Vista Minimum System Requirements Revealed

After months of being noncommittal, Microsoft Thursday finally published the system requirements for Windows Vista, and set up a Web site to help users plan ahead for Vista’s availability early next year.

The company also announced a logo labeling program so that users can be sure they’re getting a new Windows XP-based computer that’s capable of running Vista between now and when Vista itself is available.

Microsoft has a complicated set of package offerings planned for Vista. (See “Microsoft Reveals Vista Packaging,” February 27, 2006.)

To help lower user confusion, Microsoft announced the availability of Windows Vista Capable PCs and the forthcoming availability of Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs. These logos are meant by the PC maker and Microsoft to indicate to users which editions of Vista they can be sure will run on them.

At the same time, a group of major PC vendors announced they are currently shipping Windows XP computers that meet Microsoft’s new Vista Capable program, including Acer, Dell , Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, NEC, Sony and Toshiba.

Through the logo program, Windows XP-based PCs are assured by Microsoft and the PC vendors that those PCs are certified as powerful enough to run Windows Vista.

For minimum functionality, Vista requires at least an 800 MHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 20 GB hard drive with 15 GB of free space, and SVGA graphics. For a “Vista Capable” PC, add a DirectX 9-capable graphics processor.

But to be able to run the Aero user interface, with all the cool transparencies and 3D graphics, you’ll need a Vista Capable PC that either sports a “Vista Premium Ready” logo, or that meets the minimum specifications for Premium Ready designation.

To qualify as Premium Ready, a PC needs a minimum of a 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor, 1 GB of system memory, and a graphics processor that runs Windows Aero2 with 128 MB of graphics memory. In addition, you’ll need 40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space, internal or external DVD-ROM Drive3, and audio output capability. Does it need to be said that it also requires Internet access?

Additionally, some features available in specific premium editions, such as the ability to watch and record live TV, may require additional hardware.

In order to help users navigate the matrix of Vista editions and PC capabilities, Microsoft will provide an automated compatibility testing tool. Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor beta will be a downloadable web application that helps Windows XP users to identify which version of Windows Vista meets their needs, while checking if their PCs are ready for an upgrade to Windows Vista and which features will be available on their PC.

It will also generate a report that explains which version of Windows Vista to buy and provides suggestions about what, if any, hardware updates may be necessary to install and run the appropriate edition and features of Windows Vista.

Needless to say, the technology only runs on computers with editions of Windows XP or a beta edition of Windows Vista installed. When the Advisor reaches the beta test stage, it will be available for download here.

The Advisor, specifications, an FAQ, and lists of vendors shipping Vista Capable PCs are available on a new site that Microsoft has put together to help answer users’ questions, and bears the moniker of Get Ready, located here.

Further information and more complete specifications can be found here.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.


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