Don't rush to buy latest Windows update


Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:29 a.m.
There are lots of things you need to do: Get a regular check-up, brush your teeth, follow your car's oil change schedule and maybe do something about that ugly couch in the den.
Other things are not as urgent. For instance, there's no need to stand in the cold to buy Microsoft Vista when it becomes generally available on Jan. 30.
If you own a PC, odds are you'll eventually buy the latest update of Windows. But there's no reason to hurry. Let the early users be the ones who bombard tech support lines with questions. Heck, let them find any bugs or weirdness that all the beta testers missed.
Early reports - including a review in the February issue of PC World magazine - say Vista ''is generally slower than XP, but it's better at multitasking on dual-core PCs.''
So for those of us with older, non-dual-core PCs, why be in a hurry to have your favorite programs run slower?
In all the hype about new programs - especially one as important as Vista - there's the temptation to feel a false urgency about updating. I regularly get e-mail from readers who are still running versions as early as Windows 98. I don't recommend that, but it does remind us all that we're not talking about a cure for a dreaded disease here - it's just a new operating system.
I realize most of us will move to Vista within the next six to 12 months. And there are good reasons for that sort of orderly change. For one thing, Microsoft won't be updating XP. It'll have enough on its plate creating the inevitable bug fixes and updates for Vista.
And new programs will be released that will work fastest and best with Vista. So the pressure to upgrade will gradually increase.
In a perfect world, wait until you need to replace your old PC. Then buy a new one that has Vista already installed. That way you'll avoid all the hassle of installing a new operating system.
What will I do? I won't follow my advice at all. I have to write about this stuff, so I have no option but to run Vista. I've messed with beta copies of it for months.
Like many of you, I will end up installing the final version on a computer I already have. PC World reports that as long as your computer meets Microsoft's requirements for Vista (1 gigabyte of RAM, a DirectX 9-capable graphics card with at least 128 megabytes of memory), Vista ''should run just fine.''
That said, here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to upgrade:
  • Vista is a memory hog. There are ways to get Vista running with 512 megabytes of RAM, but the performance price is so steep you'd be better off avoiding the upgrade altogether.
    So make sure that you have 1 gigabyte of RAM and even push things to 2 gigabytes if you (1) can afford it; and (2) plan to hang onto your computer for a year or more after Vista is installed.
  • Check your video card. Make sure that it has enough onboard memory for Vista. For those of you who don't know how much memory the card has, try a small program - it's free - that you can download from Belarc (go to www.belarc.com and click on the link that says ''Free Download").
    It'll tell you everything you need to know about your computer's innards. You'll see the amount of RAM installed and information about your video card.
    If your PC is up to the task of running Vista in all other areas, buying a modern video card may make sense. The packaging will tell you whether the card is Vista-ready. You'll also see the amount of memory used by the card and whether it is DirectX 9-capable.
    Both tasks - installing RAM memory and a new video card - are well within the reach of the average home computer user. The product directions and your computer's manual should guide you through the process. If you just don't want the hassle, let the folks at the computer store do the job for you.
  • Keep in mind Vista will come on a DVD, not a CD. There will be ways to get it on a series of CDs, but computers that are so old that they don't already have a DVD drive may not be good candidates for Vista.
    You don't want to end up spending money for RAM, money for a video card and money for a DVD drive along with the price of Vista itself. When you total up the bill, you'll find that you could have just purchased a new PC with Vista already installed.
    Microsoft won't be updating XP. It'll have enough on its plate creating the inevitable bug fixes and updates for Vista.
    Bill Husted writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: bhusted AT ajc.com.
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