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Windows Vista Info

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Windows Vista Info

Windows Vista System Requirements

People seem to be confused as to the system requirements they will need to be able to run Windows Vista.  Partly, I put the blame for a lot of this confusion at Microsoft's doorstep and how the Aero user interface is marketed.  The fact that there are different requirements for the Windows Aero interface compared to core Vista is confusing and Microsoft hasn't done a good job of explaining that Aero is an interface enhancement for Vista and that underneath those snazzy graphics, the core Vista is still the same.

Let's start at the bottom line.  What's the minimum spec PC that will run Windows Vista (what Microsoft calls a "Windows Vista Capable PC"):

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 800MHz
  • 512MB or RAM
  • A graphics system capable of supporting DirectX 9 (SVGA 800x600)
  • 20GB hard drive (with 15GB free - don't worry though, Vista doesn't take up 15GB, it just needs that much room to install!)
  • CD-ROM drive

That's the official spec.  Microsoft claims that Vista, without the Aero interface enhancement, will run on a PC with an 800MHz CPU. 

Concerned about the graphics requirements?  Don't be!  ATI, NVIDIA, Intel, S3 and VIA have listed their Vista-ready gear.  My advice here would be to make sure that you don't buy something that's too close to the bottom of any of these lists if you want good performance, and to buy mid-range gear if you want good performance without having to take out a second mortgage.

Now, like I said, the requirements I've listed above are for what Microsoft calls a "Windows Vista Capable PC".  This is a PC that can run Windows Vista but cannot make use of additional features (that Microsoft calls "premium experiences").  These "premium experiences" include:

  • Windows Aero interface
  • BitLocker Drive Encryption

A PC that supports these "premium experiences" is categorized as a "Windows Vista Premium Ready" PC.  These PCs have higher system requirements:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 1GHz (x86 or x64)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • A GPU that supports DirectX 9 and the following:
    - WDDM (Windows Vista Display Driver Model) Driver
    - 128MB of video RAM
    - Hardware support for Pixel Shader 2.0
    - 32 bits per pixel
  • 40GB hard drive (with 15GB free - again, don't worry though, Vista doesn't take up 15GB, it just needs that much room to install!)
  • A DVD-ROM drive
  • Note that BitLocker Drive Encryption also needs a requires a TPM 1.2 chip or a USB 2.0 flash drive

Still, nothing all that scary there either, is there?  If you're the kind of person who is going to want to upgrade their PC to run Windows Vista then you're unlikely to have lower system requirements, and if you do, then you'll be happy to upgrade.

Now personally I believe that the system requirements that Microsoft has presented are somewhat on the low side (aren't they always) and I've come up with my own "minimum-spec Windows Vista Premium Ready" PC requirements which is a little beefier than that Microsoft recommends:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 2.0GHz (dual-core recommended)
  • 2GB of RAM for x86 (32-bit) systems, 4GB for x64 (64-bit) rigs
  • A GPU that supports DirectX 9 and the following:
    - WDDM (Windows Vista Display Driver Model) Driver
    - 256MB of video RAM
    - Hardware support for Pixel Shader 2.0
    - 32 bits per pixel
  • 100GB SATA hard drive, 50GB free
  • CD/DVD burner

Not only will you be able to run Windows Vista on a system like this, but you'll be able to run it comfortably without your PC struggling - the increased RAM and more powerful CPU will see to that. 

Remember that come January 2007 when Windows Vista is launched, every PC sold by major manufacturers will be capable of running Vista - you just need to make sure that you know whether you want premium features or not.  I'd recommend that you do, because even if you aren't going to be running Aero, that extra power will come in handy.



Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
Last updated: Oct 9th 2004
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