informa
/
9 MIN READ
Feature

Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Vista: Chapter 2, Installing and Upgrading Windows Vista

This excerpt from Que's comprehensive new reference on Windows Vista walks you through the installation process, whether you're upgrading from XP or doing a clean setup. It also explains how to check whether your hardware is Vista capable, product activation, and multiboot operation.
Windows Vista Hardware Requirements

Let's start with the basics. The principal (and minimal) hardware requirements for running Windows Vista are as follows:

With Windows Vista, Microsoft has defined two very different levels of minimum hardware requirements for the first time. In a sense, though, this is something that most power users were doing on their own. Microsoft defines the levels as Windows Vista Capable and Windows Vista Premium Ready. The Windows Vista Capable computer is one that meets the minimum requirements listed here. Although Windows Vista will run on a computer with these specifications, the experience will be less than optimal compared to running Windows Vista on a computer that meets the requirements of Windows Vista Premium Ready. The Windows Vista Capable hardware requirements are as follows:

  • An 800MHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • A video card capable of at least 800x600 resolution and DirectX9
  • A hard drive that is at least 20GB in total size, with at least 15GB of free space

These are Microsoft's suggested minimums, not necessarily what will provide satisfactory or exceptional performance. Some users have reported installing Vista on lesser machines. Microsoft tries to quote minimum requirements that will provide performance that the average user can live with. Although Microsoft doesn't specifically mention it, you'll also want at least 16MB of video RAM to allow your system to choose 24-bit and 32-bit color depths at 1024x768 resolutions, and a sound card to work with Windows Media Player.

In comparison, the Windows Vista Premium Ready specifications are as follows:

  • A 1GHz (or faster) 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • A minimum of 1GB of RAM
  • A video card that supports DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver and has at least 128MB of graphics memory
  • Video card support for Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel
  • A hard drive that is at least 40GB in total size, with at least 15GB of free space
  • A DVD-ROM drive
  • Audio output capability
  • Internet connectivity for product activation

Tip:
With the plummeting prices of CPUs and RAM these days, there's virtually no reason not to upgrade your CPU and motherboard, or just get a whole new system for Windows Vista. The price wars between Intel and AMD might be brutal on the corporate battlefield, but the consumer is clearly the winner. You'll find 2GHz'3GHz desktop computers with 80GB or larger hard disks and 1GB of RAM for around $500-$750 as of this writing.

Based on what you can get inexpensively these days, you shouldn't have much difficulty purchasing a machine that will run Windows Vista adequately. Despite the rapid de-escalation in prices and apparent exponential increase in computing speed, putting together a machine to run Windows Vista successfully for your needs might not be as easy as you think. Whenever I build a new system, I'm surprised by twists I hadn't considered, new hardware standards I didn't know even existed, and so on. You probably know the story.

Option 1: Using What You've Got: Ensuring Compatibility via the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor

If you have a fairly recent computer that meets the requirements listed earlier and you want to check compatibility before moving ahead with the Windows Vista installation, this is the option you'll likely want to choose. Microsoft has put together the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor for just this purpose. By downloading, installing, and running the Upgrade Advisor, you can create an easy-to-read report that lists all system and device compatibility issues with your current computer. Additionally, and perhaps most useful, the Upgrade Advisor recommends ways for you to resolve any discovered issues. Finally, the Upgrade Advisor helps you choose the correct version of Windows Vista for your needs.

To get started with the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, visit the Upgrade Advisor page at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/upgradeadvisor/ and download the Upgrade Advisor. After you've downloaded the Upgrade Advisor, follow these steps to get it installed and start using it:

Note:
Depending on the software configuration of the computer you are running the Upgrade Advisor on, you may be prompted to install MSXML 6.0 and/or the .NET Framework before you will be able to use the Upgrade Advisor.

