Is your computer ready for Microsoft Vista?

Washington, April 12:

Microsoft’s Vista operating system, the successor to Windows XP, may be delayed until the start of 2007 but that doesn’t mean that computer owners and buyers can afford to ignore it.

Although Microsoft has officially claimed that the new system will work with just about any computer you buy today, some of the most compelling features of Vista will require more.

Take the CPU. Today’s high-end single core processors are fine for Windows XP. But Vista includes capabilities for high-end gaming and video editing as well as an interface that will demand every bit of performance from your hardware. That’s why you need to look at dual-core systems when planning for the future.

Both AMD and Intel offer dual core-processors, which pack the brains of two processors into one. These new chips multitask far better than any previous generation of processors. And multitasking prowess is what you’ll need with Vista.

As for system memory, not only will you want more of it with Microsoft Vista, but you should pay attention to the type of memory you purchase, as well. Microsoft’s recommended 512 MB of RAM for Vista is intended to get your PC through a ‘typical’ application workload.

That probably means the operating system and one additional application, as well as some small tasks running in the background. Even today’s Windows XP performs far better with 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM. Preview testers of Vista are finding one GB to two GB a virtual requirement.

In addition to having the right amount of RAM, make sure that any PC you purchase has RAM that is fast enough to match the maximum ‘bus speed’ offered by your computer. Many manufacturers today advertise the bus speed, but they fail to indicate whether the RAM supplied matches the speed of the bus. As for the hard drive, Microsoft provides no exact size recommendation. You can be sure, though, that Vista will require more than the 1.5 GB of hard drive space that XP needs since every operating system Microsoft has ever made has required more space than last.

Beyond the amount of sp-ace required by the operating system, however, Microsoft recommends that you concentrate on the speed of your hard drive and expandability.

In that regard, the software maker recommends that your hard drive use the SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) interface, which speeds the transfer of data within the system, and that it come with a minimum of 8 MB of cache on the drive itself. Cache is memory that is used to store recently-retrieved data.

And what about graphics? The most striking aspect of Vista visually is its new AERO interface. AERO provides impressive visual effects, including lots of transparent elements to make it more difficult to actually lose windows in the background.

If you want to take full advantage of AERO, your graphics subsystem will have to meet some stringent requirements. Among these is a dedicated graphics card with DirectX 9 support and at least 64 MB of graphics card memory. If your current graphics card does not meet these requirements, you’ll still be able to run Vista but you’ll miss out on some of the eye candy.

In addition to these major subcomponent considerations, your Vista PC or notebook should have the usual array of cutting-edge parts, including a DVD writer, a 100 Mbps network card, and the latest wireless capability.