Section 1.4. Hardware Requirements

Windows Vista requires considerable hardwaresignificantly more than previous versions of Windows. It needs a lot of graphics horsepower to support the full Aero interface, but it is possible to run Windows Vista without running Aero.

Because there are so many different versions of Windows Vista, and because it is possible to run Windows Vista without the Windows Aero interface, the exact hardware requirements are somewhat confusing. To help make things a little less confusing, Microsoft has set two levels of hardware: Windows Vista Capable and Windows Vista Premium Ready. A Windows Vista Capable PC will not be able to run all of the Windows Vista features, notably Windows Aero.

If you want to run the full Aero interface, make sure you buy a Windows Vista Premium Ready PC, because Windows Vista Capable PCs will not be able to run Aero.

A Windows Vista Capable PC has these minimum hardware requirements:

  • An 800 MHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 512 MB of RAM

  • DirectX 9-capable graphics processor (Windows Display Driver Model [WDDM] driver support recommended) with a minimum of 64 MB of memory, and preferably 128 MB

  • 20 GB hard disk, with at least 15 GB free

A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC has these minimum hardware requirements:

  • A 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 GB of RAM

  • DirectX 9-capable graphics processor that supports WDDM driver support, Pixel Shader 2.0, 32 bits per pixel, and a minimum of 128 MB of memory

  • 40 GB hard disk, with at least 15 GB free

  • DVD-ROM drive

Obviously, more is better, so it's a good idea to exceed these requirements when possible.

1.4.1. Windows System Performance Rating

Windows Vista includes a performance rating system, which may puzzle you at first. After all, your hardware can clearly support Windows Vista if you're able to run the tool, so what is its purpose?

In fact, it's not designed to tell you how well your PC runs Vista, but rather how well it can run other software. The idea is that software makers will assign their software a certain level, and you'll buy only the software that the performance rating system says you can run. The higher the number is, the better the performance.

In theory, that's fine. But it's not clear how well it will work in practice, because software makers, including Microsoft, have yet to rate their software according to this system. And it's also quite mysterious how the performance rating system calculates its ratings. As you can see in Figure 1-6, the individual components of this PC rate relatively high, from a 5 (the top rating) to a 3.7. So why is the overall system rating a 3.7? Windows Vista automatically takes the lowest component rating and uses that as the overall system rating.

Figure 1-6. Performance rating

Useful or not, you might want to see how Windows Vista rates your hardware. Choose Control Panel System and Maintenance Performance Information and Tools.

Part II: Nutshell Reference