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Windows Vista - System Requirements

Windows Vista - System Requirements

According to Microsoft, any PCs that can run all editions of Windows Vista are considered Windows Vista Capable. However, these PCs are only rated to provide the basic experience while Vista highlights like the Windows Aero interface may not work as advertised. Microsoft has the following rather broad system requirements for such a Vista Capable PCs:

  • A modern processor (at least 800MHz)
  • 512MB of system memory
  • A DirectX 9 capable graphics card

Additionally, the Vista Capable PC must have a hard drive with at least 15GB of free space. Those looking to enable all the 'high-end' features in Vista will need to boost the minimum specifications. These systems are known as Windows Vista Premium Ready and Microsoft has the following recommendations for such a system:

  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of system memory
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel
  • 40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space
  • DVD-ROM Drive
  • Audio output capability
  • Internet access capability

For those who are clueless about all this hardware mumbo jumbo, Microsoft has implemented a rather helpful Windows Experience Index that will assess the hardware capabilities of a PC automatically and assign it an aggregate score based on important aspects of PC performance, like the processor, graphics and memory subsystems. The scores for this index presently ranges from 1 to 5.9 though Microsoft intends to increase this score with time as computer hardware is consistently improving. In other words, a score of 5.9 may be the maximum possible now but six months down the road, it could be 7 or even 8. It also means that if your system has a score of 4.0 now, it will remain a 4.0 unless you change the hardware; it will not be adjusted because of technological innovations though like we mentioned, the bar will be raised in the future.

In case you don't know what the scores mean, Microsoft has included this short writeup about what the individual subscores mean, along with the recommended scores your system should have to get decent performance.

One useful feature of this index is that it gives a breakdown of the various subsystems and gives a sub-score for each. The overall Windows Experience Index score is determined by the lowest sub-score so if your system has a underpowered graphics card for example, this weak link can be easily identified by the index and users will know which part of the system needs to be upgraded. We shall be using this tool later to illustrate how this works and to gauge our test systems. Existing users of Windows XP can also download (it is included in all editions of Windows Vista) this Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor tool to examine their systems and return a score based on the Windows Experience Index.

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