As I have always seen after upgrading to a new version of Windows, the performance of my old pc hardware, go down terribly. If you love Windows like me, there's no question about you switching to Windows Vista. It's always going to be a yes. Luckily I have tested Windows Vista 5270 on my computer, and can probably give you a good opinion on what kind of hardware you'll be needing.
Let's start first, with the processor: With changing times, we need our computers to be able to give us better performance, without requiring us to be constantly upgrading our PCs and Notebooks. The processor is one of the most important parts of computer, and having more RAM and less processor power, won't be very practical. So here's what I suggest. Buy an Intel Dual Core processor, Intel Pentium D or any AMD 64-bit processor. Seeing that most of the new features on Vista give extra performance on 64-bit processors, I would never suggest the Pentium 4 series of processors.
The motherboard: We have many options for the motherboard these days and for Vista it would be best if you could get one of the motherboards that have nVidia
GeForce Graphic Cards bundled with them as a package. I tested Vista on a 6200GT(256MB), and found the performance was decent enough for home usage. If cost is not the problem, go in for a 6800GT(256MB) or 7800GTX(512MB). DirectX rendered objects look real on these. Any ATI-radeon with 256MB of memory would be as good. Also look out for motherboards with more than 1 AGP slot.
Hard Drives: The hard drive is the component where you save all your data, and wan't them to stay there for a long long time. Most hard disks that you get on clearance are the ones that don't perform as well the others. So I should tell you not to compromise on your HDD. Get a hard disk with a 2-year warranty(minimum), and at least 250GB of space. Having dual hard disks is a very good idea and a very good way to create backups with the RAID functionality, with which any data copied on the 1st HDD is also copied on to the 2nd one. I think a couple of Seagate Barracuda(s) should do the trick.
RAM/Memory: The temporary memory which acts as medium between the HDD and processor is the RAM or internal memory, which also determines how fast you can access data on your computer. Memory is becoming cheaper than ever these days, and Vista's requirement of 512MB of RAM is not enough. How much RAM you get depends on affordability. The more, the better. Anything between 1GB - 4GB will be good.
Display: Vista looks really good on High-Definition TVs. You should try using something of the size of Apple's Cinema Display, gives you a good pixels-per-inch output, without any distortion. Otherwise any CRT-monitor would do fine. Most times we find that Old is Gold, and if you compare the CRT to an LCD, it even lasts more usually.
This will be the configuration of my Vista PC..You may wan't to look at the Microsoft Website, to get any details I have missed.
Another suggestion would be to go in for an iMac or MacBook Pro, they're all a breeze to use with Tiger installed on each of them. They usually do everything you wan't them to do, though PCs still win the competition because of a wider set of applications and games.
Submitted by: Abhishek N.
I think you answered your own question at the end: if possible, Id wait (although if we all did that, the consequences to the industry would be catastrophic, but thats not your problem).
Id wait not only because that is the only way to be absolutely certain that your system is fully Vista ready, but also because a new system will come with Vista included, which will presumably directly save you $100 to $300 compared to buying XP now and then upgrading to Vista later with a retail copy.
Also, if you buy a system with Windows XP after (or perhaps even shortly before) the arrival of Vista, many manufacturers will probably offer a free Vista upgrade for self-installation. This can be the best of both worlds, as you would effectively be get two operating systems (XP and Vista) at no extra cost. Even Microsoft itself has previously offered a technology guarantee when new copies of Windows or Office came out, and if you purchased a copy of the old software during a certain time-frame, Microsoft would send you a free copy of the newer version by mail (look for online or store coupons). This is especially relevant if you are building your own system from components rather than buying an OEM system at retail. Finally, in the past, there have been huge bonus bundle promotional programs associated with new versions of Windows and Office at the major retailers (thats how I got my first digital camera, it came free with the purchase of Windows XP). Of course this is all speculation, since we dont know exactly whats coming or what offers and promotions will be available. But Vista is presumably no more than 10 months away, so Id wait if you can. And note that there is a new version of Office scheduled to be coming this year as well.
