20 Questions About Windows Vista

What hardware do I need to support Vista? Is it really safer than XP? How much of the interface was copied from Mac OS X? We've got the answers to all your burning Vista questions, gathered in one convenient package.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 11, 2006

3 Min Read

12. What are the system requirements for Vista, and how do I know if my PC will support it?

Editor's Note: This answer was updated on May 19, 2006, to include newly released information from Microsoft.

If you believe Microsoft, all you'll need to run Vista are a "modern CPU" (essentially a Pentium 4 or equivalent), 512MB of RAM, and "a graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable."

But don't believe Microsoft. The company has a history of significantly lowballing the hardware requirements for its operating systems. For example, it says that the XP Home Edition can be run with 128MB of memory. Don't try that at home, kids.

Gartner estimates that half of corporate PCs won't be able to run Vista -- and you can bet that number is higher for home users, who tend to upgrade less frequently.

For example, the above specifications are for running what Microsoft calls a "Vista Capable" PC, and a Vista Capable PC won't be able to handle all of Vista's advanced features. For those, you'll need a "Vista Premium Ready" PC, which must have a 32- or 64-bit processor running at least as fast as 1GHz, 1GB of RAM, 128MB of graphics memory, a 40GB hard drive (with 15GB free), and a DVD-ROM drive.

You may also need more RAM on the graphics card if you want to run the Vista Aero interface in high resolutions and/or on multiple monitors. Keep in mind that Vista is a graphics-hungry, RAM-eating beast. If possible, get 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB. Look for an AGP or PCI Express graphics adapter that supports DirectX 9 with a Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) developed for Vista, and that has 32-bits-per-pixel color depth and at least 64MB of video memory. Better yet, get 128MB.

If you want to find out if your hardware can handle Vista, Microsoft recently released the beta version of a new tool called the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor that, when run on a Windows XP system, scans the PC and issues a report on its components and how they stack up against Vista's needs. It also recommends which Vista you should buy.

For those who care, here's the official Microsoft line on Vista hardware requirements. Better yet, see our hands-on testing of pre-release versions of Vista on various machines.

13. Will Vista run on Macs?

Mac owners can run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac using the new dual-boot Boot Camp application, which lets them choose between XP and OS X at startup. But will they be able use it to boot into Vista?

At the moment, the answer is yes -- but only if they want to go through a great deal of pain and give up OS X. Messages on the OSx86 Project's Web site claim that users who want to boot into Vista may have to remove OS X.

"When you get to the section where it asks where to actually install Vista...well, here's the main problem," wrote a user identified as "AirmanPika" on the site. "You delete all of them. Even OS X. Yes, this isn't a dual-boot solution (yet anyway) but it does allow Vista to run." Another contributor going by "alexoughton" added that he had installed Vista without removing OS X by deleting the EFI partition that Apple's Boot Camp application creates.

Vista is still in beta, of course, so all this may change when it's finally released. But until then, if you're a Mac owner and you want to use Vista, you might have to kiss OS X goodbye -- which pretty much seems beside the point.

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