Best Bits: Vista And The Hardware Monster, Part 1

Will Vista really require more hardware than the space program? Or can you install it on a computer made mostly of spare parts?
Of course, I needed storage on which to install Vista so I cracked open an old 320GB external USB hard drive, extracted the IDE disk that formed its guts, and added a Pioneer DVR-111D DVD burner so I had a place from which to install Vista.

My graphics card of choice was a medium-level Diamond X1600 (ATI Radeon) with 256MB of memory. It's nothing special but I already have one and it works well. Oh, and I almost forgot. I found an old Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250 (TV tuner and recorder) on a shelf, covered in a thin layer of dust. A can of compressed air cleared that up and it too went into the box — even though it was most definitely pre-Vista in that way that Neanderthal is pre-Cro-Magnon.

All told, not counting the spare parts I had hanging around (left-overs are free, aren't they?), the system cost about $500 to glue together. After all, it was only a Beta edition of Vista Ultimate; I wasn't going to spend good money on it.

Then the grand day arrived and FedEx showed up with my beta copy of Vista. When I cracked open the CD case I discovered it was actually two copies, one 32-bit and one 64-bit. Choices are not good things. They force you to make decisions and that leads to you being wrong by choice and at fault if something does go wrong — rather than wrong by default and therefore blameless.

Thankfully, despite having the two versions, I was also aware of the stunning flying halt that Windows XP 64 had achieved. Except for the 64-bit capable CPU, I wasn't sure about anything having Vista drivers — let alone Vista drivers that would work in a 64-bit environment. There was no real choice. It was the 32-bit version for me.

I powered up my little Frankenputer with its blue fan LEDs, hurriedly opened the DVD drive tray, dropped in the disc, and slid the tray back into the drive. Everything was locked and loaded. Would Vista fire up? Stay tuned for Part 2.

The semi-weekly Best Bits column surveys the soft underbelly of PC hardware from the unique viewpoint of Bill O'Brien, who can be blamed for more than 2,000 articles on computers and technology topics. With his writing partner, Alice Hill, Bill co-authored "The Hard Edge," the longest-running (1992 to 2004) technology column penned by a techno duo. For more, go to