Windows Vista

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Should I Upgrade To Windows Vista?

Microsoft has discontinued support for Windows 98, Windows Me, and as of this week, Windows XP Service Pack 1.

If you are still running Windows 98 or Me, there are no more updates, critical or otherwise, for you. If you are running XP SP1, this week's critical updates are the last one's you'll be able to get in that configuration. Unless you have a compelling reason not to, you should upgrade to SP2 as soon as possible. Find out about SP2 here, and prepare for the upgrade here.

An increasing number of our clients want to know if they should buy a new computer now or wait for Windows Vista (if it ever comes out). Some wonder if they should upgrade their current computer to Windows Vista or Windows XP.

Short Answer
If you want to buy a brand new computer, wait a couple of months and go for Vista --- if you're also prepared to spend money on new software. If you want to continue to use the computer you have now for another year or two or maybe three, go for (or stay with) Windows XP.

Here's why
Vista will come in five versions, each with more features. Here is a page from Microsoft that lists the different editions. Most versions of Vista will require lots of RAM, a fast processor, and a good graphics card with on board memory. If you want all the fancy graphics, sound capabilities, and the full range of features, then probably an older computer is quite simply not going to be capable of running top of the line Vista. Check here for more on the hardware requirements.

You can download and run a tool from Microsoft that will tell you whether or not you're "Vista capable". The tool is here.

(Thank you to reader Sandy who advises that you need to be running XP to use this tool.) You may find that your present computer is able to run one of the lesser versions, or that it's cheap and easy to throw in more RAM or a different graphics card to step up a version or two.

What do you want your computer to do?
An important factor in making your upgrade decision is how you use your computer. If you are using it for email, browsing the web, some word processing, maybe some photo editing, but you're not stressing it out by making movies or extreme game-playing, maybe you don't need Vista now. At the point you find yourself unable to do things your friends and family can do on their computers that you want to do also --- that's a good time to upgrade!

If, on the other hand, you want the newest, fastest, coolest Windows thing, then go for Vista, and be prepared to spend some money on hardware...and software. The Vista operating system (what's 'under the hood") is very different from Windows Me, or even XP, so you're going to want to upgrade (that is, "BUY") the newest, coolest software, regardless of which Vista you install.

Vista is now scheduled to ship in January 2007. Some computer systems and components now being sold bear stickers saying they are "Vista Premium Ready" or "Vista Capable." These terms don't mean the same thing, and it's good to understand the difference. Microsoft provides a very clear explanation here.

It's also not a given that if you buy "capable" or "ready" hardware now with Windows XP installed, that you will receive a free or discounted copy of Vista. Be clear on exactly what that upgrade path consists of, especially because Microsoft's "Windows Genuine Advantage" program included in Vista is going to be a lot tougher than the one recently bolted onto Windows XP.

More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Computer Care Kelowna

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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