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Windows Vista - Hardware and Compatibility Issues

By Jonathan Bray



  • Recommended by TR
Windows Vista


Our Score:


Upgrade fiends need not worry, but these demands are going to make anyone with an ageing PC (two years plus, I'd say) and even many relatively new budget laptops think twice about moving to Vista. You may well have to spend an extra £75-odd on more memory and a new graphics card on top of the cost of the software. And that's if you go cheap.

Hardware and Compatibility Issues

It's a time-honoured tradition that any Microsoft 'upgrade', along with the increase in features, will also require an accompanying hardware upgrade. Vista is no different here, but how much of an upgrade are you going to need?

First, let's take a look at Microsoft's recommended system requirements for Vista (these are not the absolute minimum requirements):

• 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

• 512 MB of system memory

• 20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space

• Support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32 MB of graphics memory

• DVD-ROM drive

• Audio Output

• Internet access

Doesn't look to bad, does it? But before you click your heels with glee and run off to place a pre-order for Vista Home Premium, hold on. This list, unsurprisingly, doesn't tell the whole story. The above list, though not the barest of bare minimums, is what you need to run the most basic version of Microsoft's new operating systems – Vista Basic – which is, indeed, very basic. Instead, what you really need to run Vista - Home Premium, Ultimate, Business and Enterprise Versions – is ...

• 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

• 1 GB of system memory

• 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space

• Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:

• WDDM Driver

• 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)

• Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware

• 32 bits per pixel

• DVD-ROM drive

• Audio Output

• Internet access

The key thing to pay attention to here is the memory requirement. Though even Vista Ultimate will get by on the minimum 512MB of RAM, you won't be able to benefit from all of the interface's whizz-bang features. Some, including Flip 3D and the live Alt-Tab and taskbar previews are memory intensive and simply can't be accessed if you don't have enough memory installed. The system is still snappy and responsive running on 1GB of memory, while Vista's new Readyboost technology allows you to use compatible USB memory keys and flash memory cards to bolster performance further, but, as ever, if you can afford more it's probably a good idea to invest.

And it doesn't stop there. Since so much in the Vista upgrade is focused on the visual experience, your display hardware is going to need to be up to spec too. Though you can run it on lower resolution displays, to take full advantage I'd recommend at least 1,280 x 1,024 to take full advantage of all of that lovely eye candy. Your video card is going to have to have a bit more horsepower to spare than it did with XP as well – you'll need at the very least 128MB of memory and it should support DirectX 9 too.

Paul Tasker

July 19, 2008, 5:55 am

Initially I wasn't that impressed with vista premium. I thought it slower to use than XP and more resource hungry. But it learns how you use it and now my system runs really quickly. The opposite of XP which slowed to a crawl the longer you used it. Vista service pack 1 seemed to make a huge difference and now if I use a computer with XP it looks and feels dated. The sidebar is great, I have many weather, monitoring and photo slideshow gadgets and its 100% stable. Not once has it crashed, rebooted, or frozen in 6 months of use!!!! I'd be lucky to get through a week with XP!

100% recommended so long as your computers up to it. I'd recommend 2GB memory, makes a big difference.


January 4, 2009, 7:57 pm

So after all that has happened with Vista, any regrets/thoughts TR?


September 16, 2009, 5:09 am

I am using computer since 1994. with DOS. then Microsoft introduced windows 95. open a new ear for PC. then best ever version 98-SE. Windows ME. Windows NT. Windows 2000. finally windows XP with its server pack 2..the best ever WINDOW till today !

I used windows Vista Ultimate for two months but fed up with that. I am using core 2 duo 2.56 with 3'GB RAM. Intel desktop board DG31 PR. but Ultimate gave me worst performance ever. I can not download more then 50 MB software with my broadband 2mbps speed. always gave me problem. very slow can not open more then two programs together its hangs a lot. disconnect many times.

but i believe that its having best security features no doubt its only for multimedia users. that means you can do small amount of work on that. not very graphical work or hard core work with required more speed support. still I prefer to run windows xp with service pack 2. support all software !

mostly I am using chess playing software. that software s required to cop up with operating system and processor to give its best to search best result out of millions games. like GM Kasparove played with deep blue of IBM.

I think Vista's era will come to an end with windows 7. lets hope for the best !

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