  1. Locate the VistaUpgradeAdvisor.msi file and double-click it to start the installation process.
  2. When prompted, click the
  3. Run button to start the installer.
  4. On the opening dialog box of the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor Wizard, click Next to continue.
  5. On the License Agreement dialog box, select I Agree and then click Next to continue.
  6. On the Select Installation Folder dialog box, shown in Figure 2.1, select the location where the Upgrade Advisor should be installed. Additionally, you need to specify who should be able to run the Upgrade Advisor after installation has completed. After making your selections, Click Next to continue.
  7. You have the option to specify where the Upgrade Advisor is installed and who can run it. Figure 2.1
    You have the option to specify where the Upgrade Advisor is installed and who can run it.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  8. On the Confirm Installation dialog box, click Next to start the installation.
  9. On the Installation Complete dialog box, ensure that the Launch Microsoft Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor check box is selected and click Close. The Upgrade Advisor opens, as shown in Figure 2.2.
  10. The Microsoft Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor scans your computer looking for upgrade and compatibility issues. Figure 2.2
    The Microsoft Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor scans your computer looking for upgrade and compatibility issues.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  11. Click the Start Scan link to begin the scan process.
  12. The Upgrade Advisor will spend some time scanning your computer. During this time, you can click on the 1'5 buttons on the bottom of the window, as seen in Figure 2.3, to view information about the different versions of Windows Vista.
  13. You will need to wait a few minutes to allow the Upgrade Advisor to scan your computer. Figure 2.3
    You will need to wait a few minutes to allow the Upgrade Advisor to scan your computer.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  14. When the scan has completed, click the See Details button to continue You can quickly view the details of the scan and what each version of Windows Vista offers as seen in Figure 2.4.
  15. The Microsoft Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor shows you what features are available in each version. Figure 2.4
    The Microsoft Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor shows you what features are available in each version.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  16. Scroll down to the bottom of the window to see what problems the Upgrade Advisor has identified for each version of Windows Vista, as seen in Figure 2.5.
  17. You will be alerted to problems that must be addressed. Figure 2.5
    You will be alerted to problems that must be addressed.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  18. Click the See Details button to view the report details as seen in Figure 2.6. On each tab you can view all items that need to be addressed in order to successfully install Windows Vista.
  19. You will be given a detailed list of items to correct. Figure 2.6
    You will be given a detailed list of items to correct.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  20. On the Task List tab of the report, shown in Figure 2.7, you will get a consolidated listing of all actions you must perform. Be sure to print or save your final report before closing the Upgrade Advisor.
  21. The Task List tab provides a consolidated list of actions that need to be performed. Figure 2.7
    The Task List tab provides a consolidated list of actions that need to be performed.

    (click image for larger view)

    view the image gallery

  22. After you've printed and/or saved the final report, click the Close button at the bottom of the page.

Based on the results of the Upgrade Advisor scan, you should have a good idea of what, if any, issues you'll likely encounter when you install Windows Vista on your existing hardware. Of course, even if some areas of the report don't meet the requirements, such as the system seen in Figure 2.5 that doesn't support live TV, you can still enjoy many of the great new features of Windows Vista.

Tip:
To find general information about Windows Vista, including compatibility, check out http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista.

Option 2: Choosing a Windows Vista Premium Ready PC

It isn't a bad idea to just bite the bullet and shell out for a new machine about once every 2 years. When you upgrade to a new computer, you'll likely notice a significant number of niceties across the board, including quicker response; more inclusive power management so your system uses less power when it's idle (and cuts your utility bills); reduced energy consumption due to lower chip count; more hardware setting options; a faster CD-RW/DVD-RW drive; high-speed ports such as USB 2.0 and FireWire that work with the newest scanners, printers, and drives; faster video display; and so on.

If you have decided to start fresh and purchase new PCs for your personal or corporate arsenal, let me suggest an easier way to choose them than to research each piece separately. Visit the Windows Marketplace website, located at http://www.windowsmarketplace.com/ Content.aspx?ctId=366, to browse all the desktop and portable computers that are either Windows Vista Capable or, better yet, Windows Vista Premium Ready. There's no shortage of systems there, so get ready to do a little head scratching.

Tip:
If you happen to have a PC guaranteed to run Windows XP, chances are good that it will run Windows Vista.

Option 3: Upgrading Your Computer

Don't want to purchase a whole new computer, but your hardware isn't all on the Catalog or the HCL? Or do you have some old, stodgy disk drive, SCSI controller, video adapter, motherboard, or some other piece of gear that you want to upgrade anyway? You're not alone. The PC upgrade business is booming, as evidenced by the pages and pages of ads in the backs of computer rags and the popularity of computer "swap meets," where precious little swapping goes on except that of hardware components for the hard-earned green stuff.

Tip:
If you plan to upgrade, see Scott Mueller's book Upgrading and Repairing PCs (Que, 2006; ISBN 0789734044) for the best (and most complete) information available on how to do the job right the first time. Also be sure to visit http://www.upgradingandrepairingpcs.com for regular updates to this perennial classic.

If you intend to upgrade your existing computer to support an installation of Windows Vista, you must not have any ISA devices installed. Windows Vista does not support ISA peripherals, so it seems that the time of ISA has finally gone by. Additionally, there have been many reports of incompatible motherboards despite all indications to the contrary. In particular the ASUS P5VDC-MX motherboard has been reported by many early testers of Windows Vista to have compatibility issues.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing