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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Hardware Requirements: The Basics

Vista is a demanding operating system that needs a bit of beefcake under the hood. So if your system is more Paris Hilton than Rosie O'Donnell, you'll have to give it a bit more oomph with a couple of upgrades. Even Vista's minimum hardware specifications (as defined by Microsoft) are somewhat ambitious.

First, let's look at what Microsoft recommends; then I'll tell you what hardware you really need to have a good Vista experience.

Microsoft's Minimum Vista Specifications

Microsoft calls its minimum Vista specifications "Vista capable." The CPU on a Vista-capable computer has been around since 2000, but the minimum graphics processor that will work on a Vista-capable computer only came about in 2002. Here are the specs:

  • A single-core 800MHz processor or better, which means a high-end Pentium III
  • 512MB of system memory
  • A graphics processor that is DirectX 9-capable, likely one built since late 2002 or early 2003

Frankly, this setup is a cupcake. If this is what you plan to run Vista on, get ready to spend a lot of time in the AngryDome. It'll drive you crazy. To have even a passable experience with Vista, you're going to need a lot more horsepower under the hood.

Microsoft's Recommended Specifications

Microsoft has dubbed its recommended hardware specifications for Vista as "Vista Premium." These are the minimums that Microsoft says you'll need for a reasonable experience with Vista:

  • 1GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver and a minimum of 128MB of graphics memory (VRAM)
  • 40GB of hard drive capacity, with 15GB free space
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Audio output capability
  • Internet access capability

What that means is a computer that was bought in 2003 or later. Anyone who follows this hardware recommendation is going to be miserable with the results. It's way too bullish, and Microsoft should be ashamed of suggesting such paltry specs.

Andy's "Don't Believe the Hype" Vista Specs

I've run Vista on a variety of older machines, and I have to say if you have a computer that you bought before 2005, you're in for a disappointment, especially if the computer was of a budget variety. And if you get the OS to load on something older, it may run fine now, but as you start loading it with Vista-designed applications, it's going to annoy the cheddar out of you.

For those who want a good experience with Vista and want a couple of years of performance out of the machine before new applications drag it to its knees, I'd recommend at minimum a machine that runs a multicore processor.

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 This Pentium D was the first-generation multicore processor for the consumer. (Photo courtesy of Intel.)

That's either Pentium D, Pentium D Extreme, Core 2 Duo (see Figure 4.2), Core 2 Quad, or AMD multicore equivalent.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 The Core 2 Duo processor from Intel is a processor with two "brains," which will run Vista well. (Photo courtesy of Intel.)

That's the simplest advice I can give you. Most machines of that caliber will have the requisite RAM and video technology to do Vista justice.

To go deeper, here are detailed hardware specifications for what I call "Vista Reasonable":

  • A multicore processor, such as the Pentium D and Core 2 Duo or equivalents. As I write this, the quad-core CPUs are starting to hit the consumer marketplace, so one of those will do fine as well (see Figure 4.3).
    Figure 4.3

    Figure 4.3 The Core 2 Extreme processor from Intel is a quad-core processor that would do Vista justice. (Photo courtesy of Intel.)

  • 1GB of RAM, but I recommend 2GB.
  • DirectX 9-capable video card that offers Vista drivers, with a minimum of 128MB of VRAM. I urge you to do better with 256MB or 512MB of video RAM.
  • 80GB hard drive or better.
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