Here's the question on my mind today:  if you're considering buying a new PC, will you wait to buy a new PC with Vista preinstalled, or would you buy a new Windows XP machine this year that's Vista ready?

And if you get a new PC between now and Christmas with the notion of upgrading, when would you upgrade: when Vista launches or later?

A few months ago, I noted that many popular configurations we see today on general purpose PCs meet the minimum general hardware requirements for Windows Vista, which as noted on the wiki includes...

  • CPU: Intel x86-compatible 32-bit or x64-compatible 64-bit microprocessor (Dual Core systems will be supported)
  • Motherboard: ACPI-compatible firmware is required
  • Memory: At least 512 megabytes
  • Graphics Card: A DirectX 9–compatible GPU that is capable of supporting Windows Vista, with 64 MB of graphics memory
  • Hard Drive space: At least 1.5 gigabytes

A somewhat lower bar than originally reported in the press

Today the Seattle Times reported the an overview of the Windows Vista Capable PCs program. The program to help make the transition from Windows XP computers to Vista is noted on the Microsoft Partner site:

"Windows Vista Capable PCs must meet all the criteria for the "Designed for Windows XP 32-bit or 64-bit" logo. In addition, the PCs require a combination of essential hardware that will define sufficient overall Windows Vista performance — a triumvirate of CPU plus memory plus graphics. PCs should have a modern CPU which includes at least 512 megabytes of memory, and a DirectX 9 class graphics processor."

Vendors such as ATI Technology and Nvidia have posted lists of Windows Vista Ready parts and cards. I'll guess that consumers will see similar notices from PC OEMs in the not so distant future: PC Magazine reported on some Vista-ready PCs last month, and Dell's just announced their new Core Duo notebooks that will offer an upgrade path to Windows Vista:

"Dell Product Manager Robert Thompson said some of the notebooks would come with Windows Vista Ready logos that would indicate they would be upgradable to the upcoming version of Microsoft’s operating system. He said the upgrade cost had not yet been set."

"OK... That's all great but which PC should buy?"

At home, the good news is that most of the PCs used by our family meet the minimum bar. Our children's PC is equipped with an older embedded 32MB graphics chip, so that one may remain a Windows XP machine (especially as it runs all of their games and educational software, much in Windows 98 compatibility mode). I'm often asked by friends, family and people at the bus stop this very question, and I've answered it more often than ususal since the release schedule for Vista was announced. My answer is always the same:

  • First, upgrade what you have. Make the most of what you have today by upgradng your PC, either by adding more RAM, a new (or second) hard disc drive or video card. People are amazed just how easy it can be to upgrade PCs manufactured in the last couple of years.
  • Later, buy the most PC for your money. Once you decide to move your old machine to the family room, buy the most PC you can that fits your budget, and in the right time frame. Sometimes it depends on when you plan on bringing a new PC home. 

For us, I would spec any new machine with a minimum dual core 2.80GHz processor, 1GB high speed SDRAM, an 80GB HDD, a multi-format CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) and a 256MB graphics card. Good news is that system today is under $700. (I also found current deals on the web offering systems that meet the minimum bar for Windows Vista for under $500.) Add another $100 to upgrade to a larger LCD monitor, at least 19".

Better news: the way component pricing moves, seasonal discounts & incentives are offered by manufacturers and Moore's Law, I'll most likely be able to get an even more powerful computer with >3GHz processor, larger HDD and more RAM for the same investment. Or less. 

More info:

For more info, check out the Windows Vista enterprise hardware guidance page which includes a link to the Windows Vista Capable PC Hardware Guidelines. And you can also see the various versions of Windows Vista on the Vista site:

  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Vista Enterprise
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
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