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Windows Vista is Microsoft's new operating system meant to replace Windows XP. This software has an optional animated desktop with memory-intensive graphics. In addition, the large amount of software running in the background make speed and memory a serious issue if you are considering making the upgrade.

To Vista or Not To Vista? The answer depends the age of your current system and what version of the Windows operating system you're running currently. Even more important, is whether or not you're satisfied with your current computer. Is it fast enough? Are your programs running without problems? Are you a casual or power user?

For those of you who are still using Windows 98 and ME, Microsoft ended their support for these operating systems in July 2006 and will no longer be providing updates or security fixes for them. This will eventually cause major problems for those using these operating systems. Support for Windows XP will still be available for the next seven years. Hardware and software manufacturers will require you have the latest operating system, or at least Windows XP, to take advantage of their products.

If you are running Windows 98 or ME, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to upgrade your programs or hardware to the degree required to run Windows Vista. In this case, the best course of action is purchase a new computer with Windows Vista already installed.

Upgrading an existing system to Windows Vista is NOT necessary if you:

  • 1. Own a relatively new computer and are satisfied with its performance
  • 2. You are running the most current version of Windows XP
  • 3. Have installed the necessary service patches and/or have allowed Window's automatic upgrades to occur

However, if you are running a recent operating system on a fairly new computer and decide you want to upgrade, the key question you will need to answer is whether or not Vista will work on your present hardware. To help you answer this question, Microsoft has created a download called Vista Upgrade Adviser which will analyze your hardware and software and recommend the changes Microsoft claims you need to make to run Vista smoothly. You should at least test for compatibility with the Vista Home Premium version in mind. It contains most of the features you will need. If you want all the bells and whistles, then the more expensive Vista Ultimate is the version you want. Even though the price is attractively low, don't bother with the upgrade to Vista Basic. Its lack of features is disappointing.

Now that I've mentioned the Vista Upgrade Adviser, let's compare a typical recommendation it might make with my more realistic solution:

CategoryMicrosoft recommendsJeff recommends
System memory (RAM).5 - 1 gigabyte2 gigabytes
Processor1 GHz 32-bit (x86)32-bit Core 2 Duo
Video memory128 megabytes256 megabytes
Hard disk space 40 gigabytesAt least 100 gigabytes
Optical driveDVD-ROM (read only)DVD writer (read/write)

These are only a few of the obstacles you will encounter. Many programs that ran in XP will not run in Vista. Quite a few peripherals like cameras, printers and scanners will not run in Vista due to a lack of updated drivers.

If you are currently happy with Windows XP then don't rush into a Vista upgrade. You can continue working for many years to come. If you have older hardware with an older operating system, the most painless path to Vista is to purchase a new computer with Vista already installed.

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