What to Know Before You Upgrade
Upgrading your system to run a new operating system isn't a small task, but it's nothing to fear, either. Here's what you should consider as you assess your current system and its capabilities, and get it ready to run the newest version of Windows.
Are there any tools to help me figure out whether my PC is up to the job?
Your first stop should be PC Pitstop's Vista Readiness test, which runs right in your browser (Internet Explorer required) and offers a brief comparison of your system's hardware to Vista's minimum and recommended system requirements.
Microsoft's own Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor provides a more thorough assessment. After you download and install the program, it scans your system and prepares a report analyzing your system's basic hardware compatibility (CPU, memory, and disk space), and detailing whether your installed applications and drivers will work with Vista.
Before You Hit 'OK'
Can I upgrade my existing Windows installation to Windows Vista, or do I have to back up my data and reinstall from scratch?
Whether or not you perform an in-place upgrade (where Vista replaces your existing operating system, but leaves your current files and installed programs in place), you should back up your data first.
You can always perform a clean installation (where you begin by wiping the hard-disk partition and its contents clean). This is often the best choice--first because it may be faster than upgrading (even if you include restoring data files and reinstalling applications), and second because it minimizes problems and conflicts stemming from old applications and drivers. In-place upgrades may be more convenient, but you can't upgrade every existing Windows version in-place. Our feature article "Everything You Need to Know About Windows Vista" includes a chart that lists which versions can be upgraded in place.
Can I back out of an installation?
If you upgrade over a previous version of Windows and the upgrade fails (as several of ours did), Windows Vista will restore your previous version of Windows automatically. Once Vista is installed, though, there is no easy way to return to your previous operating system.
Next: Putting Windows Vista into perspective.