If you cant wait, however, any state of the art system should be able to run Vista, and its likely that almost all XP systems will be upgradeable. Still, when picking components for a new system, Id look for a motherboard that is upgradeable to dual-core CPUs and at least 2 gigabytes of memory (even if you get neither initially), and that has the ability to take a high-end video card upgrade (preferably PCI Express) even if comes with lower-end video or video on the motherboard. That way, if the video is inadequate for Vista, you can still upgrade to Vista-supported video without replacing the motherboard.
[Vistas desktop will offer some video-intensive features available only to those with suitable video cards (Vista will run without these features on lower-end systems). Since it may be hard to know right now which video cards will fully support all Vista features, one approach here if you cant wait would be to get a low-end video card that is probably Vista IN-capable, but that is also cheap, with an explicit plan to upgrade the video system later, when you will know exactly which cards are fully Vista-capable and certified.]
Any standard disk system will probably work with Vista, but go for a motherboard that has SATA ports (raid is optional, but most of the newer motherboards that have SATA also offer SATA raid). However, these are specifications which almost all new systems meet. In terms of capacity Id look for at least 200 gigabytes.
The rest of the stuff (case, fan, power supply) is kind of generic and wont change much for vista vs. XP. The power supplies that come with cases (especially cheap cases) are often inferior and can cause unexplained crashes, lockups and blue screens. What Id look for is a quality power supply with at least 400-to-450 watts. The power supply rating itself unfortunately doesnt tell you much about quality; for example, it is no reflection of the ability of a power supply to supply nanosecond-transient CPU demands for surge currents far beyond the stead-state ratings, yet such ability can be critical to a system stability (especially for high-end CPUs). When in doubt, paying $45 to $90 for a quality supply can be a really good investment in system stability, and a quality 400-watt power supply is usually a better component than a cheap 550-watt model. You can almost judge the quality of a power supply by its weight: the things that imbue quality (big capacitors, hefty heat sinks, large transformers) also tend to add significantly to the weight of a power supply as well. And finally, be certain that the power supply is UL- and CSA- approved.
Submitted by: Barry W. of North Canton, OH
Two things to keep in mind:
1. Every new release of the Windows operating system has inevitably required more computing power and resources than originally advertised;
2. They've never been released as planned - i.e., the release date has been pushed back at least once, and often repeatedly.
This is essentially a Catch-22 for someone wondering whether to invest in a new computer now, or wait until Fall! It's difficult to know exactly what you need to build a computer that can take full advantage of - and optimize - all of the new features and enhancements of the new operating system until the latter is released (or you have access to an advanced pre-release build). And holding your breath until Vista's release simply isn't a good idea. "August or September 2006" can easily turn into November/December - or Spring 2007.
But unless you have a pressing need to get/build a new computer, you'll probably be better off waiting. There are a number of reasons for this:
1. As Vista approaches its release, more information will become available regarding its quirks and real-life requirements (as opposed as the arguably unrealistic "minimum requirements");
2. More Vista-compatible hardware will become available as the operating system nears it debuts, which translates into more choices for you;
3. PC manufacturers will push Vista pretty hard, so you can count on attractive offers and a buyer's market upon its release;
4. CNET's Robert Vamosi recently pointed out that due to Vista's new security elements, antivirus vendors will have to redesign their scanning engines. Thus, there's a chance that upgrading to Window Vista will necessitate your investing on new antivirus software and perhaps other software as well. A brand-new PC with Vista-compatible hardware and bundled software might simplify matters considerably. (http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3513_7-6413950-1.html)
Make no mistake, the enhanced graphics engine of Windows Vista will require a very powerful machine, especially since it appears it will incorporate the "Aero" glass effect after all. You can find more about Vista's expected features, and get some more specific hardware advice, by checking the following links:
Inside Vista Windows Presentation Foundation: http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3672_7-6331574-1.html
Hardware that's ready for Vista: http://www.cnet.com/4520-11488_1-6406935-1.html
Microsoft Windows Vista Beta 1: A first look inside is an older resource, but it contains a link to reviews of some performance PCs expected to handle Vista with flying colors. If you decide you want to build or get your new computer sooner rather than later, you can peruse the specs of these machines to get a better idea of what you might need: http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3672_7-6300167.html
Submitted by: Miguel K.
So, you have been thinking about get a Vista-ready PC?
