Tips & Tweaks: Is Your PC Ready for Vista?

Remember the hardware hassles you went through when upgrading to Windows XP? Hah, that was nothing! BetaNews said half the PCs in use today won't be adequately equipped for Microsoft Vista.

Captain Bill's Microsofties have recommendations. But as usual, they're both vague and unrealistic--something only Microsoft can pull off. For instance, Microsoft's saying PCs should have 512MB of memory or more. They ought to change the font size on the "or more" because my intuition, based on how XP performs with 512MB, is that you'll need at least a gigabyte, especially if you want to take advantage of Vista's fancy graphics. Me, I'm aiming for 2GB, or more if my PC's motherboard can handle it.

There's more to Vista's needs and you can read about it in "No Vista, but 'Vista Capable' Stickers Instead."

BTW, Vista will come on a DVD; the Windows Vista Beta 1 DVD was 2.46GB. I'm guessing that if you don't have a DVD player, your computer probably isn't ready for Vista anyway.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Until Microsoft releases precise requirements, all of us pundits are talking through our hats. (Yeah, I know: So what's new?)

Are You Upgrading?

I am, but I have to do it. According to my editor, it's a job-related obligation. After all, I am in the business of trying all these new things.

What's going to be fascinating, though, is watching the stats to see how many people bother with Vista. My prediction is that not nearly as many as Microsoft hopes for.

My preference, and that goes for the systems I watch over [Hi, Mom.], is to stick with XP. It's the most stable version of Windows I've used and it does everything I need (including an occasional crash I can kvetch about). I can't see laying out a grand to update my four PCs, just for Vista. But I'll concede--if you're buying a new system anyway, sure, get one with Vista on it.

Dig This: To properly prepare for Vista, I've been thinking I should redecorate my home office. Maybe something more glamorous?

Dig This, Too: Didn't like my kitschy redecoration ideas? How about some amusing animal videos?

  • These dogs sound like they know what they're saying.
  • Here's one kitten who knows what it wants--and how to get it.
  • When I showed this heartwarming video about a two-legged dog to my two pooches, it brought tears to their eyes (until FedEx rang the doorbell, of course).

Okay, everyone--back to the column.

Check Out Vista Demos

There are a couple of spots for you to see Vista in action.

The first is a Camtasia Studio screencast from TechSmith; you can get to it from Betsy's Weber's Blog. The screencast shows Vista's voice recognition feature, though you'll also get a good look at Vista's interface. And in another screencast Microsoft's Chris Henley demonstrates Vista's games and parental controls. Turn your PC's volume down because the opening of the screencast has an annoying--and loud--sound effect. (While you're at that site, you can also watch Outlook 2007 and Office 12 screencasts.)

Dig This: Do you remember the controversial movie of the Roswell alien autopsy that alleged took place in 1947? It looks pretty real, no?

You can read more about the Roswell incident at the SCISPI site (and stop laughing; lots of people take this seriously).

I hope you're not too disappointed, but it turns out that the movie is a hoax. It was created in the fifties by John Humphreys, the guy who's famous for Max Headroom. The Sunday Times has the story.

You Can Have Vista Today

Sure, you can download the public beta, but that's not what I recommend. How about instead sticking with Windows XP and using a handful of freebies and cheap tools to mimic Vista's features?

You may not know PC World Contributing Editor Scott Dunn, but he's a cool character, and he definitely isn't too bothered by the Vista delay. His attitude is cool, too, because he says there's no need to wait, either for Vista or for Microsoft to release Vista's inevitable Service Pack.

For instance, Scott found a tool that does a better job then Vista's parental control feature. He also has tools for making specific windows transparent, impersonating Vista's Alt-Tab, and locking down folders.

Read Scott's "Why Wait for Vista?" for details.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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