought mbox2 and protools, but could never install it correctly because of serious bugs in the software (it seems). My current setup that ive used with some good results is XP with Creative x-fi card. I would like to know your thoughts on the statements below.

1. prior to vista, for pci sound cards or internal sound cards, xp would process sound through the cpu, so you could monitor the computer output with low latency and consequently overdub tracks with low latency.

2. from vista on, including windows 7 and 8.1, the sound is processed through software (direct sound)? so that monitoring inputs is impossible without echoey latency and timing problems .

3. When my hard drive died on my recording pc (xp) I upgraded to windows 7 with the EXACT software/hardware config that worked in XP, but had to revert back to XP, because of latency problems.

4. Macbook? I recently set up a macbook with protools 9 , (core 2 duo - same chip as my xp setup) and was amazed to detect an almost unusable latency/monitoring problem too. I had been Thinking that I probably should have used macs all along, but maybe they have the same problem? I am so confused about this. It seems like NO recording/overdubbing can be going on with out a special sound card or device like MBOX 2 or something that uses its own drivers for i/o??

So taking the above into consideration - is any of that wrong?

Soooo..
1. What is the minimal low latency setup for multi track computer recording?
2. Garage band for mac.. dont people use that? How? if there is a latency problem ... how do they multi track?

Enlighten me