Guess what, any Gaming Fanatic (er, me...) out there knows the answer: think bigger, faster, and a way lot stronger. There are rumors running around that even Intel started thinking about some fancy 3D-graphics chip to be implemented on her latest motherboards, since this new OS promises to get you some heavy graphics (eye-candy, as known in gaming reviews), and it wont even run on older PCs. Nothing to concern the latest major players in this field nowadays, namely ATI and NVIDIA. SIS and others, perhaps, may have some reaction to Intels planning about this new OS. Since it is all about aesthetics rather than functionality, any of latest Graphics Cards will suit you.
I have an experiment of my own running at home: a 400MHz Pentium II running the latest Windoze XP. Of course, I inserted some 300MB of memory in it before even trying to run it. Boy, it is not a pretty sight. It takes a few eons to boot, and another few millenia to load it completely. Once it is loaded, though, it runs around pretty smoothly. Great printer server/router/downloading drone. XP insures stability, despite it is soo slow. Expect the same from a 1GHz PC with mere 256MB of RAM for the new OS.
This "Vista" thing cant even come close to such older hardware as my experiment these days, a nice bet is that it will come in a DVD, for a start. Do you remember, in the dark ages, insert disk #2 of #56? Well, this is what you can expect from the CD version of this new OS, since it is promised to be at least 2,5GB large. That means at least 4 CDs. Start thinking about large hard drives. 80GB are common today, they will be cheaper or disappear in this near future.
As for monitors, it is painful to look at a 800x600 screen resolution in XP, the best for an outdated 15" CRT monitor, that cant take 1024x768 without causing you a headache. I wonder how much resolution will be the barely minimum for Vista, because XP already complains about anything below 800x600. Worse, it really annoys you about it, that its menus wont fit, etc, etc....
In short, the new Vista come with a hardware price tag in it, that is, if you dont mind waiting 5 minutes and 20 seconds for a PC to boot up. Just like the heaviest games, it will drag its carcass around in an old machine, begging you to get rid of your $$$ in the nearest hardware store. But back to the point, a minimum, fair configuration, that can take most of the blows that Vista (and anything else, actually) is ready to throw at you, would be:
- At least a 2GHz Pentium 4 / equivalent AMD. Those cant even be found around my place nowadays, even the cheapest processor for sale is a 2.4GHz Intel / AMD equivalent. Anyway, chose AMD, they punch harder for the same cash. On every scale, from discount to premium.
- 512MB of memory. Expect nothing less, you are being ripped off with anything less. This much memory barely fits the present XP load, dont even think cheaper.
- DVD reader / CD recorder. You wont watch movies on your PC, but most recent software packages may ship exclusively in DVD media in the future. CD recorder are pretty obvious. DVD recorders are not a long shot...
- A pendrive, at least 256MB. Since floppies are dying, they must be replaced by the same mobility they used to have. EVERY single computer had floppies back then. Today EVERY single computer has USB. Not everybody has CD recorders today, you know. Plus, they dont need any kind of software (Nero and such) in order to run. And you can boot using a Pendrive too.
- Any LCD monitor will keep you happy. Make choices on your own. I love my 17" CRT monitor, just because of gaming. You get a lot of free space in your desk without that massive CRT screen.
- At least 80GB hard drive. Thats fair today, and it will be for some 5 years. Just because the OS became 5 times FATTER, it doesnt mean that every other piece of software you have will gain weight too. As for RAID, the equation is simple: RAID 0 for speed, RAID 1 for safety.
RAID has meaning when you have 2 or more hard drives, and how you combine them: record the same information on both, and you have redundancy, or RAID 1; record a piece of information on each drive and you can do it in half of the time, that is RAID 0. What is your treat, speed or safety?
- As I said before, any graphics card from ATI or NVIDIA sold today will suit you. A Geforce FX 5200 or a Radeon 9600 (those are really old) can probably run Vista without a hitch. You wont find anything worse today.
- For Cases / PSU, I suggest some headroom. Chose some PSU with power to spare, say 500W+ and a case compatible to ATX and/or BTX. Better if both are from same manufacturer, and come together. Look around, Google around, but I am happy with my Thermaltake case and PSU. I heard a lot from Seventeam PSU and Lian Li case too, but then again, Google for PSU and Case hardware reviews. Lots of sites are specialized in benchmarking/testing every single piece of modern hardware (of course CNET too, heheh), and you can decide based on fact, not rumor. They really stress each piece (uuh, you havent seen a PSU up in flames on its nominal 380W power) and show you each result, and how they did it.
