Takeaway: Windows Vista's enhanced functionality and snazzy Aero Glass visual effects will demand steeper hardware requirements for the machines you support. Check this list to make sure you cover all the bases before deciding what Vista versions those machines will be able to run.
Early indications are that Windows Vista will be the most
comprehensive operating system ever produced by Microsoft, and the eye candy
offered by the 3-D Aero Glass graphics are very slick. But enhanced
functionality and graphical improvements come at a price--and that price is
usually high-end hardware. If you plan to take advantage of all that Windows
Vista offers, that's definitely true. The minimum requirements to run
Microsoft's latest flagship will be much steeper than any previous operating
Microsoft has created two distinct hardware classifications
for PC manufacturers to use for their new systems. A PC can be either "Vista
Capable" or "Premium Ready." The standard Vista Capable machines have more scaled
down hardware requirements than the Premium Ready machines. Other than being
cheaper and a bit slower than their beefy Premium Ready siblings, the biggest
difference between the two systems is that Vista Capable machines can't use the
exciting new Aero Glass graphics.
Here are 10 factors to address as you prepare your existing
computers to run Windows Vista. Many of the hardware requirements are
surprisingly easy to meet, despite the demands of the operating system. The
biggest hurdle to run Windows Vista will be the graphics card requirement,
although this requirement is less stringent if you don't plan to use the new
Aero Glass graphics. In general, a majority of existing PCs will be fully
capable of running Windows Vista with standard 2-D graphics. It may not be as
pleasing to the eye, but it's likely to be pleasing to your pocket book.
#1: Analyze your machine for upgrade readiness
Before doing anything else, you should download and run the Windows Upgrade Advisor utility.
This software will examine your computer and provide you with a summary of what
versions of Windows Vista the computer is capable of running. Note that the
Upgrade Advisor only indicates whether or not the PC will run Windows Vista. It
does not indicate which requirements the PC doesn't meet.
#2: Check the CPU
The CPU requirements for Windows Vista are not earth
shattering by any means. To be considered Vista Capable, the computer must have
a CPU of at least 800 MHz. Those that are Premium Ready require a processor of
at least 1 GHz. A large majority of computers that have been sold in recent
years will meet this requirement with ease.
#3: Make sure you have enough memory
Memory is another fairly easy-to-meet hardware requirement
for Windows Vista. To be considered Vista Capable, the PC must have at least
512 MB of RAM. Premium Ready machines must have a minimum of 1 GB of system
RAM. Most modern PCs will either meet this requirement or be capable of a
relatively inexpensive upgrade.
#4: Evaluate your graphics adapter
Those of you looking forward to the new 3-D Aero Glass
graphics will need to make sure that your graphics adapter is DirectX 9
capable. WDDM (a Windows display driver model for writing drivers)
compatibility is also recommended. To be considered Premium Ready, the graphics
adapter must have a minimum of 128 MB of video RAM. Vista Capable cards require
only 64 MB of video RAM. Unless you plan on using the Aero Glass graphics,
there is no reason to upgrade your existing video adapter if it's Vista
#5: Verify that you have sufficient hard drive space
With hard drive capacity constantly increasing, available
space is usually not a major concern. However, you should still be aware of the
minimum space requirements for Windows Vista and take a moment to verify that
your system has enough free space. To install Windows Vista, the hard drive
must be at least 40 GB in size and have a minimum of 15 GB of free space.
#6: Make sure you've got a DVD drive
Windows Vista ships on a DVD, so to install the new
operating system, the computer must have a DVD drive. This is another
requirement that should be fairly easy to meet, since DVD drives have become
commonplace or require only a fairly inexpensive upgrade.
#7: Sort out the versions
Determining which version of Windows Vista to install can be
a bit more complex than it was with previous versions of Windows. Windows Vista
will have five editions:
Vista Home Basic. This version of
provides basic operating system functionality. If you don't need advanced
features, such as Aero Glass, this is the choice for you. Average home users
will choose this version, although stepping up to Windows Vista Home Premium
will offer more functionality.
Vista Home Premium. This version is sort of a cross between Windows XP Home
and Windows XP Professional. It offers much more functionality than the Vista
Home Basic edition and is probably the version that most average to advanced
home users will install.
Vista Business. This version is comparable to Windows XP Professional. It
offers standard business functionality and will be a staple on the corporate
Vista Enterprise. The Vista Enterprise version offers advanced
functionality such as BitLocker Drive Encryption for
laptops, application compatibility tools, and multi-language support.
Vista Ultimate. The Vista Ultimate version combines the best of the home
and business editions into one feature-rich operating system. This version also
includes the Windows Media Center.
#8: Check application compatibility
To make your Windows Vista installation go as smoothly as
possible, you should ensure that your existing applications will run under Vista
before installing it. You can download and run the Application Compatibility Toolkit to help you identify applications that may not run under Windows Vista.
#9: Don't overlook data backups
Backing up your data is one of the most critical steps in
upgrading your operating system. Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked
in the excitement of installing the latest operating system. In addition to
backing up your data, it's best to verify that you have all of the installation
media from your existing software and the appropriate licensing information
before you start the installation.
#10: Remember the notebooks
Notebook computers must meet all of the same hardware
specifications as desktop PCs. The one problem with notebooks, however, is that
If the graphics card isn't compatible, there is little that you can do to
upgrade the system.