Do Your Hardware Homework
The most important factor to consider before switching to Windows Vista is your hardware. Can your system handle this huge, new OS? If you’re buying a new PC with Vista preinstalled, someone has already determined that for you, but if you want to upgrade an existing system, do your homework first.
Go to the Windows Vista System Requirements page at Microsoft.com and check out the minimum requirements for Vista. Next, install and run an upgrade utility on your existing system to see if it meets these requirements. Microsoft offers the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor utility. Other options include PCPitstop.com’s Vista Readiness Test or CNET.com’s Vista Upgrade Advisor.
Despite Microsoft’s recommendations, experts agree that for the Premium editions (anything but Home Basic), you should have at least 2 GB of system memory (RAM), rather than the recommended 1 GB; and a hard drive that’s well over 40 GB. You’ll also want a video card that supports DirectX 9 graphics—check the card manufacturer’s web site—and has 256 MB of graphics memory to take full advantage of Vista’s new Aero interface.
In general, if you have an older system or your hardware doesn’t well exceed the minimum requirements, you’ll want to hold off on Vista until you’re ready to buy a new PC. In the meantime, you can go to Microsoft.com and download plenty of Vista components—Windows Desktop Search, Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11 and Windows Defender—to use with XP for free.