- Everything else, like keyboards, mice, printers, speakers, go more from personal choice and how much cash can you spend than some performance metrics, since most things in these areas tend to work just fine. Research 2 or 3 probable choices, and sort them out later (CNET itself works fine at this point).
I hope I have helped.
Such configuration as described above has a high chance of running Windows Vista, but since it is not out yet, surprises may arise. It doesnt mean that anything lower wont run Vista either. Predictions in this field are hard, not to say reckless. 6 months ago Intel was aiming at a 4GHz CPU; now it aims at multi-core systems. Go figure.
Submitted by: Luiz A.
In my experience, it is always a good idea to wait a while after the first release of a new Windows operating system. It gives Microsoft a chance to work out the bugs in their software. Examples such as Windows 98, 2000, XP and Server 2003 all have major updates which are just fixes for the problems they missed.
That however, is not the point in question. As for waiting to get your hardware, you could wait. Someone might introduce a newer processor that could handle the OS better. Processors should be your key concern. No matter how much Memory (RAM) or Hard Disk space you have, the running speed of the machine is truly dependant on your processor. My advice would be to go with the AMD 64 bit processors (Athlon 64 and newer). They run great and have excellent speed, far better than any Pentium 4, even if they haven't reached 3GHz yet.
Mother board wise, I would suggest MSI, ASUS, or Gigabyte. All three companies make excellent boards that are more than capable of handling the 64 bit processors. From experience, MSI boards need the least amount of adjusting to handle the processor. And then from the board, you must decide on was Memory to get. Each manufacturer has a list of recommended Memory for their board. In most cases, these brands have been tested and proven to function correctly, if this is not the case on a listed brand, the companies I listed above do make note of it. Kingston, Wintec, and Corsair are all good companies for RAM.
Power supplies should be considered very delicately. Never buy a cheap PSU (Power Supply Unit). It will cost you in the long run. Cheap PSU's typically have bad regulating abilities and will, over a short period of time, kill your motherboard. Also, 300 Watts should be more than enough for any good computer. 400 if you intend to go heavy on the games. I personally use a 350 but it came with the case.
Hard Drives are solely up to your discretion. You could have a RAID configuration or not. all a RAID is, is a complex automated backup. It also requires two extra hard drives, outside of your primary boot drive, and that's the smallest RAID configuration you can have. It would be cheaper to buy backup software and a single extra drive. Backup software usually comes with the option to burn to CD's and DVD's as well as to other drives.
I would advise against using any Western Digital hard drives. They have a rather grand tradition of running fine for a few years and then just dying without any warning. The longest I've seen a Western Digital last is about 4 years. Seagate and Hitachi are my personal favorites. They run cool and last a long time. I've seen 8-12 year old Seagate hard drives running just as good as the day they were first installed. Quantum, a division of Maxtor now, also seems to be really good. Bought an HP with one in it 6 years ago and it's still running strong.
Graphics unit, I would steer clear of integrated. It plays havoc with your RAM. ATI is what I would advise. And depending on what you want to do with it, just look at the product description to determine which series to buy.
Case, Fans, and Monitors are all dependant on the user. You need a case that's at least big enough for your motherboard. Also one you like. Fans, one extra is usually all that is needed. However, you can add more or less as you like. Monitors are always the users choice. Big bulky 21", or a thin flat 19" LCD. It just depends on the money you have and the type you want. It's a lot harder to suggest a monitor without knowing what you're looking for or how many for that matter. Just go with what you can afford and like.
Submitted by: James K.
Windows Vista will not be released for many months yet, but a lot of people are eagerly anticipating its release, including you and me!
Microsoft has yet to reveal the minimum system requirements. Suffice to say, it will be higher than Windows XP. And display driver standard will be strictly enforced this time to be Windows Display Driver Model only. Which means it must be certified by Microsoft.
Microsoft has been working closely with Intel and AMD, the two primary CPU vendors, and Intel / ATI / NVIDIA, the three primary GPU vendors, on "pre-certifying" certain hardware as Vista-ready.
Basically for CPUs, you'll need a MODERN CPU.
For Pentium 4's, that means a P4 with Hyper-threading, and preferably EMT64 (the 64-bit processing extension), but in a pinch Celerons will do. Dual core CPU are good also.
For AMDs they recommend any of the Athlon 64's (including FX's and Dual Cores) but the Semprons will do as well.
On the graphics side, Intel GMA 950 is Vista-ready, but any lower is not.
For ATI side, Radeon 9500 and higher, or X300 and higher are considered Vista-Ready .
And finally, for the NVIDIA side, any NVIDIA GeForce FX or later (5200 on up) are Vista Ready.
If you want to read the whole list, it's available at
While the list is mainly for Enterprise use, it's helpful for home users to get an idea what Microsoft is looking for.
All this consideration does not change the basic principle of computer
purchase: "buy the most PC you can afford". However, that doesn't answer your question, buy now, or buy later?
Any "power user" system configured to run now should run Windows Vista with ease in the near future. I envision such a system as:
==Pentium 4 or Athlon 64, 3500+ or faster, dual core even better
==ATI X800 or NVIDIA 6800 or later video
==at least 1 gigabyte of RAM
==Any amount of hard drive you see fit, perhaps even RAID, probably 160 GB or more
==Power supply capable to running all that hardware, probably 450W or more
Of course, the more you wait, the more likely prices will drop on existing hardware, due to continuing fights for market share between ATI and NVIDIA as well as Intel and AMD. The ATI X1900 XFire is coming out soon and that should cause another round of price cuts in video cards.
On the other hand, you could be enjoying that new PC now, and still be ready for Vista when it comes out.
So decide soon, and have fun!
Submitted by: Kasey C. of San Fransisco, CA
There is never a good time to buy or build, something better is always just around the corner.
If you're planning on building in the near future, I am currently recommending an AMD 64 or AMD 64 X2 processor. Vista is based on the AMD instruction set. This doesn't mean that it won't work with an Intel CPU, only Intel has to emulate AMD. In my opinion nothing works as well as the real thing. As always, purchase the fastest CPU you can afford.
Now that you have a CPU to build your system around look for a motherboard with the features that you want. I currently recommend motherboards with the nForce4 chipset by nVidia. As for brands I prefer Asus. The specific model will depend on what you need from your motherboard. I recommend a board that is SLI (Scalable Link Interface) capable.
SLI means nVidia video cards. You don't have to purchase two now, but if you do you can set up SLI immediately. You can purchase as much video card as you can comfortably afford and then purchase another one later when prices drop. One higher end card will out perform two lower end cards. In general you should spend as much on your video card as you do on your CPU.
As for cases, fans, and power supplies there are a million good and bad choices. As long as your fans are ball bearing they should serve you well. Good case manufacturers are Chieftec, Lian Li, Cooler Master, and Enlight. The actual design of the case depends on the number of drives you want to be able to install and how cool you want it to look.
Some cases come with power supplies and some require a separate purchase. If you purchase from any of the above manufacturers and it includes a power supply of the wattage you desire it should be fine for your use. If you want to purchase a separate power supply I recommend Antec, PC Power & Cooling, and Thermaltake.
The number of hard drives is up to you. You can get a fast small drive such as Western Digital's Raptor drives for your OS and then a larger drive for your programs and data. RAID isn't going to get you a huge speed increase if you go with RAID 0 (Striping) and if you lose one drive you lose all of your data. If you are worried about hardware failure you can go with RAID 1 (Mirroring) but you lose the space of an entire drive to protect you against drive failure. RAID does not protect your data from viruses or accidental deletion, only against hardware failure.
Submitted by: Robert N.
Go ahead and build your system now. Parts are not going to change that much between now and the time that Vista is released and it is being written with drivers for currently available components.
As for suggestions about what components to use in your build that is more a personal decision than one that can be answered simply. Personally, I would recommend using a socket 939 Athlon-64 processor with a compatible motherboard. CNET's comparison of them against a P-4 showed me that I had made the right decision in building my last machine. Look for the features that you want on your motherboard before you buy and compare the complete set of features that are offered on each compatible motherboard. Do you want 4 SATA connectors? Do you need IDE RAID? AGP or PCI-E video? These are all questions that you must decide for yourself. I would have to tell you that you do need a dedicated video card with at least 128 MEGs built on it; 256 is certainly better. If you are going to do any video editing or have a TV card installed I would definitely tell you to be sure that you get one with hardware MPEG encoding as opposed to one with software encoding, as the support for the later is not as good in Vista or in Windows XP-MCE. The case that you do your build in is dependant on where you are going to place your system. Do you want a very quiet system? I would recommend a case from a reputable manufacturer and to buy one that does not include a power supply. Antec, Thermaltake and many others make various sizes of cases that will hold whatever you decide to put in them and can be made to be very quiet by the types of fans that you use.
Buy your power supply separately. Buy the most powerful power supply that you can afford. Price and quality do absolutely go hand in hand when it comes to power supplies, I have found. Do not skimp in any way on powering your system. You will never regret having more power than you need but you will definitely regret having one that is underpowered and is not capable of providing the power that you need 2 years from now when you have done a couple of upgrades. Even though the memory requirements for Vista say that 512 MEGS is basically the minimum, I would say that 1 Gig is the bare minimum and just as with the power supply bigger is better. Expect to take somewhat of a performance hit on your system if you use the onboard sound and do not have a separate sound card. The onboard codecs are fine if you do not mind losing the power from your CPU that they require to operate properly but again a dedicated card takes on that responsibility and leaves your CPU for more important tasks. Creative has even released Beta drivers for most of its current cards that seem to work pretty well for Creative drivers, which have never been known for their stability or lack of bugs. SATA drives are faster than IDE drives so I would definitely tell you to use SATA drives and to again buy more capacity than you think you will ever need. I have over a terabyte of storage on one of my computers and it is quickly filling up with different video and audio projects that I am working on.
Go ahead and build your system and buy the most system that you can afford. Shop around and look for deals on each component. Don't feel like you have to get each and every part from one store, whether it is an online retailer or a local brick and mortar store. Buy good quality components of the newer versions of each component and not ones that are based on chipsets that a year old or more. You should find that compatibility is not a problem and that you are ready for whatever the next wave of technology is that comes along.
Submitted by: George S.
Since you're going with the Windows platform, hardware isn't your biggest concern. Why? Because Windows typically provides built in support for most available hardware, and hardware manufacturers universally support Windows. In other words get the hardware that makes sense for what you're doing, & don't worry about support in Windows, if it's not there today it certainly will be available in the near future.
I'm assuming you fall into the average user category, i.e. you'll be using your system for web related apps, & occasional word processing, and photo editing. I'd give different answer if you were an aerospace engineer or graphic artist.
For most users the case and power supply aren't of much concern, in other words the lowest priced models will do just fine. However, I'd say it is worth shelling out a couple of extra bucks for a high end case. You can typically re-use the case. What I've found is that low cost cases are very flimsy and use the *thinnest* metal possible. One analogy that comes to mind is the difference between a low end Kia and a Mercedes. As far as I'm concerned no matter how little you pay, if there is no quality in the product, youre getting ripped off.
In terms of CPU I like AMD Athlon 64 single or the dual core. They have better performance than Intels chips when it comes to single process & OS related benchmarks. Vector benchmarks are a different story, the Intel dual cores are faster there, but since most users aren't heavy into vector processing the AMD's make more sense for them. In terms of memory get the fastest you can afford, it makes a difference!
In terms of the disk drives, you'll want to get a SATA drive at least 80 Gig. In terms of the systems overall performance the disk drive is crucial so get the fastest model you can afford. Forget RAID. It's too complicated and won't do you any good if its miss configured, and in fact can cause many headaches as well. Basically if you have to ask, then RAID isn't for you. If you're worried about data loss, burn DVD's periodically, or set up a LAN and use your old system to mirror your important files.
In terms of the video system, spring for a 19" or 21" LCD. You might want to consider getting video card like the All-in-Wonder Radeon X800 XT Video Card (256MB, AGP 8X, DVI, VIVO w/ Tuner). It will give you an additional 19 or 21" TV in your house.
Best of luck!
Submitted by: Burlen L. of Durham, NH